Sunday, December 25, 2011

Just Say 'No'...To Christmas!

There are some traditions in this world that are just so patently offensive, so completely unsavory and repulsive, that, if you are a person with any sort of decent character at all, you just have to spurn them with all the righteous indignation that you are capable of summoning up from the very bowels of your being.

For me, Christmas is one of these traditions.

I know what you’re thinking: how could anyone have anything negative to say about Christmas? It is, after all, supposed to represent the best that humanity has to offer. And occasionally you do, in fact, hear some talk about that little baby in the manger, or about peace, human fellowship, and compassion for those in need. But the original message of Christmas, which I admit is pretty dandy, has gotten completely lost in our contemporary American incarnation of the holiday.

We now begin to celebrate the Christmas season the day after Halloween. Ghouls and goblins quickly give way to manger scenes and plastic Santas for the front yard. The Christmas season has become an excuse for overspent Americans to squander the little funds they have left on crap that they and their families clearly don’t need. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, which is nominally the “official” start of the Christmas shopping season, is the largest shopping day of the year, with parents waiting all night long to save a few pennies on some mass produced garbage that they think will show their neglected children that they still care about them.

Christmas has made purchasing power identical with love. The more gifts you buy your children, the more you supposedly are showing that you care about them. Those who can’t afford to buy gifts or simply choose not to are viewed, according to our American ethos, as deficient parents and defective citizens.

One would think that in an economy like ours, which is in deep economic crisis, Americans would reevaluate this need to consume, save their money, and focus on the deeper spiritual values that the season is supposed to have. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. This current holiday season was replete with all the usual stories of insane shoppers shoving, trampling, and pepper-spraying each other in the never-ending quest to get the best bargain. Spending is on the rise again and savings rates are dropping once more. This may be fine and dandy for retailers, but it is disastrous for the long-term economic viability of the average American family.

This year, in his Christmas message, Pope Benedict XVI attempted to remind Christians that there is something more to Christmas than the quest to get the latest electronic gadget. “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season,” he said from his pulpit at St. Peters, “and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.”

These are very beautiful sentiments to be sure, and like Charlie Brown, I too wonder if the true mean of Christmas could ever be restored. But I honestly don’t think that it is possible at this point. The holiday season has become so intrinsically intertwined with materialism and consumption that I doubt that we can ever return to a more innocent time when the season was a celebration of religious faith and family commitment (if there ever even was such a time). It seems to me that Christmas has become so irredeemably corrupted that it’s probably best just to put the entire holiday to rest once and for all.

I can hear the reactions now: “What! Eliminate Christmas! How could anyone even suggest such a horrible thing?”

It’s reactions like these, which I encounter every time I mention my idea of “just saying ‘no’ to Christmas,” that has made me realize that this idea is probably not going to gain any widespred traction any time soon. So, in the interests of reaching some kind of concord with those who simply cannot live without the magic of Christmas, let me propose a slightly less radical idea: just say no to presents at Christmas time. Celebrate the holiday with your family and friends, focus on the religious and social aspects of the season, but eliminate the need to buy any gifts. If Christmas really represents something more than an opportunity for Americans to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need, than this watered-down proposition should make perfect sense.

In fact, the concept of a gift-free Christmas is starting to find supporters. The Canadian Mennonite Church has developed a wonderful site on just this topic called Buy Nothing Christmas that offers some attractive options to the usual Chritmas splurging. Another interesting site, called No Gift Christmas This Year, even has an e-card that you can send to your friends and family informing them that you will be spending time, rather than money, on them this year.

But I know already that, even this idea, is probably too radical for most Americans.

So let me propose a third option: The $100 Christmas. That’s not $100 per person; that’s $100 for everyone you have to buy presents for. The nifty thing about this idea is that you can still show your appreciation for people by giving them something at Christmas time without turning the holidays into a mad buying orgy. Everyone will feel loved and appreciated and no one will go into debt during the holidays. What’s not to like?

Of course, very few Americans would even take this idea seriously (my parents actually yelled at me when I proposed the idea to them a few years back), which substantiates the very point I have been making: Christmas has been irredeemably corrupted by consumerism and the only viable option at this point is to “just say ‘NO.’”

Like any addiction, consumerism is a hard habit to break, especially at a time of year like Christmas when shopping and faith seem to be incestuously intertwined. One day perhaps—and that day is probably not far off—support groups will become available to help people get over their need to spend their hard-earned money at Christmas time. Perhaps there will even be a special pathology recognized in the next issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders called “Christmas shopping mania” and pharmaceutical companies will begin to develop a pill to help us get through this season with our wallets intact.

Until then, however, the burden lies with each of us individually to do all we can to resist the temptations to “buy into” the crass materialism of Christmas. I can’t guarantee that your family members will be happy if you make this commitment, but you probably will find that the entire Christmas season suddenly becomes much less stressful than it’s ever been.

