Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

In praise of commercialized Xmas

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-12-24

Lingually straining the buccal elasticity, it’s worth rebutting the many bewailing the crass commercialization of the festive season, but pointing out how these changes accurately reflect and celebrate modern Australian society.

This isn’t to say that we are moving away from all traditions, indeed, we extend that famous carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" to a couple of months, if early November retailing is considered.  Mind you, we’d have to update the carol to include "60 AA batteries, 59 book tokens, 58 packets of junk food, … and a wide scree-en plasma TV.

Let’s face it, the modern Xmas retail habits must make the masses feel good about what they consider most important in our society.  If electoral polling is believable, economic management, most notably "growth" as indicated by the GDP, is central to our shared vision of what is most desirable in our country.  Ergo, the 3.5% of GDP spent on seasonal retailing is most welcome.

It’s worth noting that despite the mountains of imported sweatshop items, spending on seasonal celebrations can be quite patriotic, as alcohol is one of the few consumer items still manufactured in this country.

The preparation of gifts also highlights an Australian characteristic, the preference for style over substance.  Why else would many spend more time (and a significant part of the dollar value) wrapping gifts than choosing them?  Expensive, single-use paper, bows and cards are used to excuse useless or cheap presents.  It’s only the babies (who cannot understand Christmas) that truly appreciate the wrapping – as they often get more enjoyment from scrunching and shredding the paper than from the gift.

And consider the psychological boons from Xmas.  One token day a year of almost-unselfish goodwill to all (well, maybe not "all" – stuff those of different races or religions!) can avoid guilt for the behaviour of the other 364, bringing the benefits of "Hail Marys" to non-Roman-Catholics and even non-Christians.  A few cheap bottles of plonk, peanuts and chips can be used by employers to improve industrial relations.

There are educational benefits too.  Patently false myths that children will "grow out of" can be an excellent example for rejection of other ridiculous myths.  Hopefully they’ll realize that Santa Claus, elves and red-nosed reindeer serve exactly the same purpose, and are just as reliable as their associated myths that adults should also outgrow.

Let’s face it: the timing and practices of the festive season have little to do with Christianity, which co-opted both for self-serving ends.  Do people complain when we twist the ceremonial hanging of a male of every kind on an evergreen tree as sacrifices to make the sun come back after mid-winter, or are they happy enough to move the loops from around the neck to the top of a hat, with the most violent act being taking a representation of an angel and impaling it at the top of the tree?


3 Responses to “In praise of commercialized Xmas”

  1. Why so bitter, Dave? Christmas is when we celebrate the product of our hard work. We do a few other social things like go to church for a bit of lark, but it’s really about consumption. An act indulgence with with our family in friends to remind us in very real terms why it was worth working hard and making the effort to be productive.

  2. Believe it or not, I actually re-read the last post a few times before hitting ‘submit’!

  3. Dave Bath said

    Not so bitter Mick. The festive season, enjoying time with friends and family with small indulgences is a very good and necessary thing. But the 60-days-of-Xmas bit shows that some things have got out of hand.

    For myself, I enjoyed most watching my grandson have a ball scrunching and ripping wrapping paper. The slightly evil pleasure I got was giving my 16 year old godson (my daughter’s younger brother) exactly what he wanted – a distortion pedal for his electric guitar. Not only will he enjoy it, but he’ll use it to annoy the hell out of my ex-wife for years to come!

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