I used to say that Christmas was a month-long holiday that started the day after Thanksgiving and ended on New Year’s Day. Now, it’s a two-month-long holiday that starts as soon as retailers have cleared out enough “90% percent off!” Halloween candy to make room for the Christmas tree displays, and ends after the last overpaid sportswriter has written the last monotonous column about how terrible the BCS system is.
And smack in the middle of all that is the retail orgy of Black Friday, where people sacrifice precious, long-weekend snooze time and schedule their day around buying low-rent, loss-leader crap that they normally wouldn’t pick up if it fell off the back of a truck.
The Gospel.com blog has posed the interesting question of how Christians should respond to Black Friday and to the commercial side of the Christmas season in general. By now, it’s kind of a cliched question (which Gospel.com acknowledges). But it’s still well worth examining again, because introspection is one of the things that Christmas (and Thanksgiving, which I’m afraid is well on its way to getting demoted from legitimate, Charlie-Brown-special-worthy holiday to just the undercard for Christmas) is all about.
Gospel.com recommends that Christians respond to the commercialization of Christmas by turning away from Black Friday and doing more “positive” things like focusing on spiritual growth.
I am all for spiritual growth, and the suggestions the blog makes for that are good ones. But I take issue with the automatic assumption that the commercialization of Christmas is a bad thing.
What do we even mean by “commercialization” anyway? That retailers use it as an excuse to run more sales and get more people into stores? Well, so what?
Look at it this way: Let’s say it was the middle of July, and suddenly everybody in town descended on the mall and started buying the place out, and the local TV station sent a reporter to find out what what going on.
Let’s say that the reporter interviewed a bunch of people, asking, “Why are you here buying all this stuff?” And the people all responded, “I’m buying it to give away! To family and friends and co-workers! I’m even giving some stuff to people I don’t even know–a name I drew out of a hat at a party… an underprivileged child I heard about, whose day will be brightened by just getting a little gift.”
We’d watch this news report on TV and, wiping a little tear from our collective eye, we’d say, “What a beautiful example of love and generosity! This should happen all the time!”
But when it really does happen around Christmas time, we say, “Egad! What horrible crass commercialism! People should stop buying gifts right now and do something really Christian, like sit at home and think about the Bible!”
When you see all the news stories about all the people lined up at the stores buying stuff for Christmas, remember, those people are buying stuff TO GIVE AWAY. And whether you think the stuff they’re buying is worth having or not, they’re buying it as a symbol of love for the gift’s recipient. It’s true that sometimes gifts are bought and given with other motivations–pride, as a demonstration of the giver’s wealth or taste; or peer pressure. But if you think that accounts for the bulk of gift giving at Christmas, I’d say you have an unreasonably low opinion of your fellow man.
So I say to Christians on this Black Friday and for the rest of the Christmas shopping season, go forth, buy stuff, and give it all away.
(pic by Feuillu)