By Stacey Kaliabakos ‘23
Every year, as far back as I can remember, my family and I have spent the day after Thanksgiving decorating our house for Christmas. We take turns placing ornaments (many of which hold special memories for us) on the tree while listening to Christmas music and sipping eggnog. When we finish, my dad lights a fire in the fireplace and we sit down to watch “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” my favorite Christmas movie. This year, in preparation for our tradition, we visited Home Depot a couple of days before Thanksgiving to buy some garland and, to our surprise, it was sold out! The clerk told us that it had been in stock since before Halloween this year. Apparently, Home Depot felt pressure to stock Christmas supplies even earlier than normal because their “competitor” (who I assume is Lowe’s) had their shelves all stocked then.
The saying “we should stop to smell the roses” suddenly came to mind. I can’t in all sincerity understand why we as a society need to rush through everything without savoring the special feeling which goes along with every holiday and the anticipation building up to that day. I have been part of the Leadership Team of The Pause Project here on the Hill, and this observation was a stark reminder of why our team wanted to create an atmosphere where it is not only acceptable but actually recommended to take a pause once in a while. Taking time to enjoy something pleasant such as a holiday or a special occasion is critical to our physical and mental health as human beings. In my short 19 years, I have witnessed society’s ever increasing desire to jump ahead to plan a holiday before allowing another holiday to fully pass.
I believe that this phenomenon is driven mostly by the commercialization of holidays. Back in 1965, in perhaps one of the most classic children’s Christmas specials, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie Brown felt anxious he was not “doing Christmas right.” His friend Lucy explained, “We all know Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate.” He was later reminded by Linus of the true meaning of Christmas, but the budding problem was already obvious to many Americans over 50 years ago. This issue of the commercialization of Christmas has just gotten exponentially worse since then. Fall harvest and Halloween decorations could be found in stores by the end of August and, as in the case I mentioned, Christmas decorations are available before Halloween. As of late, Black Friday sale events take place throughout the summer when they were once only reserved for the actual Friday after Thanksgiving. Over the last few years, retailers have opened earlier and earlier on Black Friday morning with some finally deciding to actually open on Thanksgiving Day so that more people could jump start their Christmas shopping then. People have actually lost their lives as a result of stampedes of crazed shoppers that have occurred on Black Friday. What ever happened to actually celebrating Thanksgiving? Shouldn’t we gather together with our loved ones to celebrate being thankful for all that we have been provided in addition to our many blessings? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and not about who can put up the most spectacular lights around their house? The commercialization of holidays, which are such a deep part of our culture, is becoming increasingly toxic.
The COVID-19 pandemic we have endured since March 2020 has undoubtedly changed the lives of every person around the world. So much has been lost during this time and it should serve as a lesson to each and every one of us that our time is precious. Our family and friends are irreplaceable, so we all need to take the time to appreciate the people who are there for us and to count our blessings — and what better time is there to do this than during the holidays? Also, for those of us who are Christians, we should not forget that Christmas is a Holy Day, not just a holiday. We should focus on what we can do for others this season, especially those who are in need, and not on endless, unnecessary gifts. In 2022, my hope for not just myself, but for everyone, is to consciously make an effort to pause and cherish the good moments in life one at a time.