'tis the Season, But What Does it Mean?
Actually no one went out the day after Thanksgiving in 1950, at least not in Akron. It had rained all day and was still raining when I went to bed about 11 o'clock expecting to spend Friday driving a cab for 12 hours. At four in the morning I got a phone call from the dispatcher telling me not to come in. When I asked why he said, "Look outside." I did, and saw a foot of snow on the ground. Before it ended we had 26 inches of the stuff and I was off work for a week.
But I digress. The point of this, if there is one, is to ask someone to tell me what Christmas is all about. Is it a religious holiday, a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Come on, get serious. The last time it might have passed for that was around 1960. Certainly no later than the 1970s. Now it's an undisguised time for merchants to urge people to spend more money than they can afford - in their store, of course.
The TV commercials begin in late September. A few years ago J.C. Penney aired one at that time telling us "It's almost Christmas." In late September? This year Best Buy has one reminding us that it's the time of year "to buy." Then some items costing many hundreds of dollars are mentioned so we'll know what it is that we should buy. One store says there won't be any payment due until January, 2008 if you buy today. So where does that leave the buyer next year when he is about to pay for this year's purchases?
Now a good many stores don't wait until Friday to display their greed They are open today. Wal-Mart, Kmart, you name it and they're probably open. The greed just oozes out of every TV set, every radio, every newspaper.
So where will it end? Christmas advertising the first of August? No, that's being too optimistic.
I remember a better time. Arriving at the home of an aunt on Christmas Eve in 1933 and finding my uncle putting up the Christmas tree. Scrimping about 1955 so I'd have enough money to buy my wife her only present, a $17 Elgin wristwatch. In Cooperstown, N.Y. helping decorate Main Street on December 16 in 1978.
Can you imagine any of that in the 21st century? Putting up the tree on Christmas Eve, decorating the streets on December 16, putting money aside so you'd have enough for a $17 present? C'mon, man, break out the credit cards, spend a week's pay or a month's pay and watch the greed merchants rubbing their hands in glee.
Well, the churches don't seem to care even though few people give a moment's thought to what it's supposed to be about. So why should I care? I don't know, and yet I do. I'm sick of seeing Santa Claus in early November, sick of the hypocrisy, the pretense that it's anything but a huge money-making venture, a con game that we've all fallen for.
And remember "Merry Christmas?" No, it's "Happy Holidays" now. So move over, Scrooge, I think I'll join you.