As we entered the Christmas season with all the accompanying hoopla. I found myself asking the same question as I did last year: Should I be the Christmas grump or should I embrace the Christmas spirit and bask in the warm glow, the said spirit provides?
That might seem a straightforward question for many, and I envy you. However I’ve had a bit of difficulty connecting with the Christmas spirit the past few years.
It is tempting to dismiss Christmas as a holiday that means nothing. After all, it is a day with pagan origins that has morphed into a celebration of mindless consumerism.
In the United Kingdom, for example, Christmas in effect begins around November 15th when Christmas sales kick in and television becomes overwhelmed with glitzy adverts of unending stream of products hitching a ride on Christmas.
Of course one of the essential elements of capitalism is that it appropriates everything as long as it can create money in doing so.
I have nothing against this in particular, except that it obviously undermines the core of Christmas- a day of purity and generosity and a reconnection with the values that Jesus preached.
I am not particularly religious, but in theory that is what Christmas should be like. And really isn’t the ‘Christmas spirit’ mainly a refuge for those who have been mean and misanthropic throughout the year?
Some advertise their goodwill at Christmas, with said goodwill and brotherhood being conspicuously missing throughout the rest of the year.
This is in much the same way that a man will suddenly turn into the perfect boyfriend on Valentine’s Day as if that effort in itself earns him a free pass the rest of the year.
Yes, sometimes I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’. He might have been onto something before those ghosts gave him a change of heart.
But then, I also sometimes find myself swept up in the spirit of things. Of course there is a strong element of artificiality about Christmas- as I noted earlier, it has its roots in a pagan holiday that in its modern form is essentially a shopping bonanza.
However Christmas does mean different things to different people. There is certainly an element of it which has become a celebration of family values and togetherness.
Many of my more recent memories of Christmas have been fond ones, surrounded by family and friends and often in a dangerous but reassuring proximity to a bottle of beer. It is virtually impossible to remain a cynic after having this kind of experience on Christmas day.
And ultimately it is also that rarest and most welcome of things: a national public holiday. It is enough to make anyone optimistic.
In many ways, the real origins of Christmas or its misappropriation by the rampant nature of capitalism does not really matter. Perhaps it is this very flexible nature of Christmas that makes it so attractive.
Ultimately, it can still mean something in isolation of all the other things that can make it seem a lot less divine, and a lot more artificial. So, I hope you had merry Christmas.
This year, I wasn’t going to be a Scrooge. Just don’t ask me about the Christmas tree I was supposed to put up.
Minega Isibo is a lawyer