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« Dorothy Day, Sainthood, and the Catholic Worker | Main | Tom Hayden on democracy and social change »


Ho! Ho! Ho!—Merry Consumer Day

By Diane Wahto
December 5, 2012

Once again it’s time to get into that holiday spirit. And that also means it’s time for the FOX News folks to gin up their self-righteous anger over the “War on Christmas,” a war, mainly based on the habit of some of us to say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” By the way, the word “holiday” has its roots in the words “holy day,” so the yammer-yammer about “Happy Holidays” constituting a “War on Christmas” shows nothing but the ignorance or the purposeful desire to cause trouble of those who say such things. This means you, Bill O’Reilly.

Further, even Christians will say that the Christmas celebration is based on Pagan practices that were in place when Roman emperors decided to throw their lot in with the Christians. An Italian tour guide made that point most convincingly when my son and I were in Rome looking at the sights. The tour guide pointed to a Christian church that had originally been a Pagan temple and told us that Christians co-opted not just Pagan buildings, but their celebrations as well.

I am convinced, however, that there is a war on Christmas, but it’s not being waged by those of us who don’t particularly get incensed about others of us who don’t say “Merry Christmas.” Rather, it’s a war waged by the forces of consumerism, forces fueled by capitalism.

Yes, indeed, those God-fearing, Jesus-loving capitalists want the working classes to get out there and shop until we drop. Take for example what happened this year to one of our most sacred holidays, Black Friday. In the last few years, Black Friday, the official first shopping day after Thanksgiving and before Christmas day has become, not a holy day, but a Day of Importance rivaling both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I suppose Hanukah and whatever holidays, including the Pagan ones that are celebrated during the Winter Solstice.

I don’t know the origins of Black Friday, but I do know the Thanksgiving edition of The Wichita Eagle became increasingly weighed down with ads over the years. The final straw came two years ago when the publisher sent a letter telling they were going to charge a small fee for the ads in the Thanksgiving paper. I called the Eagle to say no they weren’t. I did the same last year. The refund was a pittance, but for me it was the principle that counted.

This year, just before Thanksgiving, we got another letter telling us our subscription rate was going up. In exchange for that, we would get the Black Friday ads and a nifty calendar with nice pictures of the Kansas landscape, as well as access to the online newspaper, which will now cost to access.

So the Thanksgiving day paper arrived burdened down by ads, which my husband looked through while I was off having fun with my family over Thanksgiving. He bought a pair of expensive tennis shoes at a local shoe store at a much reduced price on Black Friday. That’s fine. He walks ten to fifteen miles a day and needs good shoes. Besides, I was happy he patronized that locally owned shoe store, which is one of my favorites.

However, what happened this year with Black Friday was disgusting, as far I’m concerned. First, “Black Friday” started on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. I understand some people skipped Thanksgiving dinner altogether to get in line at the stores and be the first in to shop for bargains. I think some members of my family even participated in this capitalistic free-for-all. If they did, I don’t want to know.

Then, the stories of the violence started trickling in. No one was trampled to death this year, but people were hit and threatened with fists and weapons before it was over. I can’t get the image of a man with a hateful face threatening to knife someone as people were crowding into a store.

Now the TV is filled with ads for shiny things people can buy for each other or ask each other for. It’s not that I don’t like giving or getting gifts. I love the holiday because it’s so much fun to exchange things that people want. Last year, my family members pitched in and got me a Keurig coffeemaker, which I have found to be wonderful in every way. They did that because I casually said to one daughter-in-law that I needed to a Keurig so I could make one cup of coffee in the afternoon.

You see, I like having things as much as the next person, but outside of having the essentials of life, my happiness doesn’t depend on having things. I don’t know how it happened, but one day when I was very young I had a revelation. I understood that things don’t make a person happy. In fact, things can make a person jumpy in certain circumstances. Look at the Koch brothers. They have enough things to last them into the next millennium, but they won’t be happy until the rest of us, those of us who depend on Social Security and Medicare or salaries from public service jobs are all getting our incomes from Wall Street or privatization. In their world everything else is a communist, socialist plot.

Yes, I oversimplify. But it did my heart good to see all that money that they and the Karl Roves of the world put into the last election go for naught. Enough people wised up and voted with their heads.

As for Black Friday, which now has become Gray Thursday and Online Monday, I suppose there’s no cure for the sense of battle that comes with shopping for bargains. One of my students wrote an articulate essay in the English Comp I class I taught at Butler Community College on the strategy she, her sisters, and her mother employed for a successful Black Friday shopping spree. I enjoyed reading that essay a whole lot more than I would have enjoyed participating in the shopping.

It’s not the Black Friday holiday that bothers me as much as it is that certain people will not admit that Christmas has long since stopped being a “holy day.” Rather, it has become a day to celebrate consumer goods. That’s okay, but I don’t want to hear one more person gripe when I say, “Happy holidays.”


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