Christmas is upon us again, which means another year of the relentless advertising, consumerism, and financial anxiety we have come to expect from the holiday season. Endless shopping. Mindless spending. Increasingly extravagant gift-giving. Year after year, it's the same.
But let's pause for a moment. In the midst of all this gaudy excess, it seems prudent to ask one's self—is this really what Christmas is all about?
Is this the Christmas of my past? Is this what my family wished to imbue in me? This sense of obligation to spend and spend and spend? I say, no! I say it is high time we dismiss this hyper-capitalist notion that Christmas is somehow about ostentatious materialism, and remember the true meaning of the holiday!
Getting some $15 shit from Target and being done with it.
As is written in the gospel of Mathew, “And lo, did one wise man take one of the other wise man aside and admit unto him “Well, I got him imitation frankincense. I mean he's literally a baby, right? She expects me to buy real frankincense for a baby? Whatever. I'm not even going to mention it. Don't say anything when we get there.”
These lines, passed down through history, still hold true today to all those who have ever gotten stuck on a frozen Amazon checkout screen right before dropping $200 on a Star Wars Lego set.
Ask yourself now: does any prose better capture the spirit of the season than those in Dickens' A Christmas Carol? When Ebenezer Scrooge runs out after the peasant boy, going “Hey, just to be clear, I don't mean to literally buy the ‘biggest' turkey. That would be crazy. A regular-sized turkey is fine. It's for, like, four people. In fact, give me one of those coins back!”
If you have ever found yourself in a strip-mall Williams-Sonoma on December 23rd, you know well the resonance of Scrooge's passionate plea!
And who can forget the touching conclusion of The Gift of the Magi, when Jim Young beholds the chain his wife selflessly sold her locks of hair to buy and is all “Oh yeah, this is totally fair! No, no, no. Listen. Della. When my dead grandfather's watch grows back then this exchange will really even out!” And then he storms out of the living room and shouts “What was I thinking!?” before slamming the bedroom door behind him.
This is the scene I hold in my mind as I read over December's credit card statement—a faint ringing in my ears which is either the sleigh bells of carolers or the tinnitus brought on by my rising blood pressure.
It is here we find the true meaning of Christmas! Just getting some little thing, and moving on with your life! Like a tie or a candle or some shit! Any goddamn thing! Who cares?
Christmas has nothing to do with the Xbox, or the plasma screen, or the newest Amazon tablet. Christmas is not about jewels or gems or fancy cars. Christ's birth was, in fact, an event most poignantly marked by Mary and Joseph's unassuming poverty. Think now of these two road-weary refugees forced to deliver their child in a barn with little more than a pack-mule and the rags on their backs, surrounded by nothing—having nothing—more than a bed of hay, the open sky, and each other.
It is not about the new iPhone.
But, like… you do have to get something.
So Merry Christmas from all of us here at TJ Maxx.
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