Have a Holly, Jolly Groundhog Day

Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I prefer Ground Hog Day; a day when a man in a top hat holds up a stunned groundhog to remind us that any way you slice it … Spring is six weeks away. It’s a practical holiday, an instructive holiday, and kind of a spring advent calendar. There are other reasons I prefer Ground Hog Day: Ground Hog Day requires no preparation; no shopping; no guilt; and no expectations. Also, Ground Hog Day has not been discovered by advertising agencies and marketing executives.

This is a sacred time. December marks a holy time for many religions, yet today, the spirituality of the season has been lost in the debris of advertising.

Christmas on the other hand is the darling of advertising. Thanks to those wonderful folks who turned a football game into Oscar time for commercials, Christmas has been turned into a shopping event of Olympic proportions.

Christmas now follows Halloween. All Saint’s Day has been pushed aside to make way for the annual Holiday Shopping Season. For example: while the children are sorting through their pile of candy pilfered from friends and neighbors … employees like elves creep into a certain national chain of coffee shops and before dawn they have transformed the stores into a Holiday market filled an array of gifts to purchase while waiting for your Holiday cup containing more than 2,500 calories. A good fifty-five days before Christmas Day, you can begin consuming holiday lattes in a green or red cup and by Christmas morning, you have consumed 137,500 calories.

This is a sacred time. December marks a holy time for many religions, yet today, the spirituality of the season has been lost in the debris of advertising.

As a historian, setting aside famine, drought, and plagues … in my opinion, holiday shopping accounts for more than 99% of family strife, 99% of our national debt, and the genesis of the winter flu season brought on by holiday letdown.

Was it always like this? Is it just me, but has this season that was meant to fortify us is now beginning to make me feel melancholy and wistful? I have regrets in this season. I regret that all of us will not celebrate a wonderful holiday. Those advertisements I speak of … can make those who should save their money feel that they should spend extravagantly on presents that will take them years to finish paying back the debt. I regret that so many trees die, undecorated and forgotten in tree lots. Is it the stress of holiday shopping that drives some shopping center Santa’s to drink? Look at the mess we have made of this blessed season.

Our holiday spending habits are measured, evaluated, and discussed by experts. If holiday shoppers spend freely and delve heavily into credit card debt, the economists declare that our economy is firm and steady. If we keep our money under the mattress, or in bank and saving accounts, those same soothsayers will declare that a recession, depression, or inflation is gripping the nation. If I was a gambler, I would say this sounds like blackmail.

Peace on earth is not the reason for this season anymore. Like All-Saints’ Day, it has been pushed aside to make way for shopping.

Since the beginning of time, this season, the month we call December, the month marking change, marking the end of the old and the beginning of the new, has been held sacred in the life of mankind. Yet in the last fifty years, our culture has moved further and further away from knowing this season as the time of promise and hope. This I regret.

However you celebrate this season, take time to create memories of the present that will be recalled fondly in future holiday seasons, rather than purchasing insignificant gifts.

Instead of the family drawing names, have each member of the family bring a story to the annual family gathering. Tell stories of celebration in times of joy and of survival in harsh winters. As the young listen they will become fortified for the future.

We live in an unsettled time; a time of war and global change. A time of drought and famine; mankind, people like me and you … need fortifying and shopping and credit card debt are not the answers. We are burdened with taxes for war chests, urban growth, speedways, and arenas.

Let’s pause in this season to celebrate whatever we have at hand and let us not measure our celebration by staged photos of perfection. Few of us can reach perfection, but joy is found in unexpected places. I wish you peace, happiness, memories, laughter, and sanity. And remember Ground Hog Day is little more than a month away.

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