Every year, as predictable as the arrival of the winter solstice is the arrival of criticism about the commercialization of Christmas. We are told by well meaning killjoys that Christ and all religious meaning have been taken out of Christmas because Americans spend too much money on Christmas gifts and because stores have rendered Christmas little more than a great time to sell product.
If there is a better example of people complaining about something that is overwhelmingly good and wholesome, I would like to know what it is.
During one period of time each year, the great majority of Americans feel obligated to buy presents for their friends and relatives. Imagine that! What an awful thing!
This is beyond silly. It is actually harmful.
Here is the key rule governing criticizing: Before you criticize something, imagine its alternative.
Imagine that Christmas came around, the stores put up no Christmas decorations and no one bought gifts. Would we be a better society? To me, and I suspect to most Americans, the question is rhetorical. Of course we wouldn't. Why on earth would we be a better society if Thanksgiving to Christmas were no different than a month in October or August? Not having a special time of year such as Christmas time, a major part of which is gift buying, would be an incalculable loss to society.
Do some people spend too much money? Yes. But the solution to the problem of some people spending too much on Christmas presents is encouraging those people to spend less, not discouraging everyone from buying Christmas presents.
Spending one's money on presents for people is one of the nicest traditions in society and ought to be cultivated, not discouraged. People who don't buy Christmas or Chanukah gifts aren't particularly noble; they are usually particularly cheap. Or naive: When I raised this topic on my radio show, one woman called in to tell me that she doesn't spend any money on Christmas gifts for her grandchildren, instead she sends them poems she wrote. If there is a grandchild in the world who would rather receive Grandma's poetry than a tangible gift, I want to meet that child.
Furthermore, how much is "too much"? The term is so subjective as to border on meaningless. If one goes into such debt that he seriously depletes his savings or risks bankruptcy, one has spent too much. Otherwise, the term is simply an act of judgmentalism that may reflect more on the judge's generosity of spirit than on the person judged.
Another objection is that some people spend out of obligation, not out of purely loving or altruistic motives. Wow. This is a real eye-opener. You mean people sometimes do altruistic things out of a mixture of motives?
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”