It strikes me as funny that there is so much pseudo-religious fury over stores not properly expressing Christian beliefs. When I was a kid I remember people being up in arms about greed and materialism drowning out the religious message of the season. Religious parents used to worry that buying gifts for their kids made the holiday about greed. Now apparently greed is good, but only if it’s decorated properly and comes with the proper greeting.
Or something like that.
Personally, I think everyone has missed the point altogether. Or at least what the point of gift giving could be, if we just stopped making it complicated.
Despite technically being an atheist for quite a while now, I’ve continued to very much enjoy Christmas. Or, as I’ve started calling the last few years, Giftmas. I love decorating and cooking and holiday music and, most of all, shopping for gifts for family and friends. I spend a lot of time and energy searching for the perfect things which I think will make people really excited.
And that, right there, is the point.
Holidays in the general sense aren’t supposed to be an excuse to bully other people into sharing your worldview. They aren’t supposed to be about what you feel or what you want. Holidays are to be celebrated with others. They are supposed to bring people together in ways that breed connection and feelings of unity. And what better way to do that than to spend a whole month focused on giving people things that will excite them and surprise them? A whole month spent thinking about what everyone around you likes and values. A whole month where you willingly make sacrifices from your own bank account to make other people happy.
Who isn’t excited to watch friends and loved ones open gifts which we know will make their faces light up in delight? I dare say there is more meaning and connection in that tradition than most of the other things we do to celebrate various holidays. There aren’t many rituals in our culture which turn everyone’s focus towards how to bring joy to the people they care about.
So while others are throwing away their joy in exchange for righteous fury this holiday season, I’ll be using my Amazon Prime account to make my world a happier place.
One thought on “In Defense of Holiday Shopping as a Spiritual Practice”
I think your phrase “meaning and connection” nicely captures the point of most worthy traditions. Your approach to gift-giving seems to fit the bill!