This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.
As the holiday season approaches, Americans are focusing a great deal on a particular dilemma: What gifts should they get for their loved ones? Every year, the public is subjected to months of hype for the holiday season as businesses work to increase profits. Everyone must not focus solely on the commercialization of holidays but instead consider their non-material aspects.
In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Lucy said it best when she said, “We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.” Throughout the Christmas special, Charlie Brown tries to find out what the true meaning of Christmas is. Now, it seems like society has almost embraced and normalized this “racket” that Lucy describes. No one appears to question the effect big businesses have on the holiday season.
Since the 19th century, industrialization and immigration have brought a great deal of change to American society, and our festivities are no exception. For those who celebrate Christmas, these twin forces introduced the domestic and commercial celebration of the holiday. As families began the traditions of Christmas trees, stockings, ornaments and other celebratory symbols, businesses took notice and exploited the joviality for their gain.
Today, we see Christmas decorations on houses days after Halloween decorations come down and many consumers rushing to stores immediately following Thanksgiving dinner to begin Christmas shopping on Black Friday. We now have a sense of hyper-commercialization almost 200 years in the making.
One of the religious groups who has been significantly affected by Christmas is Jews. Hanukkah is the one Jewish holiday that overlaps with the winter holiday season. The excessive consumerism that influenced how people celebrated Christmas has led to Jews being influenced in a similar way. Jews often do not consider Hanukkah as one of the most important holidays, yet it is one of the few interactions some American Jews have with their religion.
Commercialization has made Hanukkah into a prominent holiday for American Jews. It is not a traditional Jewish custom to get gifts for eight straight nights during Hanukkah, and Jews all over the world do not typically decorate their houses in blue and silver. The nightly lighting of the menorah is one of the few universal Jewish traditions performed by Americans. The only reason gifts and decorations became a part of Hanukkah is that the holiday takes place around the same time as Christmas, and Jewish parents felt that they could incorporate some of that same holiday spirit when celebrating Hanukkah.
While the gifts and glamour of holidays can be fun, it is important not to forget what these holidays truly mean. When we focus on obtaining material objects, we take advantage of a particular kind of privilege that some only dream of having. Remember to enjoy this holiday season by taking pride in what you already have and try to treat the most wonderful time of the year with a dash of humility.
Daniel is a junior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]