Christmas lights have been strung off trees, while iPods fresh from their boxes are still being tapped and explored. Santa and his reindeer have been deflated, boxed and stuffed into attics. Homeowners continue to de-string their homes of lights and pulling out their candy cane lawn ornaments. The New Year’s confetti has been swept from streets and those 2013 glasses trashed, along with the humiliating or heartrending indiscretions of 2012. So marks the end of the holidays.
But amongst the 30-feet-high Christmas trees and the annual Times Square celebration lingers a disquieting thought. Have we replaced the holiday spirit with grandiose pageantry? After all, Christmas is not just a celebration of Jesus’ birth, but it is a rich spectacle of lights, songs, gifts and decorations.
If our celebrations were less about the aesthetic presentation and more about the legend, we would discover a forgotten altruistic past.
Although Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian savior, it also commemorates the charitable Old Saint Nick, who gave gifts and money to the poor. Although his image was combined with Germanic legends and gods, his giving nature survived the transformation.
Unfortunately, we have turned a real man into a holiday character called Santa, who gives the world gifts.
And in doing so, we have turned benevolence into an act which exists only in myth.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving, once a celebration done by Pilgrims for having a successful harvest, has been turned into a massive feast. Each year, families circle the table and give thanks for their fortunes by stuffing their bellies with food. Yet, it is interesting that an event once celebrated by an entire community for a successful harvest is now a time when families feed themselves, while the homeless shiver and starve a few blocks away.
For Thanksgiving, it seems more appropriate to feed the hungry than to feed the fat.
But our attention shifts too quickly for us to focus on the incongruities. As we toss out 2013 memorabilia, Cupid beckons us to buy Valentine’s Day cards and new wrapping paper covered with pink and red hearts. Apparently, we believe love can be expressed through a generic card and some money.
So where has all the meaning gone?
We seem to believe it has been engraved on the silver backing of an iPod and is carried on the light rays from a 30-carat ring.
I don’t believe we are clones of Dudley Dursley counting our gifts and screaming when they amount to less than last year’s. Nor would I define the meaning of the holidays, since one can argue it’s about family, God, friends, fun or gifts. But one thing is certain: we have accepted the notion that for it to be a celebration there must be something in it for us.
Perhaps it is the rapidity of modernity, which prevents us from examining the meaning of our celebrations, or is it the regularity of these customs that has stunted intelligible reflection? Regardless of the reason, the holidays have not lost their meaning, but rather their meaning is lost on the public.
Nidia Sandoval is a fourth-year history major. She can be reached at email@example.com.