By Veronika Wooten ’16
It’s here! The time of year that is marked with festive preparations causing financial expenditure in hopes of achieving the perfect Christmas. But not everybody participates in the annual celebrations. When asked why I no longer celebrate Christmas, I am well prepared to give specific reasons on why I refrain from participating.
Christmas is known for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Ironically, the Bible account surrounding Jesus’ birth contradicts the idea that he was born in winter as it outlines that the shepherds had their flock in the field at night during the time of year in question. Interestingly enough, several pagan traditions initiated by the Roman Empire were conducted on or around 25 Dec. The event most closely related to the birth of Jesus, is the festivity of the infant God Mithra. Furthermore, the gift of giving most likely stems from Saturnalia, a pagan winter solstice celebration that included the exchange of gifts, tree decoration and acts of goodwill. As Christianity overtook the Roman Empire, pagan worship blended with elements of Christianity thus putting the Christ in Christmas.
Today, pagan beliefs disguise themselves as bright lights and sugar cookies. For example, the star of Bethlehem is the shining jewel piece that occupies the top of many trees. Such seemingly harmless aspects shows that societal traditions throw consumers into auto pilot during the holiday season. Careful review of the Bible suggests that the star guided men that were sent forth to kill the Messiah. Meanwhile Christmas trees are still being bedazzled with a symbol that represents the intended killing of Christ. Consumers allow acquired customs and advertisements to outline their expectations about Christmas, thus directly shaping their attitudes and beliefs. A recent research revealed that the simple smell of cinnamon evoked strong seasonal feelings in its subjects, as it was singled out as being intensely connected to the holiday season more than any other time of the year. This reveals how our behavior regarding Christmas is attributed to familiarity, not fact.
Overall, the holiday season produces the direct opposite of the intended emotions of joy and love. In other words, consumers transform into “Clark Griswold” from the film Christmas Vacation, as they happily make their holiday to-do list and check it twice. However, when things don’t go according to plan, Christmas suddenly loses its chance at perfection which invokes a state of disappointment. The financial aspect cannot be overlooked either. Our economy acts as a holiday marching band, and consumers move to its beat without hesitation. They engage in stressful shopping trips and spend beyond their means. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that our retail industry earned $ 27.2 billion in sales in 2010, and research suggests that a single holiday shopper will spend an average of $800 on gifts this year. From a religious viewpoint, the link between Christmas and the economy is the most contradicting factor. After all, Jesus became enraged at the money exchange taking place in the house of his Father.
Yet, people continue to associate Christmas with Jesus out of familiarity and customs. This belief is enforced by a society that tells people what to expect from the holidays accompanied by the economy that directs what is needed to make Christmas successful. Maybe Christmas does indeed have a legitimate religious origin, yet the vast amount of evidence that rejects that notion convinces me that it doesn’t. Perhaps your view allows you to see the Christ in Christmas. But from where I’m standing, I can’t.