With no trendy shoes left, and supplies of the Xbox 003 running low, Mary wailed, and Joseph, stoned to the gills on frankincense, bludgeoned the Magi with an urn full of Myrrh before storming the doors of the Bethlehem Wal-Mart.
No, it’s not really the story I remember either.
I held off on writing for a few weeks in anticipation of writing a “holidays are the same everywhere” post and discussing the emigrant’s distance from family during this season of joy. Sadly, the holidays refused to meet the expectations of my all too sappy inner child. And, while we did miss family, we were able to talk on the phone and Skype, so we could be “with” them to some degree.
And for me, the real epiphany this season was a bit of a downer. It seems that the core connection from country to country and society to society has become the impulse to beat the tar out of people in order to secure retail bounty for you and yours.
For years now in the United States we’ve read accounts of soccer moms trampling small mountains of fallen customers to be the first through the door at the shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving. That this brand of carnage has become a page 10 story, and frankly a bit of a yawn, is embarrassing enough. But the fact that this year, closer to Christmas, there were nationwide stampedes to secure a limited supply of shoes endorsed by a basketball player who hasn’t played professionally in nearly a decade is, frankly, pathetic.
I’d hoped Ireland would be different. But last week reports came in of someone being trampled outside a store in the west of Ireland. And, now, on Boxing Day (St. Stephens Day – the day after Christmas) a young man was stabbed to death outside a major store on one of London’s high streets.
The holidays, it seems, have well and truly come to be about the spectacle of consumption, and the fact that Christians will gladly throw fellow customers to the retail lions in order to get a good deal tells me that we are going backwards. Can bread and circuses be far away?
Of course, just as I’m getting good and depressed about the moral decay of mankind, and am about to suggest we deserve to go extinct and leave the planet to the sloths, I got on my bike and took a ride out to our local shops where I was smiled at cheerily, wished well, and told “thanks a million” at least three times.
Perhaps the lesson is that I should get out more at Christmas. And perhaps stores that stay open through the holidays aren’t entirely a symbol of corporate greed and a lack of holiday spirit. Maybe they provide a valuable service by giving us a reason to go out and be in the world a bit, and not just lock ourselves up at home.
I remember a wonderful tradition of going out caroling and visiting people during the holidays. Perhaps if we thought more of others and not just our immediate circle of concern at the holidays there would be fewer stampedes.
And for the recent immigrant in a new country, volunteering and giving in the community at the holidays is a great way to meet people, make friends, and blunt the homesick blues when/if they come calling.
Wishing you and yours the best of times.
Thanks for reading me this year.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Resolutions in a new country.