Not every American celebrates Christmas, but if you have been spending any time at shopping malls or downtown city centers in the past few weeks, you might assume that everyone did. Department stores and public transit are jammed with people buying either christmas-stockingsfor themselves or others. Whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, the stores welcome everyone who celebrates the holiday season by spending money. Recently I saw a news item designed to help people prepare for the holiday season:

It’s never too early to start shopping for Christmas gifts! Undoubtedly, Christmas can be one of the most celebrated yet equally stressful times of the year. First of all, consumers scramble their brains for great Christmas gift ideas followed by some frenzied Christmas shopping. 

But it wasn’t always this way. In colonial times, celebrating Christmas was made a crime in some areas. Massachusetts passed a law against the keeping of Christmas and fined anyone who chose to acknowledge a holiday that was popular in Catholic countries. It

fatherchristmastrial-1686

Trial of Father Christmas 1685

wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century when German and Irish immigrants flocked into the country that Christmas trees were introduced and Christmas gradually became the most popular holiday in the country.

It wasn’t long after Christmas started to be celebrated on this side of the ocean that people began to complain about how stressful it all was. In 1874 Fanny Kemble wrote:

Christmas is a season of such infinite labor, as well as expense in the shopping and present-making line, that almost every woman I know is good for nothing in purse and person for a month afterwards, done up physically, and broken down financially.

And so it goes. After two hundred years of Christmas celebrations, Americans still haven’t decided whether the holiday is a wonderful way to celebrate with friends and family or a fraud imposed by greedy marketers to encourage needless spending and anxiety. If the christmas-treeaverage American didn’t enjoy the holiday, they wouldn’t be crowding all the shopping malls and buying endless supplies of turkey and chocolates.

Perhaps we should stop worrying about how other people waste their time and money during the holiday season and just sit back and do whatever we want to do with our own family and friends. At least the lights of Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza brighten up the chilly midwinter season and strengthen us to face the beginning of a turbulent new year.
I’m wishing the whole world Christmas—

The children, the beasts, and the birds;

I’m wishing the whole world Christmas—

And I’d like to have magical words

To wish just the shining wish I would wish

In the Christmas words I would say,

For I’m wishing the whole world Christmas,

And joy on Christmas Day.

–Annette Wynne