Friday April 18, 2014

Rothenburger: Please, stop the Christmas guilt trip

We should stop feeling guilty about Christmas.

I’ve had enough of being told how to celebrate the “holiday season.” Be thrifty, they say.

Go green. Don’t start too soon. Don’t waste electricity on lights. Spend less. Save more.

People who talk about homemade tree decorations and recycling wrapping paper and about the “true” spirit of giving are well intentioned.

However, let’s deal with facts. Christmas is less a spiritual experience than it is an economic imperative. Manufacturers and retailers depend on it.

It’s a celebration of our free-enterprise Western World lifestyle, and that’s OK. We all have roles to play.

Christmas creates, or confirms, three classes of people. Those in the well-off class buy each other ski vacations and new cars. In the middle are those who wander the malls and boutiques, credit cards at the ready, and spend the first couple of months of each new year paying down their charge accounts.

Then there are those who can’t afford a turkey or a new pair of socks let alone a weekend skiing. Yet they deserve to participate in Christmas every bit as much as the rest, whose responsibility it is to make it happen.

That’s why we give to good causes at the checkout, drop a few dollars into the kettle, take toys to the toy-collection places or drop off hampers at the food bank. It’s essential.

Considering how long we’ve been doing Christmas, though, it’s amazing how unprepared we are for it every year. You’d think it was something pulled on us as a surprise.

When financial adviser Gail vaz Oxlade was here, she pointed out winter tires aren’t an emergency. You know you’re going to need them, so budget accordingly and stop whining about the cost.

Christmas is the same. We know it’s coming; a little planning would be good. If we put money in the bank each month for Christmas costs, including charities, we’d be ready. It’s no different than budgeting for taxes or gasoline.

If we did that, we wouldn’t have to put up with columnists and editorial writers telling us to eat less Christmas dinner and to give each other coupons for hugs and house chores and mail the savings to a farmer in Africa who needs a goat.

We’d eat hearty, find something nice under the tree, and that farmer would still get a new goat.

But, we aren’t ready, are we? Sure, the malls are busy on weekends, but the acid test, the canary in the mineshaft, is the dinner hour between 5 and 6 on weeknights.

At other times of the year, we all go home for dinner right after work and maybe to the movies or the game after that. This time of year, as Christmas gets ever closer, we clue in that the dinner hour is the best time for shopping because everyone else is still at home reheating leftover lasagna.

Swing through a big-box parking lot during the dinner hour right now and you’re still likely to find a place to park. That’s a sure sign we haven’t pressed the panic button yet.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the capitalistic trappings of Christmas. It can be egalitarian at the same time, and it can be about family, too. So spare the lectures, please.

Let the Christmas rush begin.

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