Globe Syndicate

for release December 15, 2000

Another Way

by Melodie Davis


Christmas Bizarre

I was a little appalled, even though I thought I had seen everything when it came to Christmas. As I walked through aisle after aisle of Christmas supplies and decorations in one discount store, I estimated that at least a third of the total floor space was given to Christmas clutter. Decorating for Christmas has gone beyond bringing out the Christmas dish towels, placemats, napkin rings and china. It would appear that it has gotten to the place where some people put away all their normal possessions to be replaced by an all-Christmas theme. And some people change their Christmas theme from year to year, or at least frequently: let's see, will it be angels, teddy bears or doves? I always wonder where people store all the paraphernalia.

Now I enjoy Christmas decorating and at times enjoy going into those all-Christmas shops that are open year around. It is the one souvenir I allow myself when I go somewhere-a Christmas ornament to add to my collection. But I was intrigued by the reaction of one teenager who said she didn't like such shops: for her it takes away from the magic of Christmas, the specialness of a once-a-year event.

In a consumer-manufacturing-product-advertising driven society, I guess it is natural that the manufacturers milk Christmas for all it is worth. Christmas sales top the yearly sales charts and now the manufacturerers have tried to expand that once-a-year bonanza by pushing Thanksgiving decorating, Halloween decorating, Valentine's Day, Easter, and so on. I don't know about you, but getting our Christmas decorations up and down each year is about all I have time for.

When are we going to say, "Enough"? I think some of the Christmas decorating is driven, interestingly, by after-Christmas sales. We see items on Dec. 26 that are half price and eventually maybe even available for just a buck or two-making the bargains too hard to resist.

Here is where I appreciate the sentimentality of my daughters. When occasionally I discuss replacing our ancient and old fashioned multi-colored large lights with miniature white ones, they cry, "No! Then it wouldn't be our tree. They are our tradition."

It is really hard not to be swept in to buying more stuff. We see dazzling displays in stores -- and they truly are beautiful. We see magazine pictures of perfectly decorated homes on various themes. It is natural to want to enjoy the physically beautiful side of Christmas.

But we have to pay equal attention to inner beauty at Christmas, making sure we are in touch with the spiritual truths of Christmas, or else the sparkling lights mask hollowness that is then felt even more deeply. The decorations can mask families that are grumpy, debt-laden and lonely.

Even while Christmas decorating seems to multiply each year, the essence of the Christmas celebration gets more and more eroded. In the name of pluralism, Christmas is robbed of its essential facts: Christmas started when one little baby, Jesus, was born to a very humble couple, Mary and Joseph of Nazareth. That baby grew up to live a flawless life and die a criminal's death. The story doesn't end with Christmas, it ends with Easter, where Christians believe that Jesus came back to life showing God's ultimate power even over death itself.

In light of all this: decorate some, appropriately, adopting customs and traditions for your family that have meaning and specialness for you. In your home you can tell the true story of Christmas to your children and all who will listen, for many people only have the fuzziest notion of the Christmas story. Celebrate without apology-allowing others of course to celebrate their holidays in their ways. And have a merry, joy-filled Christmas.

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 660 words; end material = 105 words

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