During the festive holiday season, it’s become common to criticize the commercialization of Christmas. Cynics suggest that there’s something unseemly and shallow about so many Americans running around frantically and spending huge sums to purchase gifts that the recipients may not even welcome. From a deeper perspective, however, the surge of commercial activity in the Christmas season strengthens the connections of inter-dependence and mutual reward that make community possible. The seasonal spending not only connects those who give and receive gifts to one another, but ties together buyers and sellers in webs of service, prosperity and gain. If retailers enjoy good business during the holidays it’s a sign of strength and prosperity for the larger society, just as disappointing results indicate widespread hardship. All the buying and selling is altogether voluntary, demonstrating the operation of a free market that functions best when there’s peace on earth to men of good will. The market, in fact, encourages precisely that sort of cooperation and respect. What’s negative about the prospect of hundreds of millions of Americans taking great pains to select gifts to express their affection for friends and family? In fact, the kind instincts demonstrated by the giving mania, and by the ubiquitous figure of Santa Claus, may at least bring us closer to the message of higher love that’s part of the holiday’s religious core.
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