And who knows, you might suddenly discover the true meaning of Christmas that seems to elude most Americans at this time of year:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Merry Christmas!


  1. Christmas is the biggest con game ever perpetuated on mankind. Jesus would vomit if he could see how we are commemorating the day of his birth.

  2. I love this! Your still the Same Mike I had come to respect and admire. Is there but a chance, that a loyal fan base exists out there to form a Michael Russo Fan Page?
    Michel Espinosa

  3. What a Scrooge! Your parents were right to be pissed off at you. Consumerism and Christianity are now so firmly interconnected that the two can't ever be separated without mortal damage to one or both.

    Why are you so opposed to consumerism? It's helped to create our great American culture, and without it we we be...well, Guatemala.

    Buy, buy, buy, and then buy some more!


  4. I LOVE Christmas! I LOVE buying gifts for people! I even LOVE all the cheezy decorations that people put on their front lawns.

    Are you saying that I have some kind of pathology?

  5. I think you just answered your own question!

  6. Christmas has several different meanings depending on the person. To a child, of course its all about gifts. To the adult with children, its something you've had to budget for for months. To the Catholic, its religious. As for myself, I attended a Catholic high school, where around Christmas time I would find various teachers and students displaying their "Keep Christ in Christmas!" buttons. I get it, it is originally, first and for most a religious holiday. Yes, we've strayed from that. But at the end of the day I like to boil the holiday down to being able to spend quality time with loved ones.

    Whether or not I want to wait on line at 4 am at Target for a PS3 (which I did this year for my little brother), or not go to the midnight mass that my fellow catholics do, is my own business. I'm going to do what I want to do, and what makes me happy. So if that means buying gifts and giving into the "consumerism" of the holiday. So be it!

  7. I have to admit that I myself am a victim of consumerism. But for some odd reason I kind of agree with you here. I am not saying that we should ban Christmas gifts all together, but I definitely think it has gotten extreme. Even this year my family chose to do a "secret santa" with all of the cousins instead of buyying gifts for twenty people. It was still just as much fun. I still think Christmas had the same feeling even thought we werent getting hundreds of gifts. I think that is something that goes away with childhood. I dont expect much on Christmas anymore, but what I look forward to most on that day is spending time with my family. Not everyone in America is evil, and some of us still know what is important in life(even if we do enjoy to shop a little).

  8. I definitely agree with your idea and would like to try the "$100 Christmas" possibly next year. I do believe people are so caught up with wanting to have the latest gear or gadgets, that they forget the true meaning of it all. I'd admit it, i have been a victim of consumerism. I love to spoil my loved ones around this time of year, but how often can we do this due to the fact that there are newer versions of iphones every year or so? What I am trying to say is that you can do so much to buy people the lavish gifts around the holidays, but just around the corner there will be some newer version of the item you just bought, leading the person who receive the gift to sometimes be unappreciative and want the new gadget instead of what they already have. As long as there are newer things that come out every couple of months, consumerism will always take place. What people do not realize is the future problems that may arise due to over spending. We really need to think about this.

  9. I agree with your idea of people spending a limited amount of money on Christmas gifts but I do not think most people would ever really do that. People go crazy during christmas time trying to buy as many gifts as they can for their families. It is true that Christmas has become mostly about what gifts you got that year, but I dont really think that will change because that is the way that most kids grew up. They care more about gifts then the actual reason why we celebrate Christmas.

  10. I agree that Christmas has become less religious and more materialistic. The "$100 Christmas" is an interesting concept, but I don't see parents following it. It seems that they spend over $100 on gifts for each child they have. I think the "true meaning of Christmas" has been lost over the years. It's become a completely materialistic holiday.

  11. Definitely, agree with you on this one! Christmas has defintely become more materialistic, and lost its religious meaning. Don't get me wrong though, I absolutely love Christmas. But, I love it because I get to spend time with my family and friends! It is also nice to get gifts for one another and exchange, but to me it is great because the family is together for once taking time out of busy schedules. However, the stores and commercials about sales and everything else has made Christmas lose most of its meaning.

  12. I do agree that Christmas has gotten more materialistic then ever. Many people do not even think about the religious factor of Christmas anymore. Yet they forget that without religion Christmas would not be celebrated. Growing up I will admit that Christmas was all about santa and what he was going to bring me. Yet now Christmas is important to me not because of the gifts, but because its a day you are with your whole family not worried about anything and everyone has overall positive attitude even if they just spent all this money. I would never agree with stopping Christmas altogether because I do believe people know its not about the gifts. The only ones who are concerned about the gifts are the kids and the parents basically buy them everything they want since the kid thinks santa is bringing it and they want to keep the magic of Christmas alive for their kids.

