When did it begin? I don’t know. However, some years later, I found myself staring at a computer screen agonizing over my Christmas list. Literally, I spent hours on it. I went to deal site after deal site to figure out what I might want and where I might recommend my family look to find the requested gifts. And then I paused. As I fought back the tears, I navigated to the page I knew would end my dreaded list. “Honestly, I’d be happiest if you just skipped all this meaningless crap and put the money toward a donation in my name toward one of the following charities…” I’d had enough of the season brought forth by the ever-lengthening Black Friday.
Another corporate catastrophe. I avoid Black Friday shopping like the plague. I don’t avoid it because of the manic crowds, but rather because of everything that the day has come to represent. See, like any relationship, this holiday season is characterized by how it begins. And I think we’d be hard pressed to argue with any conviction that Black Friday is anything more than ruthless consumerism. I don’t doubt that much of it is well intentioned (having seen it in action), however, the goal is merely to get the best gifts for the cheapest prices. All meaning, all of the true purpose of the season is nigh forgotten in the caffeine-induced shopping fury of the…however long it now is.
’Tis the season. Unfortunately, the next four weeks or so follow in the footsteps of this chaotic day. It makes the days of advent, those that ought to be cherished, enjoying friend and family, grueling. And so, I finished my list in the way that I did. I don’t want a Christmas filled with gifts that I’ll enjoy for a few weeks. It’s not worth the headache for my family. It’s not worth the stress and the frustration of traffic and lines. My petty wants are as far from the meaning of Christmas as could be. But, for us, that’s considered normal. For those of you who know me, normal doesn’t sit well with me.
Radically traditional. Christmas is about giving. It was never about receiving. This is why God sent down to earth a baby and not a man. It’s about cherishing what is good and pure. It’s about celebrating togetherness and love. And so, why not ask for a gift that, in receiving, allows you to be giving simultaneously? Why not forgo what is almost sure to lose its luster in a blinking of the eye and give what cannot be taken away? Why not choose to show love for others instead of keeping it for our ever-fortunate selves? But, then again, I’m not normal.
I don’t mean to come off as Scrooge here. I will not hand my dismayed family certificates of donation in their names to charities which they did not specify. I won’t force my will on them, but because that’s not what this season is about. I will however be thoughtful in my giving. The things I give, I promise will be in nothing but love and as helpful to those less fortunate as possible. I urge you to do the same. But, this Christmas I want to be nothing more than as traditional as is possible. I care about three things: family, love and giving. If I cannot muster one (and I will have plenty of opportunity for each), then it is only a fault of my own making. This season, let’s bring back what truly matters. Let’s give and love as if there will never be another Christmas. You can’t guarantee there will be.