Every year around this time, I never fail to get the comment that maybe, just maybe, holidays were invented by capitalists to further their drive for super-profits. Imagine the amount of food, gift wrappers, and greeting cards consumed everytime Christmas comes around the corner. Another token comment would be the observation that holidays have become too materialistic, with the essence of the celebration forgotten in the picture of gifts, get-togethers, and did I mention food?
And alongside these observations are the usual pleas for reflection. So I told myself, “By God, I’m going to get around to reflecting on stuff.”
I brushed up on a bit of Christmas history and found out that the earliest form of Christmas celebration is called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or the birthday of the unconquered Sun. Yes, this holiday, much like the other elements of Christian ritual, were borrowed from pagan faiths in order for Christianity to be able to assimilate them, and even before Christianity’s appropriation of Solis Invicti the mode of celebration was already a festival.
And rightly so, for this day was then attributed to Bacchus, the God of Wine, where the word “Bacchanalian” came from, which refers to a riotous, boisterous or drunken festivity. Even in ancient times, it already had a consumerist character.
So if it was economically motivated even in its earliest inception, it should be no surprise to us how Christmas is celebrated contemporarily. But, as also indicated above, this holiday already had a political theme to it, insofar as Christianity’s appropriation of it is concerned. But beyond being a hegemonical apparatus, the shift from a celebration that “revels” into one that “reveres” is a huge, even revolutionary paradigm shift in culture.
We are now in what is called the “Age of Stupid”, where people continue to push the prevailing consumerist society and culure to the brink of destruction without realizing that exhausting the natural and labor resources of the world would result into environmental and social destruction. As we celebrate Christmas in such a consumerist mode, let us be reminded of the failure of the COP15 talks in Copenhagen to formulate a stronger, binding and enforceable agreement to cap the emissions of all developed nations.
Let us also be reminded of the continuing Global Financial Crisis, which is also rooted in the greed of CEO’s in multinational and transnational ompanies. These economic depressions always resulted in poverty, hunger and war. The Mayan Calendar does not sound as ridiculous now as it was before, what with the global ecological and economic crises bent on sundering humanity as we know it.
Christmas in this bleak context should remind us of the need for another revolutionary paradigm shift. On the individual level, we should put a stopper on relentless consumerism, and start being practical not only during holidays, but throughout the year. A couple of suggestions: use electronic greeting cards instead of the paper ones, and start using cloth in gift wrapping instead of paper.
On the social level, we should start engaging in collective actions that seek to address these social ills (for what use are using e-cards and cloth wrappers when corporations continue to overproduce the products our individual alternatives seek to replace?). The best, practical step would be to join and be active in any of the countless progressive, patriotic and national democratic organizations out there. They are, after all, the only ones addressing both the tactical and strategic needs of the people insofar as society and the environment is concerned. If you are a techie like me, why don’t you join us in the Computer Professionals’ Union, for example?
To conclude, let us be reminded that Christmas Day isn’t actually Jesus Christ’s birthday (nor is it Santa Claus’). I personally think Christ’s day is celebrated this near to the end of the year simply because it’s the best time of the year for us to start thinking about the future. So let’s start thinking about it with this passage from the Bible as a note: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
Let’s put a stopper on the global consumerist culture. Let’s put a stopper on Imperialism’s rape of the world’s resources. Let’s celebrate Christmas with a revolutionary paradigm shift.