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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas

Everyone remembers the classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" right? It's a great book and the animated movie (not the live action Jim Carey one; I know it wasn't great but it was blindingly bad either) is a classic. Comes on every year and it never fails to hook me in despite the fact I've seen it pretty much every year of my existence. So, that's 23 years on this planet and 23 times-at least-that I've seen this movie. I know the plot, I know the songs, I know the movie better than the back of my hand (and my hand is very unhappy about that).

But upon thinking about all the numerous times I've seen the movie, the Grinch really didn't steal Christmas. Oh, sure, he took the gifts, the decorations, the sweets, ect, but the Christmas spirit was still alive and well even without all that. Heck, I'd say the Christmas spirit actually benefited from having all that removed because it took everyone in Whoville back to basics.

And you know what? That's a really great lesson. Said lesson has been around since the book came out in 1957, the animated movie in 1966, and the Jim Carey movie (despite it's poor reception by Seuss faithful) in 2000. So, that's 54 years of that lesson being brought to us on a yearly basis (if not more than that with how much of a pop culture icon the Grinch and Dr. Seuss has become).

I've been around for 23 years of that. You know what the sad part is? I haven't learned that lesson yet. You know what else? Neither has America. If Dr. Seuss were still around today I'm sure he'd be locked up in a funny farm; he'd be driven mad by how little American society has changed in regards to Christmas.

We've actually grown worse. Advertisements for stuff are everywhere and it's stuff we want but really don't need. But it gets worse because not only do we do ridiculous things to get these gifts (Black Friday, anyone?) but we buy in bulk. One person doesn't need an entire trunk full of gifts. It's over saturation in the worst way and guess what? We only have ourselves to blame.

You see folks, the Grinch didn't steal Christmas. He's not the one who's hijacked this holiday. We, collectively as a society, have stolen Christmas. "Now, wait a minute," you might say, "we're not the ones who put all the advertisements for things everywhere. We don't make our kids beg and plead for toys. We're innocent!"

In fact we're guilty in the worst way. Once upon a time Christmas had three things that it stood for: giving, goodwill towards men, and peace on earth. Sure, it's cliche now, but it meant a lot at one time to a lot of people. That's not the Christmas we've created though; we're created a Frankenstein Christmas. Our Christmas is a monster. It stands for money, stress, and wants. I want this, I want that, I want more, I want what you have, what he has, what she has, ect.

Sure, the advertisements are constantly bombarding us that we must have this or that, but we've been given freewill folks, and every other time of the year we use it. We use it do dumb things, we use it do to mean things, we use it to be cheap and selfish...but when Christmas comes we become mindless zombies called consumers. We must buy, says the advertisements.

No we don't. Little Jimmy doesn't need a new ipod, the one he has is fine; yeah, so what if it's full of stuff, tell him to clean it off like he needs to clean up his room!

As much as I hate to say it-in part because I like getting cool stuff as much as anyone during Christmas-I think we as a society need to get back to basics. Christmas has taken on a meaning it was never supposed to because, like all things touched by humans, it has become corrupt. People look forward to Christmas being over rather than being near, simply because as you spend more money on gifts the only thing you seem to be buying is more stress.

Now, I don't know about you, but I hate stress. Stress stresses me out. Stress is bad for me and bad for everyone really. The Christmas season is a huge stress creator and it never should have gotten this far. Dr. Seuss showed us back in 1957 what Christmas was all about, how Christmas should be treated. Instead of listening we have ignored him. It just gets worse every year.

We have stolen Christmas and replaced it with something that's just plain wrong; it's really the only way I can describe it. While gifts pile up under the tree, money get deducted from bank accounts, and stress continues to build, we're really doing nothing to help break this self inflicted vicious cycle we've created.

Now, I know this year is pretty much a wash for any real change to how we treat Christmas. The gifts have already been bought and we've set course. For this year I implore you to try and treat the day-and the season itself-as it was meant to be treated; with a good heart and mind, one that is giving and thankful. Too often on Christmas day it boils down to "what I did and didn't get." Don't think like that please; just be happy you got something.

But just because this year is a wash doesn't mean that next year has to be one. We can break the cycle if we try hard enough. So, for those of you who care to, I challenge you-as I challenge myself-to cut back on this Frankenstein Christmas we've created. Instead of buying Little Jimmy three or four gifts, get him one or two. Spend less time making and taking lists of gifts people want and instead ask them what they need. Worry less about how you need a new tree this year and instead opt to go without; it's not about the gifts, the decorations, and the sweets.

If we want to take Christmas back we're going to have to start slow. It's going to be like quitting smoking in some respects; we, as a society, are just going to have to take it one step at a time. It'll be a slow process and one that'll likely take years; nevertheless, it needs to be done.

If you think the advertisements, the stress, and the Christmas blues are bad now, wait about ten years and see how insane it will be then. We need to get back down to basics; if not for our sakes than for the sakes of future generations. The cycle can and should be broken.

So spread the word. This year is a wash but next year can be our first step as a society back to a Christmas that's closer to what it's really all about.

That's pretty much all I got for today. As always any and all comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed. 

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