Back to Christmas Basics

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

When I was a child, I loved Christmas, I yearned for Christmas, I adored Christmas: but when I became a man, I realized that Christmas too, had become a childish thing.

In my youth, I was like every other kid. I made my Christmas list faithfully, begged my parents to fill my wishes and waited anxiously for the big day. Even when I didn’t get all the things I wanted, it was still a magical experience to go outside and show off my latest gifts to other kids in the neighborhood. Never once did I think of the financial strain on my parents it may have been to buy those gifts or how bad they may have felt at seeing me pout because I didn’t get the newest remote control car.

In my adulthood, the admiration I once had for December 25th is on life support. There are good things about the Christmas season. The holiday celebrating the birth of Christ brings families together, religious and not, around the world. But the harsh truth should not be ignored; Christmas in many ways has become one big celebration of capitalism–and I love capitalism just as much as the next guy. Somewhere in Italy, Saint Nicholas of Myra is turning over in his grave.

Saint Nicholas once gave money to poor women so they would not have to resort to prostitution to pay off debts and now in remembrance of his legacy; scores of Americans will go into debt. Yes, that’s right, the average American plans to spend over $1000 on Christmas shopping this season. A stunning figure when you consider that more than 64 percent of Americans report being unprepared for a $1000 dollar emergency. Inevitably, many us will have to resort to running up tabs on our credit cards to fulfill our Christmas list.

Some may argue this is just the reality of the world we live in. In the end, many feel that it is worth taking on a slight financial inconvenience so that they can buy their child a gift that will light up their eyes. However, the problem isn’t that people strain their finances to spend on Christmas because they want to; the problem is that millions of Americans end up straining their finances during the Christmas season because they feel they have to.

Many parents feel pressured to buy their kids “good” gifts so they won’t be picked on by other children, while others may feel pressure to get gifts for spouses or in-laws that pass the mustard. Add in the nieces, nephews, co-workers, the dogwalker, and you have a recipe for Christmas madness.

As a child, I watched my parents make tough decisions on paying bills so that we could have Christmas gifts. Today, I see single mothers stressed out over the holidays and hear sob stories from friends who could not afford holiday airline prices, I think it is far past time to say enough. Maybe Martin Lewis was right; maybe it is time to eliminate the Christmas gift.

Yes, I understand that we do more than buy gifts during this season. Many people volunteer, donate to charity and engage in a host of other altruistic activities. Still, that does not make up for the ultra-pressurized culture that pushes people to ultimately spend money unwisely.

I think it is time that we re-evaluated our perception of Christmas. I am not saying that there is something wrong with the act of buying gifts for others, for it is a great expression of love but I am saying lets change this environment we have developed where people feel pushed to make bad financial decisions. Maybe it is time to tone Christmas down and get back to the basics.

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