Does Xmas Promote Greed?
Jesus taught that it’s better to give than to get. The Santa Claus myth teaches that getting takes first place: if you’re good you’ll get, if you’re bad you won’t
A FEW years ago the assistant managing editor of the U.S. Catholic magazine wrote:
“Whereas the true lesson of Christmas is a message of divine mercy and sacrifice, Santa is the front man for greedy corporations, and the tutor in greed for millions of American children. He is the saint of gimme. . . . He has become a total sellout to materialism and greed. He is in the pay of the big toy manufacturers and department stores. . . . A greedy child is never appeased. A spoiled child appreciates nothing. An overindulged child is convinced that the major figure of Christmas is not Christ, but himself.”
This editor thought that Santa should have been left at the North Pole. Actually, the entire Christmas celebration should have been left in pagan Rome. Christ was not born on December 25, but it was the day on which the Romans worshiped the sun-god. Their December festival, the Saturnalia, featured gift giving and wild parties. A few centuries after Christ the Catholic Church incorporated the day and the festival into apostate Christianity, and called it “mass of Christ,” or Christmas.
Appropriate to its origin, the Christmas celebration is observed in many non-Christian nations today. For example, the Daily Yomiuri of Japan said last year at Christmastime:
“Whipped cream cakes with ‘Merry Christmas’ written across the top in English are a must for every family that has children. The cakes, complete with miniature ‘Santa Ojisan’—that’s Santa Claus—go for about $7.70 each. Many households have a small Christmas tree topped with foam snow. This borrowed holiday has become big business in Japan.
“‘We Japanese are Christmas Christians,’ said Yukio Nomura, interviewed while purchasing a $233 remote-controlled toy car for his 11-year-old son. Nomura, an employee of a large trading company, said he is not Christian but nevertheless celebrates the holiday—‘because it’s an excuse to eat and drink.’
“The Christmas period is also a time when many companies hold their ‘bonenkai’—year-end parties—often followed by night-long binges at a string of bars. Extra police patrol the entertainment districts to guide home merrymakers.”
Weeks of shopping in preparation for Christmas is nerve-racking. Cooking for the family dinners is exhausting. The family budget has been ruined. The obese overeat, the alcoholics overdrink, and even the moderates may put on a few pounds and suffer some hangovers. The poor feel their poverty more acutely, and the lonely feel their loneliness more keenly. Many children are unhappy. Some did not get what they wanted, some did not get as much as they wanted, and still others received little or nothing.
Dr. John Donnelly, chief psychiatrist of the world-famous Institute of Living, says you have lots of company if you are depressed on Christmas day. He thinks that Christmas was a happier time 45 years ago, when people were less affluent and took joy in little things.
Christmas giving caters to the flesh, stuffs the flesh. Could it be that the spirit is starved, and because of that suffers depression?
“We have Christmas,” one five-year-old boy explained, “because parents celebrate and children have to celebrate too. It’s so children can get some toys and adults can get some clothes for themselves. We don’t go to church.”
A six-year-old girl said: “My favorite Christmas song is: When Santa got stuck up the chimney, he began to shout: You girls and boys won’t get any toys, if you don’t pull me out.”
This 10-year-old boy has the financial end of it figured out: “I have an allowance. I have $25 to spend on Christmas. I think my parents should spend $42 on me.”
Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) If the giving is done out of a heart filled with love, that is true. If it is done out of a sense of obligation, much of the happiness is lost. Concerning the giving at Christmastime, Science Digest magazine said: “Most of us say (and think that we believe) that ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ But when we talk about ‘exchanging gifts,’ we betray the fact that we do expect a little something to be given in return.”
This is not the kind of giving that Jesus had in mind, for he also said: “When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.”—Luke 14:12-14.
This is not to say there will not be a return, but the giving is not done with any return in mind. “Practice giving,” Jesus said, “and people will give to you.” If you give to the poor, you still reap a return: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.”—Luke 6:38; Prov. 19:17.
Christmastime is characterized by material giving, the exchanging of gifts, a great outpouring of toys upon the children of many nations. There is a much greater gift that all children need, and need not once or a few times a year, but every day of their lives.
[Blurb on page 4]
When people had less, they were happier with less.