Out of the mouths of babes: The meaning of the season

12/4/2011

    Tis the season to be . . .
    Shopping.
    It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it?
    Of course, fussing about the commercialization of Christmas is nothing new. The holiday television classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired on CBS in 1965, was centered around the theme of Christmas excess. Though millions of people religiously watch the Peanuts gang wrestle with the meaning of the holiday each year, it is clear that Charlie Brown is fighting a losing battle. The marketing of Christmas seems to annually establish new low points.
      Black Friday, a shopping tradition that features special sale items the day after Thanksgiving, has now infiltrated into turkey day itself, forcing many retail workers to miss celebrating the holiday at home with family. In fact, some retailers, desperate for the sales receipts that pile up during the Christmas season, have begun referring to Black Friday as Black November.
      “Basically what it is, it’s a race for space,” Retail analyst Marshal Cohen told ABC news. “If retailers can be the first doors open, they’re going to capture that enthusiastic Black Friday customer.
   “If somebody is opening at midnight, well, look for somebody to say, ‘Well, we’re going to open at 11 p.m.,’ and look for someone else to say, ‘Well, we’re just not going to close on Thanksgiving Day at all.”
      Where is this all heading?
      Shockingly, or perhaps not, some bargain shoppers were lining up at a Best Buy in Tampa more than a week before Thanksgiving.
      The ever-earlier dash for Christmas cash has apparently reached a breaking point for some people though. An employee of Target Corp. reportedly helped gather tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to protest the store’s decision to open at midnight on Thanksgiving evening. Silly man just wanted to enjoy a holiday meal with his family.
      Even some shoppers have been complaining about stores offering sales items so early, forcing a difficult choice between going out on Thanksgiving night or potentially missing out on big bargains.
      One anonymous sage explained our prevailing consumer-centric view of Christmas this way:
      “It is the time of year we buy people gifts they do not need, with money we do not have, to impress others we do not even like.”
      Feeling the holiday spirit yet?
      But holiday stress is nothing new.
    It was widely reported that in 1965, CBS executives hated A Charlie Brown Christmas when they previewed it. They feared it was too slow for a prime-time audience.
           Animators were apoplectic that Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz, insisted that the show end with Linus, a little boy with a lisp, reading the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. But Charles Schulz knew something the experts did not.
          The show not only drew a huge audience but won an Emmy Award and a Peabody. Each year, the Christmas classic continues to attract a large audience.
      Peter Robbins, who was 9-years-old when he provided the voice of Charlie Brown, was quoted in USA Today a few years back: "This show poses a question that I don't think had been asked before on television: Does anybody know the meaning of Christmas?"
        Forty-six years later, Linus is still providing an answer from Luke that many adults today still don’t seem to grasp:
       “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
   “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
 
       May you have a peaceful, meaningful and jolly Christmas.
 
    Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can e-mail him at glenn@ngumc.org.


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