Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On Conceding Christmas

Local boy done good Jim Martin SJ makes his first op-ed appearance in the pages of the Inquirer:
Before I became a Jesuit priest, I spent (believe it or not) four years as an undergrad at Wharton and six years at General Electric. So I realize that it's inevitable for marketers to glom onto the nearest available holiday to increase revenue. Shareholders, as my finance professors would tell you, demand no less. But what Christian denomination can compete with the Church of Capitalism, whose dogma has been preached with such evangelical fervor that to contradict it in our age is close to heresy?

Thus, my modest proposal: Give Christmas to the corporations, and let them have their way with it. Let Sierra Mist decide which flavors should inspire new and improved Christmas carols. Let Starbucks define the season's traditions ("Peppermint Mocha," according to its current campaign). And let Warner Bros. recommend, as it has this year, the "ultimate holiday gift." (Although giving somebody a DVD of M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water is a sure way to get you disinvited to almost any party, no matter what the holiday.)

Then what? Well, a useful model for New Christmas might be Easter: minimum buying and stress, maximum prayer and worship.

Easter catalogues do not sclerotically clog mailboxes in the springtime. Fistfights in department stores do not herald the beginning of the Easter shopping season. And when was the last time you heard anyone carping about pre-Easter stress? ("Lent gets crazier every year!") No one needs to put Christ back in Easter, because nobody has tried to take him out. Yet....

Since we don't know exactly when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we could celebrate New Christmas around, say, June, when there aren't as many big-name holidays to compete with. (Right now, Christmas is sandwiched in between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, not to mention Kwanzaa. In June, its only serious competition would be Flag Day.) Plus, for those in colder climates, getting to grandma's house would be far easier without driving through three-foot snow drifts or having to wait for some poor soul to de-ice your airplane. Or if you live in, say, the Southern Hemisphere, you may finally experience that White Christmas you've been dreaming about.