Editorial: Americans’ problem of consuming too much

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

Christmas — a season of good tidings and joy. A time meant for celebrating the birth of the Christian savior, Jesus Christ. A time for family, friends and reflection; even a time for celebrating love and faith.

But Christmas has another identity — a season of greed, consumerism and selfishness. It’s an excuse to spend outrageously and accumulate more credit card debt. A time when people forget even the simplest common courtesy as they stampede shops and start fights over the newest gadget. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving (a day set aside for being thankful and remembering our country’s humble roots) is probably the darkest day of the year in American culture.

Just this year a Toys R Us had to call the police when a mad crowd stampeded the store and threatened employees. Another man was trampled during a stampede on Black Friday.

A Marine was stabbed when he tried to catch a shoplifter. Multiple people were arrested for starting physical fights in Walmart checkout lines.

In years past, people have actually been killed in Black Friday stampedes. In 2008 a Walmart employee was killed when she was trampled under an angry crowd of shoppers and another pregnant employee lost her child. To prevent instances like this from happening again, Walmart didn’t close on Thanksgiving. In fact, they began their sales at midnight on Black Friday.

Our society is so consumed with consuming that we, for lack of a better word, are just becoming uncivilized. Honestly, the stories that come out of Black Friday and the rest of Christmas season shopping are sickening.

Christmas is not about shopping or buying gifts for your family, or at least it shouldn’t be. The Christmas we know today of buying gifts, shopping, wrapping — the consumer Christmas — originated as a pagan Roman holiday. The Romans created Christmas at the end of the fiscal year and used it to celebrate the wealth, abundance and extravagance of the Pax Romana of Rome.

In fact, consumer-Christmas festivals were banned in American churches until the 19th century, until Americans began to celebrate their own “Pax Americana.” The invention of Santa Claus, the transformation of the pine tree into the Christmas tree and the myths and legends that are associated with Christmas were created by entrepreneurs solely for the purpose of inciting a spending frenzy — and incite one they have. The original Christian Christmas was a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, and it was celebrated in churches with special services and other church-led events.

One of the many problems with Christmas is that people feel somehow morally obligated to go out and buy Christmas presents for family members and friends. And they do this, more often than not, on credit. Consuming has so consumed our lives that we don’t even respect the limits on our bank accounts. Our society is in debt, to the tune of almost $14 trillion. The average credit card debt per person in America is $3,752 and $7,394 per household. Yet another problem with Christmas is that it has become so integral to our economy that if spending is halted or even slumps one year, it forecasts economic woes for the coming year.

We have become so dependent on Christmas spending that it becomes almost impossible to separate the economics of Christmas from the morals of Christmas from the secular Christmas myths.

But, just so everyone knows, there is nothing in the Bible that orders people to celebrate Christ’s birth by bombarding shops and employees to buy presents at a discounted price for your family. There is nothing in the Bible about Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Christmas lights or Christmas stockings.