Jump directly to the content

Keeping the Christmas In Christmas


Dec 23 2013
It’s not holiday celebrations that need toning down; it’s the rest of the year.

It doesn't take living in another country to recognize America's super-sized abundance, but after living in Scotland, Germany, and now Malawi (one of the poorest nations in the world)—I can't help but feel unsettled by our Christmas excess.

Shopping malls have always made me anxious: there are too many things to look at, too much to take in, and so very many things that nobody needs. During Christmas, it's only worse. Then, on Dec. 26, the trashcans overflow with colorful paper, with empty boxes piled high. I laughed when I saw a large box that had held a child's toy kitchen set: the toy refrigerator was roughly the same size as the real ones in Europe.

But despite my discomfort with our big spending and big waste, my disgust at pointless products and the relentless cultivation of greed, and my keen awareness of extreme poverty, I'm not totally on board with the idea that Christians ought to do away with gift-giving at Christmas, or be ashamed at having special things to eat and drink and beautiful things to decorate the house. We've had our kids pick gifts from the Heifer International gift catalog for years, but we've always given them gifts, too, and don't plan on stopping.

I have noticed a peculiar dynamic in North American culture: we seem to enjoy countering one extreme with another. We worship the dramatic transformation, not the small but significant step toward change. It's not enough for us to simply cut down on our excesses; we have to replace them with other excesses. One of my friends constantly wielded a giant sippy cup of Diet Coke and regularly ate fast food. He proclaimed his plans to change his diet and go vegan, possibly raw vegan, after watching a documentary on veganism. "That's great," I said, "but there is a such thing as a healthy middle." As expected, the restriction of raw veganism was too much, and he was soon back to Diet Cokes and Big Macs.

I wonder if some of the "no-gift" Christmas posts I've seen have something to do with this all-or-nothing dynamic. Sure, Christmas has become an excessive consumerist free-for-all wherein grown-ups go into debt and kids get more crap that they don't need. I'm not going to argue with that. As a follower of Jesus, I find that version of Christmas more than a little distasteful, especially held up against the reality that so many in our world are caught in a losing struggle for their daily bread. Still, I don't know if foregoing Christmas gifts altogether is the answer.

Related Topics:Christmas; Consumerism
Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didn’t learn to.
Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

I know from experience what happens when children face moving, divorce, or other stressful life change—and how we can help them.
The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

After interviewing 120 women, I saw glimmers of a truce in the Mommy Wars.
The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.

Follow Us

Twitter

  • RT @denverseminary: Super proud of Katie Jo, a current student, sharing about living with w/ an autoimmune disease over on @CTmagazine htt2026
  • How do we keep our kids safe, while still living in community with friends and neighbors? https://t.co/708pIr3j79
  • A good day to remember abolitionist Hannah More https://t.co/KT6MvTpTyt https://t.co/6Rl7QaC1Dp
  • Tough subject. Thankful for Nana Dolce's willingness to share from her own experience. https://t.co/61N3Edlmlh
  • When acquaintances can be abusers, even Christian fellowship can be tricky for families https://t.co/708pIr3j79


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Keeping the Christmas In Christmas