For the past month you have likely been barraged by the sights, lights, sounds and smells of what is called “The Christmas Spirit.” You’ve pulled out your ugliest ugly Christmas sweater, and you’re ready to “deck the halls.”
You’ve watched The Grinch and Buddy the Elf about 10 times this month, blasted Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” so loud ya neighbors came knocking (what happened to her voice anyway??), and you’ve decorated your crib to now include a 7 foot tree complete with garland, lights, candy canes, and whatever else y’all use to pimp out trees.
You’ve emptied your wallet in a shopping frenzy for the newest gadgets, and when it’s all over some of you will ponder whether all the stress and expense was really worth it.
Here’s a perspective from one browngirllifted writer who said adios to Christmas once and for all.
**Before I begin, I’d like to issue a disclaimer. I do not hate anyone who chooses to celebrate Christmas, nor do I have any interest in condemning anyone for observing a religious holiday. I simply wish to share my voice.**
I remember what Christmas used to mean to me as a child. Pictures with Santa at the mall, decorating Christmas cookies, sneaking in the basement to get a glimpse of gifts I assumed were for me. Yes, it was all very exciting. Every December I looked forward to getting a chocolate advent calendar just so I could count down the days until Christmas (even though I usually ate them all during the first week). For my family and me, December signified all things Christmas.
So how did I, your typical Christmas loving child, say goodbye to “The most wonderful time of the year?”
Well…there’s no easy answer to that. But what I can say is…college. I can hear my mama now.
“I did not send you to college to start hating Christmas!”
No mama, you didn’t send me to college to start hating Christmas, but you did send me to college to learn and grow, and evolve as a person.
And that’s exactly what I am doing. I am learning to be critical of the world around me and my role in it. I’ve learned to ask the questions that remain unasked by so many. So to make a long story short, all this introspection and analysis of the world around me had me come home like…
It’s time for me to challenge the institutions that just don’t make sense to me. Celebrating Christmas being one of them.
Here are my top reasons for challenging the Christmas values and traditions my family worked so hard to instill in me…
- Christmas is driven by Capitalism
Christmas itself has become an object to consume—something that we buy in stores just like everything else in this consumer-driven, capitalistic society. Christmas is mass produced in factories by low-wage workers (affectionately termed “elves”) who work long hours to make sure that your favorite retail giants like Target & Wal-Mart are stocked up on “holiday cheer.” According to a recent article in The Guardian, one of Santa’s workshops is located in Yiwu, China, where 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations are produced in factories employing mainly migrant labourers, “who work 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month – and it turns out they’re not entirely sure what Christmas is.” Yes, those elves that y’all love to tell kids about are real-life people.
(one of the factory workers & the red snowflakes he works all day to make)
(inside one of Yiwu’s Christmas showrooms….look familiar?)
- I don’t enjoy Christian privilege.
Because Christianity is seen as the default religion of everyone in the United States, Christians, whether they are observant or not, are privileged in similar ways that people of other dominant groups are privileged i.e. male privilege, white privilege, heterosexual privilege etc.
In this society, Christianity is seen as the norm, which leads to the exclusion of nonreligious people and people of other religions through institutional religious discrimination. One example of Christian privilege pertaining to Christmas is that Christians can easily find stores that enable them to practice their faith and celebrate religious holidays–especially Christmas.
As a self-identified non-religious woman of color, I think my lack of this privilege is worth mentioning, especially in regards to Christmas. And my experience as a non-religious woman of color is valid. Yes, we exist.
- I don’t need a holiday or season to teach me compassion.
For some reason, people have deemed the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day “Giving Season.” While I have no problem with being people being giving and generous, I do have a problem with people using this time of the year as a reminder to be selfless and giving. Too often, people look to the holidays as a time to be compassionate to prove that they are good people when we should all be compassionate, giving, and generous (when we can be) all the time. It often feels as though people do things like helping out homeless people, donating to a charity, or volunteering during this season just to tell the social media world about their act of goodwill, reaping the social benefits of doing a good deed. Stawp it.
- Christmas is ahistorical.
But I won’t go there.
- Obligatory gift-giving.
We always talk about the spirit of giving–even generosity has become commercialized in our society. Christmas time seems more like a chance for people to show off their wealth and generosity through gifts, suggesting that buying our loved ones gifts is the only way to show them that we care. Commercials advertise “Gifts for Her” because you’ve just gotta buy “Her” something. People spend hundreds and thousands of dollars buying their friends and families things that they don’t need, illuminating this nation’s obsession with material things. Things like Kindles, iPads, iPhones, and other costly electronic devices are always hot commodities around Christmas, and gifts like these have even become the norm for some. Unfortunately, we live in a society where we are expected to buy expensive gifts for the people we love. Thank you capitalism. Sure, you can be creative and make your loved ones’ gifts, but that requires time and thoughtfulness–two things that this society seems to be lacking. And don’t you dare forget to buy someone a gift. That’s an automatic shit-list move. Instead, just go out and buy a surplus of cheap bs, just so you don’t forget anyone.
- Toxic Families.
People say that Christmas is the time for family and togetherness. But for people entrenched in toxic families, Christmas becomes a choice between family loyalty and and maintaining a healthy distance. Because of the emphasis we place on family ties around Christmas time (and holidays in general), people tend to feel an obligation to visit and spend more time with their families at the expense of their own self-care. Unfortunately, our society has made it so that people must value the holiday more than their own well-being, forcing people to put on their biggest fake smiles just to get through the day.
I realize that in reading this, many people will find points to disagree with. Some may even call me a “Scrooge.” And that’s fine. But as Christmas falls upon us, I encourage everyone to think about what the holiday really means to you, if it means anything at all.
Ask yourself questions. Are you celebrating because you feel obliged to? Have you fallen victim to the commercialization of Christmas? Do decorations and gifts and “holiday cheer” mean anything to you? If this day is special for you, then I hope it is a truly wonderful day for you. But I encourage you to make every day special, not just holidays. Show people you care always. Be kind always. Give thanks always.
& For those of you who feel no typa way about Christmas, this is a call for you to challenge the values and traditions you were brought up with. Be brave. It’s ok to not be in the mood for Christmas. Protect yourself from the madness. & most of all, take care of yourself during these stressful holiday times.
Peace, Light, & Happy New Year!
-Nyesha Lashay ❤
Nyesha Lashay is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Gender & Women’s Studies & Human Development & Family Studies. She is a full time lover, creator, sisterfriend, and Erykah Badu-ologist.