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The Commercialism of Christmas

I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Theresa Roemer, CEO of Theresa Roemer, LLC, and a business owner who specializes in business philanthropy.

The Commercialism of Christmas

By Theresa Roemer

Christmas and commercialism. Commercialism and Christmas.

The two are so intertwined that untangling them has become a mess. Somewhere, a child will sit in a church pew on December 25 fiddling on an iPhone. Could there be a better metaphor for technology distracting us from the true meaning of the holiday?

Unlike the chicken and the egg, we know which came first between Christmas and the iPhone. It’s not too hard to untangle if you think about it.

In their Second Book of General Ignorance, authors John Lloyd and John Mitchinson explain that Advent — the Christian season preceding Christmas — comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “arrival.” It is meant to be a time of fasting and contemplation in preparation for the holiday. Advent calendars, which count down the days to Christmas, became a tradition in 19th-century Germany. Now their main function is to remind us how many days we have left to shop. According to Lloyd and Mitchinson, more than a quarter of all personal spending each year in the United States and United Kingdom takes place in December.

We don’t generally spend our Decembers thinking about the origin of Christmas, or fasting or contemplating. We’re all out shopping. In the midst of this, make time to sit down with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Read them stories from the Bible — stories with lots of pictures, if they’re too young to understand the meaning of the words.

Growing up, my family attended church services every Wednesday and Sunday, sometimes on Sunday night too. I didn’t have to rely on my parents or grandparents to learn about Jesus’ birth. I had Sunday School to teach me. By the time December 25 rolled around every year, I was aware of what was being taught in church. Does the boy glued to his iPhone have the same level of awareness?

Call me old-fashioned, but I still observe Advent by spending each December resting, relaxing and enjoying the company of friends and family at Christmas parties. You won’t find me in a store five days before Christmas, or the day after Thanksgiving for that matter. Every year I try to get my Christmas shopping done prior to Halloween.

It really doesn’t matter when you celebrate, or where, or how. What’s important is that we try to peel back the layers to expose the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe that means reducing the amount of shopping time, or teaching the youngest members of your family about Jesus’ birth, or merely setting aside time each December to read the Bible and reflect.

The end result will look the same: The best gifts we give and receive this Christmas will not be found in a store.

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