I was told the other day Christmas seems to get more commercial every year. Maybe it is true, but I am not sure I am the guy to hear that.
Christmas means something in America in a way not all places embrace other than the gift giving.
I come from a background where my father was really strong in making me understand it is the celebration of the birth of Christ, thus Christianity. It is probably one of the reasons I love having Nativity scenes set up throughout my home.
My father let us enjoy the gift giving aspect of Christmas but celebrating the birth of Christ was the focus for him. We attended church several times during Christmas week. I should mention we went to Protestant services, not Catholic.
Even as a kid, I heard how commercial Christmas was getting from the older generation. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention. I liked Christmas and I figured the generation complaining was just not happy with the modern times.
It did get a little annoying Christmas commercials on TV started immediately after Thanksgiving, but I didn’t watch that much TV as I got older. So, these ads were not really in my day-to-day life and I didn’t really notice them.
My ex-wife was not religious, so Christmas was more of a time for family gatherings for us. I had two families, as did she. Christmas Day and even Christmas Eve was a time spent juggling what time was going to be spent where.
Then, I found myself divorced and living in Hawaii which has a very different look at celebrating Christmas. Palm trees on main streets were decorated in Christmas lights and Santa Claus, as often as not, was found still with his white beard, but in board shorts.
My first Christmas in Waikiki had me celebrating with friends but I did miss my East Coast celebrations. The second Christmas, I saved up and went back to the D.C. area. I toyed with going to Houston, where my father was now living, but it didn’t happen.
I wish I had. My father passed two days after Christmas. I found out in an airport in St. Louis as I was making a connection. It was crazy; I had to go to Honolulu and then Houston instead of flying straight to Houston from St. Louis. I learned there is no real compassion with large airlines.
My father’s dying wish was for the family not to have Christmas ruined. He made my sister promise to celebrate it with enthusiasm and wanted me to do the same, although I never heard the actual words.
I am not going to lie. Christmas those years after was not a holiday I looked all that forward to. A lot of it had to do with me living in Asia more than it being the time of my father’s passing.
I lived in a city of 3 million and there were only a couple churches. The main religion was Buddhism. Temples were everywhere. The chanting and bell ringing could be heard blocks away. I know because I lived a block away from one.
I found it a little hard to take Christmas really serious as the whole point of Christmas in Taiwan was gift giving. The Chinese love to give gifts. The more expensive, the better. The expense shows how much they care for you and how well off they are.
Something that was hard to get used to in Asia was, on your birthday, the person whose special day it was definitely went out with a lot of friends and paid for everyone’s meal. Westerners did not follow these rules, but it was surprising to me to go out with my Chinese friends on their birthday and get treated to a great meal.
Commercialism was all Christmas stood for in Taiwan and China. The Western restaurants would have specials on Christmas meals which were extremely expensive. Friends would get together for a Christmas celebration which made it feel like what I had known before but, for all practical purposes, all the decorations in the stores and streets were for one purpose; to go out and spend money on gifts.
I found myself retreating from celebrating the holiday much at all.
The one exception was when I lived in Australia. Although I lived in the tropics, the feeling of Christmas was real. They even celebrated the day after, which they called Boxing Day. Christmas you spent with your family and Boxing Day was to celebrate with your friends. Boxing Day was also the equivalent of our Black Friday after Thanksgiving, as far as a shopping day goes.
Boxing Day could be considered a commercial day, but it was after Christmas and it was to take advantage of all the markdowns.
Did I find Christmas too commercial then?
Then, about eight years ago, I came back to live in the United States, specifically Carbon County. I got to celebrate with family members again and I felt the religious aspect that had been gone when I lived over in Asia.
I am aware my father died during this time, but it doesn’t ruin the holiday. I love shopping for gifts for my family and friends. I do it all year long so there is no financial crisis in December.
The best part, I really don’t feel Christmas is all that commercial here in the States, at least compared to where I was before.
Sure, plenty of businesses are making money off the celebration, but Christmas still feels like Christmas. In Taiwan and China, as a Westerner, I would have to take the day off to celebrate. Sometimes that wasn’t even possible.
So when I hear about how commercial Christmas has become, I can’t help thinking to myself, “Man, you have no idea what a real commercial Christmas is like.”
I am glad to say we are not as commercial as other places.
It is a special time and should be celebrated as such.
My next column will come after Christmas, so I wish all a very happy holiday and I hope you get to celebrate it with loved ones.