That Commercial Christmas Glitter
By James Donahue
I think there was a time when Christmas was a religious occasion, but I don’t remember it.
Even when I was a child toddling around during the World War II years, I remember that the holiday involved putting up an
evergreen tree with colored lights, and on that special day, waking up to find wrapped gifts under the tree.
We usually had a pretty nice meal that day. And if we had snow, all the kids in the neighborhood
spent hours sledding on some nearby hills at the local golf course. One year I remember getting a cowboy outfit, complete
with leather holsters and cap guns, and I had to run over to a friend’s house and show it off. I remember going to church
for a special Christmas service when the children all got up and said verses or sang carols. Then some guy dressed like Santa
Claus came charging into the sanctuary and handed out bags of candy and nuts. That was as close to religion as the holiday
ever got for us.
While I was growing up I remember Bing Crosby recorded his famous Irving Berlin song, White
Christmas, and that song got quickly mixed up with the choral and instrumental "sacred music" of Christmas. Also there
was the popular reading of the poem Night Before Christmas, in which author Clement
Clarke Moore projected the myth of Santa Clause, his flying sled pulled by magical reindeer, and his amazing visit to
everybody’s house by sliding down chimneys.
That nearly every house in the nation burned coal in those days (and because Christmas always
falls in the winter, those coal burners were operating) didn’t seem to cause many kids to question the story. I remember
leaving cookies and milk on a table near the tree for Santa to enjoy when he came. I suppose I thought that would put me in
special favor and that I might get a better gift because of it.
When the singing cowboy Gene Autry popularized the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,
the whole Christmas story got really screwed up. Now instead of being pulled by eight tiny reindeer, Santa’s magic sleigh
now had a ninth reindeer in the lead, with a nose that was lit up like the top light on a fire truck.
After that, all the popular singers started getting in on the act. We had All I Want for Christmas
is my Two Front Teeth by Don Gardner, and Alvin and the Singing Chipmunks with their Christmas Song. After that
things got really crazy. We had Frosty The Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy, The 12 Days of Christmas
and the list goes on and on.
I think the music was the first assault. We started getting all that noise on our radios at least
by the first of December, and the downtown stores were always decorated to the hilt for Christmas shoppers as soon as Thanksgiving
Then came the visual assault.
Homeowners started putting lights on trees in their yards, and then on their houses. After that,
entire neighborhoods started lighting up for Christmas and it got to be part of the season to drive around and see all the
About the time my wife and I were parents and raising children of our own, we discovered that
there was a seasonal rush on for certain popular toys. I think television had a lot to do with that. If you waited until the
last few days before Christmas to do your shopping, you didn’t have a very good pick of the toys. Also we started noticing
that financing Christmas was starting to get to be a big part of our December budget. But in those days we used to get Christmas
bonus checks, which sometimes amounted to an extra week’s value of pay, so we didn’t mind putting out the cash.
When big corporations started buying out the family operated businesses, the Christmas bonus got
tossed aside. Now very few people are left in the workplace that even remember such a thing. And to compensate, we started
planning Christmas early, sometimes starting our shopping as early as Labor Day to lighten the financial blow.
I think other people started doing the same thing because the stores began promoting Christmas
earlier and earlier, usually getting their displays up long before Thanksgiving. Now I see them as early as Columbus Day.
The whole Christmas thing got to be such a headache, I learned to hate this holiday, even before
I took a look at the Jesus story and realized that it was full of bologna and shouldn’t even be observed. Even before
our kids were grown and out of the house, we changed the observance. We started exchanging gifts on Christmas eve, thus making
it possible for the whole house to get a full night’s sleep on Christmas Day. We cut down on the value of that gift
exchange and concentrated our efforts on the meal, and getting family together to enjoy the day. Those were much better times.
After we left the church, we gave up the celebration of Christmas altogether, even though my wife
and I still couldn’t resist passing a gift or two on to our children and anybody who happened to be coming to call that
day. It just seemed to be the social thing to do.
But for us the big extravagant buying sprees are over. We just don’t do it. And nobody is
more relieved about it than this writer. We tolerate Christmas now, because it is going on loudly all around us. People are
lighting up their lawns, their houses, and broadcasting Christmas music through speakers for the world to hear.
Those same worn-out songs are slamming our eardrums all day long. You hear them in all the stores. They are piped out on the
street. They come at us over our radios and televisions. Before it is over you tend to find yourself cupping your hands over
your ears and screaming “enough!”
Small wonder that there is a Christmas rebellion rising in America. The craziness has gotten out