The Christian ideal of ‘giving’ at Christmas has been replaced by the capitalist ideal of ‘getting’, writes Renée Brack.
Pop culture icon Bart Simpson says the real reason for Christmas is the birth of Santa.
Kids pray to him – not Jesus.
Being ‘good’ for Jesus is hard work with no material reward.
But when it comes to Santa, being naughty or nice really matters.
The Christian ideal of ‘giving’ at Christmas has been replaced by the capitalist ideal of ‘getting’.
And Santa is the lie parents tell kids to get them hooked on ‘getting’ stuff.
Ask any kid what’s he’s ‘giving’ at Xmas then marvel at the blank stare.
How did a heavy-drinking dude with obviously untreated blood pressure problems and famous for break-and-enters the world over - get the gig of being the old, white, male, fat face of Christmas capitalism?
Saint Nicholas, who is the unofficially canonized demigod worshipped by kids for his magic gift-giving ability got contracted into secular marketing.
And just like the Elton John song about Hollywood construct Marilyn Monroe, Goodbye Norma Jean, they made him change his name.
Now Santa Claus is the savior. Not Jesus.
Christmas is an annual event so bashed up by capitalist consumerism, it’s barely recognizable as a religious celebration.
It doesn’t belong to Christians anyway. They hijacked it from the Pagans centuries ago but they kept a few of the iconic elements like the decorated tree. Trees were worshipped by pagans, so bringing one inside was inviting the supernatural into the home.
It really got a capitalist push in the late 1800s when Christian merchants downed tools to reflect on work well done, a life well-lived - and sell stuff.
Despite being ideological opponents, the major symbolic colour of both communism and capitalism is red. But capitalism doesn’t like to share so the way it disempowers another ideology is to conscript its soul, to own it, to put a ® or a ™ after it. So the colour red now works for capitalism.
Famous examples of this include Coca-Cola and McDonalds. And Christmas is the time of year capitalism encourages all of us to be like Santa and get into ‘the red’. Rack up that credit card debt. It’s okay because you are ‘giving’ gifts which is noble, selfless and good.
This time last year, we spent $550m on extra food and drink. Each year we eat and drink too much of all that excess, turning our homes into consumer troughs.
Christmas has also shamefully and shamelessly become a function of employment. Workers get a break from actual work – loosely termed a ‘holiday’ – so we have time to do the hard labour of Christmas shopping.
We need to rip the mistletoe from our eyes and see that capitalism isn’t ‘giving’ us a holiday – it’s temporarily re-defined our workload.
Now, due to the GFC, the emphasis and focus on moving merchandise by the end of the year is unparalleled in history. Black Friday sales coverage in the US has dominated international media like never before.
We are sold the salvation of spending. Spending is good. Spending helps the economy. And spending gets you what you want.
Our family dispensed with gift-buying many years ago. For all our different personalities, we agreed on one thing. Xmas is about making the effort to be in the same place at the same time and hang out together. That’s it.
Author John Powell said it best: ‘To live fully, we must learn to use things and love people, not love things and use people.’
I wish all my fellow consumers a merry capitalist Christmas.
How are you ‘spending’ the holidays?
Renée Brack is a journalist, media producer and adventurer.