Since the 7th grade or so, my family and I haven’t celebrated Christmas.
When my brother and I were in elementary school, my parents were wonderful and tried so hard to have the holiday make sense to us by buying us gifts and putting up a Christmas tree. They would take us to some department store two weeks prior, have us pick a couple toys each, and then tell us our presents would be wrapped up nicely for us to tear into on Christmas morning. We’d put reindeer dust on our roof, and wait up all night in hopes of hearing hooves clomping around and Santa laughing as he jutted down our non-existent chimney, only to discover presents ready at our tree.
My brother and I understood that it didn’t make much sense for Santa to give us gifts when our parents already bought us some, that our 3-foot plastic tree should instead be a giant spruce, and that we should be eating ham instead of rice and curry for Christmas dinner. Nevertheless, we didn’t complain because we were lucky enough to have some semblance of Christmas in our house, even though we are Buddhist.
My parents did all of this because it’s what everybody else did, and it was a lot of fun for us! But when school started again, it became apparent that we didn’t celebrate Christmas properly. We never got as many gifts as our friends did, and they weren’t as “cool” or high tech, either.
Christmas to us was spending time with our family and being imaginative, but the material aspect was all that seemed to matter in the end. I can remember very well the day my brother and I sat our parents down and told them that we didn’t need to celebrate Christmas anymore. We didn’t want them to fuss and try to buy us gifts just to keep up with the culture of America. They were taken back by our frankness, but that’s how we felt.
The magic of Christmas wasn’t in bragging to our classmates about all the stuff that we got, but in having two weeks off to play in the snow, bake cookies and be with our friends and family.
The true Christmas spirit is lost every year among the gluttony of Black Friday and the days to come thereafter. Why is it that Christmas is the one day reserved for giving and getting gifts that no one really needs?
This holiday, like many other holidays, has become clouded in marketing ploys and religious detachment. Even in such rough economic times as today, people convince themselves that because it’s Christmas time, they must spend exorbitant amounts of money that they don’t actually have, on items that they don’t actually need.
We are driven by consumerism, and we take pride in it. Parents put on a show to impress neighbors and colleagues while children take inventory on the number of gifts they’ve received. It’s unnerving to think about generations of Americans who have become so wholly obsessed with “stuff.”
I admire the families and individuals who take on the true spirit of Christmas with unconditional generosity and kindness. They sponsor trees in the Amazon rainforest, livestock for lower-income families across the globe, donate to local food banks and churches and make homemade gifts to give.
Christmas should be a time to reflect on a year of blessings and to revel in all that is good about living. It has its religious purposes, yes, but since America is so far past the logic of having non-secular, government-backed holidays as a definite part of American life, I say that it isn’t too much to try and reinvent the ideas of Christmas and family tradition.
My family and I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I think we understand its true meaning, for all it’s worth.
Thisanjali Gangoda is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]