There may still be hope for Christmas.
The spirit of the season gets lost sometimes amid the intense commercialization that has crept into every corner of our lives in recent years, but I think it may still be alive.
It is easy to be cynical when retailers start setting up Christmas displays as soon as they take down Halloween merchandise.
One might become jaded upon noticing Black Friday, which was bad enough when it was one day, has stretched to an entire week, followed by another week of Cyber Monday promotions.
We are constantly bombarded with messages urging us to buy things, with the implication that doing so will magically make our lives better.
Most of us don’t need more things.
As a matter of fact, at the risk of sounding un-American, I suggest we would be happier with fewer material things.
It’s a vicious circle. We go to work in order to buy things, which we use up, or which don’t bring us happiness, so we work more to buy more things, and so it continues.
I’m not talking about buying the things we need. I’m talking about the things we want, or perhaps just think we want, because some marketing genius convinced us we do.
Slowing down and simplifying our lives may be the answer.
Focusing on those things that are most important to us, and eliminating the clutter that gets in the way, may improve our quality of life.
And that, in a round-about sort of a way, is why I think there is still hope for Christmas.
Despite all the money that has been spent by marketers to whip the population into a buying frenzy, I see evidence that people are hanging on to some simpler values.
I have seen several photos on Facebook recently of families going out and cutting down their own Christmas tree.
That can be a humorous event, as was depicted in the classic film, “Christmas Vacation.”
Tramping through the snow on a frigid day in Minnesota to hack down a tree and drag it home to stick in our living room does have a funny side to it.
That may also be part of its appeal.
We may not remember the frostbite, or the discomfort of slogging through knee-deep drifts, but we will probably remember the good parts.
Coming in out of the cold and warming up with a steaming cup of cocoa, savoring the smell of fresh-cut pine in the house, and decorating the tree while reminiscing about each ornament that reminds us of Christmases gone by are shared experiences that can bring us closer together.
Even today, I can’t smell pine sap without being reminded of Christmas in Duluth when I was very young.
I have seen evidence that other holiday traditions are alive and well, too.
Christmas baking season seems to be in full swing, and reading or hearing about people’s accomplishments in the kitchen is a treat. One can almost smell the gingerbread and sugar cookies fresh out of the oven.
I have also seen many references to holiday decorating.
Here again, it is not the new things that seem to give people the most joy; it is the old decorations that are loaded with happy memories. They may be worn or faded, but their beauty comes from within, rather like people.
It makes me smile when I hear about people’s Christmas traditions. Some are serious, some are silly, but the best ones focus on people, not things.
This is a busy time of the year, but the malls, big box retailers, and online marketing commandos haven’t destroyed Christmas yet.
The spirit of the season is still around us. It may be hidden behind the flash and glam conjured up by the commercial wizards, but it is there.
When we take a break to actually spend some time with the people we love, memories are made.
These shared simple pleasures are the things we will remember.
It is the people in our lives who give us real, lasting joy, not the things. We can’t buy this kind of happiness in a store or order it online.
I am glad to see that some of the old Christmas traditions, quirky though they may be, are still with us, just like last year’s fruitcake and that old ugly reindeer sweater in the back of the closet.