No one could accuse the company where I am currently working of lacking in the holiday spirit. I arrived at the office yesterday after a day off for some doctor’s appointments to discover a profusion of ornaments and bells and a fully decorated Chanukah tree in one corner. I settled in to work and through the course of the day they proceeded to do a second round of decorations: garlands, stockings, candy canes, tinsel, poinsettias, snowmen, wreaths, buntings and a menorah. Because there’s no point in celebrating the holidays unless you’re celebrating ALL the holidays, amiright? And I have to admire the enthusiasm: truly, I think if we could just accept the fact that the American style of holiday celebration involves mostly enthusiasm, excess, and economic stimulation then it should be by this metric that we judge the equality of all religious celebrations. Heck, if there were a holiday called Abnegation Day we’d celebrate it enthusiastically as long as it involved greeting cards, decorations, and gifts to really help us get into that spirit of abnegation.

True, one might argue, that spiritual holidays should not be measured by the market share of their crass commercialism: after all, these are holy days dedicated to matters of the spirit and soul and their significance and meaning should not be diluted by  material things. And this is a noble argument to be sure, but one that somewhat overlooks the contradictory nature of what it means to be human and to have both spiritual and carnal impulses that require satisfaction. Not to mention the added contradiction of being an American in which our Puritan antecedents found carnal desires of all kinds to be sinful and taboo: the result of which seems to have evolved into an attitude of in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound commitment to the earthly delights. Sure, we could spend the day in fasting and self reflection as we recognize the sacrifice that was made for our salvation as proof of god’s love for humankind, but isn’t it more celebratory to, you know, have a party? To give gifts? To make the effort to reunite with family? No wonder the holidays are so complex and riddled with contradiction. 

At any rate, I believe that the holiday season need not be a zero sum equation: truly, why should we not embrace all holidays with enthusiasm? Whatever our spiritual beliefs, we are all human after all. Perhaps we should appreciate our commercial impulses as a uniting force through which we make the effort to reach out on a human level towards peace on earth and goodwill towards our fellow man. 

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on December 8, 2016.

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