So from Halloween through New Year’s Day commerce is of the essence . . . for most of us anyway. Of course, the cultural significance we add to this time of year is ostensibly more sanctified or at least supernal. We sing hymns of thanksgiving and praise. We extend benedictions of peace and joy. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the ancient Pagan festivals as well are at their heart metaphors for the rebirth of light in the world and in our spirits. Yes, yes, yes, but my question is, we humans being what we are, would the holidays be as all-consuming (pun-intended) if there was not the over-the-top acquisition syndrome? It’s easy to rail against the materialism, yet not so easy to retreat from it. We can take a principled stand, but we risk disappointing those we love. Is it truly loving to make a gift of our self-centered principles rather than the iPod that Junior has been obsessing about since August, or that cashmere cardigan that Mom can’t afford but would be delighted to wear on New Year’s Eve? I don’t know. Just asking.
What I do know, or I should say it’s my postulate that without the presents, the decorations, the smell of an evergreen unnaturally propped and adorned in our living room, and a spread of delectable treats hiding every inch of mahogany on our dining room table, the cultural significance of the holidays and indeed their essential spiritual message would pass with barely a ripple instead of the tidal wave of celebration which we attempt to ride every December, upright upon our lighted surfboards, in our Santa hats and red trunks with the green holly-leaved print. The love, the joy, the light and the rebirth come folded within the wrapped and ribboned boxes with all the stuff. So it goes.
Edward F. Petersen, Creative Director of American Public House Review