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Opinion

Christmas season becomes overwhelming

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December 4, 2008

Christmas is coming, although our looming assignment deadlines and final exams can make it seem much farther away than it really is. I’ll spend some time with my family, watch my brother and cousins open their gifts, and probably watch a few Christmas specials on TV.

Like most of us, I still look forward to and participate in the holiday. But I observe it mainly because I enjoy giving and receiving presents, and because of what it stands for: positive feelings, cooperation and renewed appreciation of family and friends. But there are some things about the season that are not so exciting, things I could personally do without.

You may be wondering why I wrote a column about Christmas this week, instead of next week. There are two reasons for that: one, because no other topic occurred to my exhausted brain; and two, to illustrate that almost everything about Christmas seems to start too early these days. It drives me nuts.

Department stores are stocking their holiday merchandise as early as Halloween, trying to sell as much of it as possible by Christmas Day (almost two months later). That’s good for them, but not so good for consumers like me who are already annoyed with the rampant commercialism in this country.

And what about the kind of merchandise the stores are selling? Fake trees, fake wreaths, fake snowmen, Christmas lights, elaborate yard displays, way too much candy and company logos and mascots on ornaments. Stuff that many of us do not want and none of us need.

And don’t forget the Christmas songs-on the store speakers and all over the radio. You can’t escape them.

These were good songs that actually had meaning at the time they were written, but have been driven into our heads so much over the years that now it’s hard to pay attention. And all of this combines-the shilling, the artifice, the visual and aural repetition-into a monotonous blur that distracts us from what’s really important about the holiday.

The result is that a lot of people are sick and tired of Christmas before it even comes. It’s a trend that seems to be getting worse, not better.

So what is really important about Dec. 25? We all know that one: it’s allegedly the birthday of Jesus Christ the Savior, the Son of God, born in a manger to Joseph and Mary, etc. Having attended a Catholic school in my youth, I became all too familiar with the story. But truth be told, that’s another part of Christmas that bothers me.

For one thing, it probably was not his actual birthday. Early Christians supposedly chose that date because it coincided with a “Pagan” holiday celebrated by the Romans. We have some archaeological evidence that a man called Jesus lived and died in the Middle East a long time ago, but beyond that it’s mostly speculation and faith.

Because so little concrete information exists to validate Christmas in the first place, I have to question whether he really was the Son of God, how a god could have a human child, whether God exists in the first place and so on.

And because the Bible is rarely cited as a valid historical source except by those who have already chosen to believe what it says, that doesn’t help me very much either. But I won’t go too far into that business. I refer to myself as a journalism major and a “perpetual miscreant,” so that gives you a clear enough idea of my position.

Despite all this annoyance and uncertainty, though, I can still say that Christmas means a lot to me. Corporations may obsessively milk it for all it’s worth, and it may have been based on a creed I no longer identify with. But I can appreciate the company of my family, the food, the gifts and the fact that this holiday still positively affects us in 2008.

But whether you appreciate everything, something, or nothing about Christmas-or don’t celebrate it at all-I send you good vibes and wish you (in advance) a very merry End of Finals Week. The knowledge that another semester of school is finally over can make the eggnog taste a little sweeter.