  13. I can agree with what you said about The 100 dollar Christmas. You don't need to buy the hottest trends as a gift, something simple and still nice would be great. Additionally, the holiday is not about getting presents, it mostly about spending time with the family. I, myself do not celebrate this holiday. But, I know for a fact how crazy the stores can be for everyone that celebrates it. Maybe the small boutiques at the mall could have sales so more people can get into those instead for the department stores.

  14. Christmas today has strayed far from what the true religious meaning of Christmas is supposed to be. It has become too commercial, with emphasis on gifts. At the same time, I don't feel like we should get rid of Christmas all together because you get to spend time with friends and family. I do enjoy splurging a little at Christmas for my family, but I agree that presents are not what Christmas is about. The idea of the $100 Christmas seems like an idea I would like to try because it takes away the focus of getting extravagent gifts. But as long as the hype and commercials about huge sales are here, it will just encourage more overspending.

  15. I have to agree with you, as one of the people who gives me parents a five page list of things that i want/need for christmas. I do think it has gotten out of hand though and so many people have lost the real meaning of Christmas. But parents dont want to see their childrens sad faces on christmas, so they will just continue to overspend and make Christmas just about getting instead of giving.

  16. I agree many people have been over spending money on Christmas rather than focus on family and socializing. Although getting rid of Christmas is a tough thing to do. People think that by buying expensive and really nice things that can show feelings towards someone else but it really doesn’t. It is a good idea to cut down on the spending and decide with the family that no present will be bought this year focus more on the religion, spending time will family and remember the true meaning of Christmas. By doing this my sure it will be a big stress weight off people.

  17. I agree with you on the fact that Christmas has lost its religious meaning and has been to be more about materialistic things. Most people are expecting to get the latest/newest trend that's out there causing them to forget all about the true meaning of Christmas. The holiday is not about getting presents, it mostly about spending time with the family and that's why i love Christmas because everyone (well most) puts aside whatever they are doing to spend time with their family, friends and loved ones. All of the advertisement about sales has contributed to making people believe that Christmas is about getting gifts instead spending time with one's own family and socializing.

  18. Guilty once again..but i completely agree with you because i say it all the time yet still fall into the trap. Every year i complain about christmas just being a way to spend tons of money people clearly do not have and it is so overrated at this point. Your idea of spending only $100 sounds great and it is something i will try to do because i cant see myself not buying anyone a gift but your right whats wrong with a little something. Last year i spent money i didnt have just to get all my loved ones a gift and nice ones at that, and my list of loved ones is rather long so go figure...but i dont think we should eliminate christmas, we should try to work on remembering the true meaning of it and stop getting brainwashed by the material things that come and go.

  19. I have to be honest. When I read the heading of this blog entry I laughed. A few comments you made had me laughing again. For example, "with parents waiting all night long to save a few pennies on some mass produced garbage that they think will show their neglected children that they still care about them." This could not be anymore true. However, Christmas is Christmas. I do not think you can eliminate this holiday. Although, it has grown to a ridiculous extreme when it comes to the amount of money people spend on one another, when they clearly can not afford it. What happened to the days of showing people you loved them through action and not material. the only suggestion that may work is the $100 Christmas. Now that sounds like what im used too haha. An Hey, Christmas is still my favortie time of the year.

    Chris L.

  20. I agree, I like the idea of Christmas but the general way in which people are becoming more accustomed to spending money and wanting more has affected this holiday and now the only thing people associate Christmas with is buying lots and lots of stuff.

    Paul Fries

  21. I love Christmas. It is one of the few times of the year that my family is together and for me it's not all about the gifts but I agree with you completely. Christmnas is so commercialized and it's never going back. A hundred dollar christmas sounds great to me. Beneath all the commercializzation of Christmas, I still think there is good intentions and in link of the meaning of xchristmas disguised among some families (not the ones that are celebrating Hannakuah, Chrsitmas and Kwanza, for the sake of getting more gifts haha ).

  22. This is an awesome idea!! It sad that you are ACTUALLY looked down upon if you do not buy gift or even spend the right about of money on your family members and friends. I love the idea of saying no to Christmas so that society can remember what the real meaning of Christmas USED to be

  23. I don't mind spending on my family but if they want this I'd opt for a secret santa and put a cap on that, even if its $100 for each family member. I love spending for the holiday, it's the only time you can gift to all your loved ones aside from their birthday. If there are struggling times then I understand, but if the money is only going to bills and everyday necessities, I want to enjoy this time then.

  24. The holiday season would be nicer if everyone just spent time with the people they care about not money they don't have. Its one thing to buy something for a whole household that might be needed but not to spend on things that will probably end up being thrown out in a few weeks.