Well, it’s that Christmas time of year again and I just can’t seem to find the holiday spirit. Why oh why do we do it? Every year we moan and complain at the expense of it all, especially those among us (which increase in number ever year) that don’t ‘do the church thing’ but we still do it. We do it because who wants to be the parent that tells their child Santa’s skipping your house and you are opting out of that whole present thing. And my goodness, everyone else is getting together with friends and family why don’t you want to? And yet, the older I get the more inappropriate the extravagance of the holidays seems to be.

I’m not saying I don’t do it, just like most of the western world. I feel compelled; resentfully so, but compelled nevertheless. It’s all the commercials (despite the fact they seem to have reduced online they haven’t). We are brainwashed from birth to have a holly jolly happy Christmas, to buy our children gifts (hopefully things they need and not just things they want) and told to “treat” ourselves which translates to spend money we don’t really have, go into debt, or add to the disproportional debt to income ratio issues we already have. We have let this become such a consumerism focused time of year. Pretending to believe in stuff just to get stuff. And just what the heck is everybody celebrating anyway?

All those commercials with happy children in designer PJs opening the best and latest in new toys and electronics, smiling in exaggerated glee as they add more ‘already have its’ to their ‘don’t really need its’ pile. Trying to make us feel guilty, make us want to belong to the happy image, making us want to buy, buy, buy and buy some more. And yet, when one of the child actors, white teeth sparkling, tears open a present and the paper hits the richly carpeted floor, all that flashes before my eyes this year is Aleppo. Perhaps I cannot find my Christmas spirit because it’s lost somewhere in the catastrophe that is Syria. I watch clips of Syrian children displaying the signs of PTSD and then I’m in the big box store behind a mom and her daughter listening to the daughter whine and pout because they don’t have the pajamas she wants in her favorite cartoon character. Something is very broken in this world and it gets harder and harder to pretend it isn’t happening. I can’t suspend my disbelief for Santa any more.

When I sit and try to work out what it really is that bothers me, what lies at the core of this dysfunction (which is must be, a blip in my programming) I arrive not at the ‘haves and have nots’ place, but at the ‘us versus them’ place. We feast and gather to celebrate family and give gifts. They starve and gather to be shot systematically and collect their dead. At the same time on the same day, these things are happening. Is it because we do one that the other is allowed to happen? Is our bubble so comfortable that we would turn a blind eye to genocide? Famine? Children in clear and present danger? Apparently so.

Last year, after the many state governors, with the majority support of their constituents chose not to accept Syrian refugees, I never did find the Christmas spirit. This year, seems even worse in terms of mind blowing emotions. As Aleppo went down these last few weeks like the Warsaw ghetto in the spring of 1943, I truly thought those who had the ability to stop it would stop it. All the messages from people in the last moments of their life crying out for peace—for the world to see them—scattered across the internet like ashes from a smoldering fire. When the images of children huddled together waiting for rescue before the armed moved in, slowly went viral there was a spontaneous outpouring of guilt, filling social media with crying yellow discs. As though those self same people didn’t number among the hundreds of thousands who just last Christmas saw refusal to save those people from these vicious and unnecessary atrocities as the wrong thing to do.

Refusing to help refugees is trending. A ‘bad’ person might slip across the border and get into our lily white perfect nation where no one has ever committed a crime, sinned against their religion or wronged their fellow man in anyway. We need to stop seeing people from other countries as different. They aren’t different, their culture is. At its core humanity is humanity with the same needs and wants, faults and failures regardless of their physical location. For some, that location is a gift most don’t recognize they enjoy daily. For others, that location is a living hell the world needs to hear about.

And it’s like no one wants to say anything because, well…it’s Christmas. Thank goodness for blips in the programming. War and the slaying of innocence don’t just go away because we donated a dollar to a children’s hospital or popped a cheap toy in the donation box. Orphaned children traumatized beyond speech doesn’t no longer exist because ‘we need to get the tree up’ or ‘there’s plenty of kids in this country they need help.’ There sure are, but none of them are currently being bombed. And is a toy donation really enough to help those ‘plenty of kids’ here? Wouldn’t we be better off learning why we have so many children in poverty or growing up in abusive homes so we could prevent it from happening in the first place? Why are we deluding ourselves with these ambient gestures of charity? It’s a nice thought but we know, we know, it’s not enough. It doesn’t even touch the sides. The holidays don’t make the bad of the world go away for me; they just seem to highlight how much we consciously choose to ignore it.

Consciously implies complicity and that’s deliberate. We choose to forward or post the story about the rescue dog retiring or this amazing unfolding table but when it comes to the horrors of war, few repost and even fewer will comment or re-share. Because it’s too sad and we don’t really want to hear about it, read about it or think about it in the first place. It’s sure to get in the way of that Christmas spirit malarkey. Unless of course, you reframe that whole spirit thing and see recognition of humanity’s many problems as not taking over, but rather more to the point. 

People like to say they wish it could be Christmas all year round. Perhaps then people would remain open to the idea of being giving and considerate all year round; of seeing the Christmas spirit not as a seasonal phenomena that makes you warm and fuzzy inside, but more as the constant conscious pricking that keeps you moving forward to help make the world a better place. Seems to me that’s more what the Christmas spirit should be, not the whole candy cane distributing, cookie eating, gift giving, eggnog drinking, carol singing and spending, spending, spending. If everybody really considered their fellow man, his plight, and in doing so tried to be better, do better and know better? By acknowledging these conflicts and their devastating effects on the people of the world and the future of humanity? To find a way to make us all work against the bad together and put peace for all before profit for some? That doesn’t sound like too bad of a ‘spirit’ definition to me. Sounds to me like the best Christmas ever.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of West Winds Magazines or its affiliates.

Trish Popovitch