Black Friday has a different meaning to me than it does many others. It is one of the worst symbols of human consumption and brings out the worst sides of what I prefer to believe are otherwise well-behaved people. It seems that only in America could and do we make shopping not only a sport, but a full contact competitive one that requires you to abandon all sense of decency, civility, logic and reasonableness, get up at all hours of the morning, go out into the dark and cold (in some places) to wait in line with hundreds of others to get into a store to buy items at discount prices to give people or keep for yourself. I know there are people who love the exhilaration of it all, the crowds, the mad dash, the competition, the opportunity to get expensive items at discount prices. For them, it is a great kick off to a great holiday season. I think that it is sad and says something pretty awful about our culture and what this holiday has become. Regardless, it’s America, and (so far) people are still free to do as they please, shop for what they please, where they please, when they please for whatever reason they please. I avoid it. Always have, always will. I neither want to be part of the Black Friday Madness, nor be witness to what it turns people into. I see enough greed and irreconcilable disregard for decency and civility every day in the news and all around me. I don’t need to see it in its concentrated, undiluted form.
In fact, this year we are putting a final nail in the coffin of what was once a season of celebration for us. After two years of (our own) holiday bashes and several more of excessive gift spending and hours spent decorating and undecorating and going through the paces and motions of what is expected of us, we are skipping the whole debacle this year. When we moved in June, we disposed of almost all of our holiday decorations, save for the few personalized items, given to us as gifts, that are keepsakes. We will not be decking the halls, hanging the stockings, lighting the windows or purging the coffers for items of excess. No holiday cards, no endless flow of songs about Santas and Snowmen…nada.
Some, I’m sure, will mistake this for the cliché ba humbugness and grinchiness that many espouse during this holiday. That is not accurate in our case. We’re not going on an anti holiday-tirade. We’re not refusing to celebrate with others, attend parties or sing along to holiday hymns. Christmas in the US (and definitely among our friends and family) is, after all, practically unavoidable. We’re merely choosing not to contribute to it. We like and enjoy our living space just the way it is and see no reason to mess with it just to make room for a wreath and some ceramic bears in santa hats. We are married men in our 40s who are fortunate enough to be able to buy what we want and need as we want and need it. We are also modestly incomed people and do not have the finances to provide gifts for the plethora of family and friends we “should” buy for, were we to participate in the annual gift giving practice. To give to some and not all seems unfair. Any situation that requires a gift exchange, lest it get awkward, we will bake for or provide a bottle of spirits. baked goods and alcohol never go to waste among our circle of friends and family.
For those that wish to argue the point and tell us we are missing the “true meaning” of the holiday, which is about spending time with family and loved ones, spreading cheer and drinking spiked eggnog while trying to coerce crushes to join us under the mistletoe, I point out that we do this year round and don’t wait for official, designated days to celebrate our relationships. We host movie nights, dinners, birthdays and for-no-reason parties. We visit friends, send e-mails, text and facebook. We buy and give gifts to our friends and family when we see things that we think they will enjoy, simply because we think they will enjoy them. We try to be there for them whenever they need help or support. We open up our home as needed, when needed. We already do, or try to do, all the things this holiday allegedly encourages us to do, but we do it year round. So, we don’t feel the need to artificially enhance it for 30 days or try to condense it into just one or two nights. In that sense, I like to think we have the “christmas spirit” year round, just without the nomenclature or religious bent.
I don’t begrudge anyone loving and embracing this holiday. We all do the things we do, for our own reasons, and owe nobody explanations or apologies. If you find meaning in the holiday and love celebrating and reveling in it, go for it. Pull out your colored balls (yeah, I know, have fun with it,) your strings of knotted lights, your favorite christmas albums, your childhood stockings and your favorite fruitcake recipes. Schedule your visits, host your parties and blog your guts out on the specialness of it all. That’s awesome.
But for those who always try to celebrate life, friends and family year round and not just during the designated moments we’re encouraged to do it; for those who have lost (or perhaps, never had) the sense of wonder and magic, possibly due to the tragic corporate and personal greed, religious wars over ownership, and ensuing pressures and depression that often comes with a season that forces many of us to do things we don’t want to, with people we don’t want to do it with, spending money we don’t have on items nobody wants or needs; for those who merely lack any awe or love for this season for whatever reason, know that it’s OK. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Or a grinch. It just makes you differently minded. And that’s OK.
So this holiday season, (and any time of year, for that matter) we will attempt to be a respite, an oasis of normalness, for ourselves and those in our life needing an escape from the holiday onslaught. Here you will find a comfy seat, a warm meal, a strong drink, a friendly smile, entertaining conversation and a hearty hug; and it won’t be wrapped in tinsel, tissue or ribbon…it’s just good ol’ fashion welcoming friendship and love, now and year round.
And that’s good enough for us.