163. Commercialization

As I write this article, December is taking off. As they do every year around this time, stores and mail-order companies are looking forward to the spending sprees that are about to happen. Advertisements are all around. And, of course, there are lots of people bemoaning how commercialized this time of year has become. Paradoxically, some advertisers cash in on the emphasis on how terrible it is that we’ve lost touch with the “true meaning” of this time of year. Charlie Brown gets on our TV screens, hoping to convince everyone that his pathetic little tree is better than the artificial one they all want to buy. But even Charlie has commercial breaks.
Most children don’t think, yet, in terms of commercialization. They want the latest electronic
gismo not because they want to increase some company’s profit margin, but because it looks like fun, or they’ve used it at their friends’ houses, and they know it’s fun. They don’t want to have the lonely, neglected feeling that everyone else has the gismo and they don’t. Money is not love, but advertisers have succeeded in their schemes to link the two together in many people’s minds.
This is not a new phenomenon. When Ebenezer Scrooge was all done with his three dreams and had the true spirit of Christmas, one of the ways he expressed it was by buying things for people. I imagine the three kings comparing notes: “All you guys got Him were frankincense and myrrh?! I got Him gold!” Bemoaning commercialism is an age-old tradition, and nowadays, it’s big business. I do not have the Christmas spirit, as many of you don’t have the Hannukah spirit. If three ghosts come to visit me on December 24, they’ll be wasting their time. I don’t know what the numbers are, but there’s a large portion of earth’s population that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. That being said, I have to admit that the spirit of Madison Avenue gets to me. When it snows, or at least it gets cold out, I enjoy the rituals that come with the season. I like the singing – both the old carols and the Hollywood songs. There have been a few years when I’ve rented a Santa Claus suit. One other year, I was walking with my bag of laundry on a snowy day, and some children saw me from their living room window – a bearded man with a big sack on his shoulder. They ran to get their mother or father, but I turned the corner and was gone. I had laundry to do. I wonder what the children thought of the whole experience. I hope this time of year (though I know you’re probably reading this in February) brings you peace and joy. And I hope you have a good balance between bemoaning commercialism and getting some of the gismos you’re hoping for.

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