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Deck the Halls with Humility

by Emily Williams

December 8,2009


As we shift into the Christmas season of 2009, the majority of us are facing a difficult month. In some way or other, we are all affected by the current economic downturn afflicting Charlotte and the rest of the nation. The use of food stamps is at an all-time high and charities are having fewer and fewer contributors to their causes. Maybe the loss of a job or a significantly reduced income will be taking a toll on your shopping lists as you buy fewer toys this year and cut down on the decorating or the elaborate holiday dinner. Perhaps the daunting costs (airfare, gasoline or otherwise) of travel will mean putting off visiting your family several states away. Or maybe it will simply mean using a little more caution on your budget as you celebrate the holidays.

With these images in mind, the month of December begins to look a little threadbare and bleak, or at least less colorful. Of course, many Americans will be without jobs, homes or security this Christmas. There are some who will not have the luxury of a meal, let alone a tree or a gift. In the helter-skelter landscape of the present, it’s painfully difficult to foresee what the future will hold. But I may have a plan of some sort to help combat these feelings, albeit with a heavy dose of optimism.

We all know what the modern connotation of the word “holiday” is. “Christmas” once meant gathering one’s family together to reflect on the religious importance of a Christian Feast day. Gifts, tinsel, food and general decadence were somehow inferior to the paramount significance of why you were all there to celebrate in the first place. This kind of attitude could be seen being practiced even in the 20th century, up to a point. So what have we come to now? It’s easy to see how, in recent years, the purpose of a celebration can be submerged and forgotten in the details and trimmings of the holiday. Our major worries seem to center on providing Martha Stewart-esque decorations, high-priced toys and game consoles as we wade through the shameless consumerism screaming at us from any source of electronic media we bump into. In the economic climate we have found ourselves in, however unfortunate, an opportunity may have arisen to reevaluate how we perceive holidays as a nation and as a community.

Let’s imagine what the holidays would be like from now on, if we learn well from this experience. What a difference could be made if we used money with a little more frugality and our emphasis on toys, multicolored decorative lights to impress the neighbors and “stuff” fell to the wayside in favor of the more important things. We just might become accustomed to giving away in place of “getting”. Advertising can be blamed for this quite heavily, of course, but in some ways we can blame ourselves. When we are comfortable and don't feel the pinch of the fluctuating economy, our self-centered outlook tends to obscure the people who are truly in need. This is when I wish that a huge chunk of every Christmas budget went straight to charities at this time of year.

Granted, it may sound farfetched, but you get the idea. December often just seems to conjure thoughts of dread for some folks: spending money, running around shopping malls like mad in your spare time as you attempt to find a gift for everyone on your list, along with fitting in as many holiday events as possible. In the midst of our dizzy preparations and living in a material-based society, it’s possible that we lose track of purpose. So I’m going to advocate a new kind of Christmas spirit: let’s take a break from thinking about oodles of pricey objects and sundries that we don’t really need and get back to the basics. For children, Christmas will almost always be about presents; it’s a natural and fun part of childhood that will always leave memories. But for us grownups, who are supposed to be a little wiser, this holiday should be less self-indulgent. The cure for the economy may not arrive tomorrow, but we may certainly survive the road ahead with a little humility.

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