Now it’s the last full week before Christmas, it’s time for my first Christmas post of 2008. How do you answer this question:
Is Christmas too commercial?
It’s clearly not as “commercial” this year as morons like Kevin Rudd would like to make it (he’s just printed and distributed 8.7 billion dollars of shopping subsidies to make his economic theorists happy) and it’s obviously not as commercial this year as it has been when real money was less tight, but how often do we hear that whinge that “Christmas is too commercial!”
And it’s just nonsense anyway, says philosopher Leonard Peikoff, because that complaint misses the very point of Christmas, the most benevolent and frankly commercial holiday in the catalogue.
At Christmas we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive! Getting together with workmates, friends and loved ones, celebrating the year with gusto; giving gifts pleasure to people you value, whose friendship you want to enjoy. Boats full of happy people cruise the harbour; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow (well,most years) with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy. What's not to like about Christmas being commercial?
Christmas [says Perikoff] is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously...
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by [Western] culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness...
Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate -- and really, underneath all the pretense, that is what it does celebrate. It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.
And so say all of us.
Well, most of us. Some of you will be saying there’s some other “reason for the season.” Well, historians know the "reason for the season," and what they know is it's not because of the Nativity. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury apparently knows the truth, conceding last year that the Christmas story and the Three Wise Men - the whole Nativity thing -- is all just "a legend." [Hat tip James Valliant].
This Christmas, think about giving the gift of truth. And have a happy, and commercial, Christmas.