How many of you know a scrooge? Today I met one. This fellow expat was chatting with me on the train and I asked if he would be staying in Tokyo for the holidays and working to which he replied, “Absolutely, I am SO not a fan of the holidays.” Unsure of where this was coming from I wasn’t sure what to say and in my hesitation he expanded his comment to, “They are way to commercialized and way to religious, I can’t stand it. I don’t believe in any of that it’s just been ruined over the years. It’s all about being forced to be happy.” I didn’t really know what to say to this either.
Clearly he feels strongly, as many people do, that the holiday is too commercialized and well yes… it is quite religious – though this isn’t really new, it is after all the origin of the holiday in the first place. To a degree I agree, I do think that some of the true spirit of the holiday can easily be lost in the mass consumerism and exceptional marketing inundating you as soon as you step onto the sidewalk. That being said, as he was speaking all I could think of was how sad it was that he wouldn’t be enjoying the holiday.
See, I think that Christmas is really what you make of it (as are other holidays typically called too commercial, but Christmas in particular). Sure there’s consumerism, stress and pressure to get nice things for people and make the day special but it all comes from a good place – or at least it can if you choose to. I love Christmas. I love the shopping, the cooking, the time with family and friends, the general happy feeling in the streets, the movies, and of course the carols. I love that people get into the spirit of generosity and go back to slightly older traditions of being there for your fellow man.
I remember the last holiday I was in the states we went through Starbucks drive through and someone in front of us had paid for our drinks, so we paid for the car behind us. It was a much bigger bill than what ours would have been and so the clerk said she was so happy people were doing this she wanted to contribute too so she gave us a free cd to make up for how much extra we’d offered to cover. She’d bought the cd herself.
It’s things like this and the holiday season which remind me so much that people are inherently good and at the end of the day we all want to simply be happy and loved. So why not get into it. I don’t love buying and giving presents because of the opportunity to shop or the pressure to spend; I do it because it’s so much fun to know you are picking out something that will make someone you love happy and bring them joy not to mention acknowledge their impact on your life.
So I think it’s up to you. Choose to be happy and it wont feel forced. Join the throngs at the shops to give to others because you want to not because you feel pressured to . Don’t participate in religious activities around the holiday if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. And last but not least, have fun. Christmas doesn’t have to be a stress-fest, it’s an opportunity to think outside yourself and bring some extra happiness to a world that’s already got plenty of things to worry about.