War on Christmas

How the Bridge stole Christmas

Illustration by Wyatt Tremblay

Illustration by Wyatt Tremblay

Christmas is a time of giving, a time to show how much your friends and family mean to you and a time to grovel to our corporate overlords.

Basically, it’s a time for suckers.

As a nation, we collectively go off our gourd. We bust out the decorations obnoxiously early, and we often start gift shopping months in advance and spending far more than we can actually afford.

Shilo Robson, who was recently accepted into SAIT and will be beginning classes in 2017, says that as much as she enjoys the holiday season, the obvious materialism has somewhat cheapened the experience for her.

“Working in a mall kind of gives you that perspective. You see all kinds of people, like children crying about how they only got half of a set of something.” 

The act of gift-giving itself has become so superficial. Clothes, groceries and other necessities are looked down on as being somehow passé. Meanwhile, a dinosaur onesie is the star of the show.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that Christmas brings out the best in people.

People, regardless of their faith, volunteer in soup kitchens, run donation drives and engage in numerous acts of charity around this time of year. 

Each year though, these acts seem to become more and more rare, while the gift-giving gets more indulgent and more grotesque.

It’s certainly easier to imagine a Christmas season without charity than one without the exchange of gifts.

“Without it, [Christmas] just turns into another Thanksgiving,” says Robson.

“I don’t think you can really have Christmas without an exchange of gifts.”

Gift giving has become so deeply ingrained in our society that we have stopped considering what the ritual is actually supposed to mean. 

People tell themselves that gifts are a way of showing their friends and family how much they care. But, by making gift-giving the focal point of the holidays, we are effectively saying you can measure how much I care about you in dollars. 

It profanes and demeans something that is supposed to be both sacred and rich in meaning.

If somebody chooses not to feed into this bastardization, they’re seen as being cheap or uncaring.

It’s just accepted that if you care about somebody, you should buy them a present. Substitutions are called cop-outs.

The expectation of receiving a gift makes people less grateful for the presents they get. Instead, people are raised to believe that they are owed gifts. 

And so, in subtle ways that nobody would ever admit to, we are instead disappointed by gifts we didn’t receive.

Charlotte Marshall, a fourth-year ACAD student who may very well be the most sincerely good person I have ever met, says that she can bring herself to look beyond the rampant capitalism if it gives her a chance to make her friends happy.

“I like Christmas the most when we leave our expectations at the door and just hang out, take time off and eat until we can’t move.”

The secret, according to Marshall, is to redefine the way we look at gifts. To her, a gift doesn’t have to be defined by its novelty or by how much it costs.

Hell, a gift doesn’t even have to be a tangible object.

“It can be as simple as learning how to listen.”

Wouldn’t that be precious? And I don’t ask that question with my trademark cynicism.

What a wonderful thing it would be if we could come together and value something as innocuous as listening as highly as we value a Game of Thrones boxed set.

Certainly, it’s an idea that I can get behind, and I’m sure many of you reading this agree.

Society as a whole has a long way to go, though.

Or, maybe I’m just being cynical again.

Regardless, I believe that we could all afford to take a page out of Marshall’s book.

“I buy presents for all of my friends usually, but this year I got them one communal gift they can all use so that I could save money. Even though we’re all broke at this time of year, at least we’re all broke together.”

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