December 19, 2003

While grocery shopping yesterday, I finally read the signs by the Hallmark display: "Christmas, Thursday, December 25th." That means this winter holiday is less than a week away. Driving home, I noticed the hibiscus along the road, saucer-sized blooms in red, pink, orange and yellow. Is it any wonder I'm not in a Christmas-shopping mood?

For years, I've listened to (and given) assorted rants about the increasing commercialism of Christmas. Somewhere, I probably still have a holiday decoration emblazoned with "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," an ironic and problematic statement. Nowhere has that been more obvious than here. I've seen exactly one palm tree dressed up in tiny lights. There are more Santas then I can count, all fat and jolly and bundled in fur-lined red snowsuits. There are oversize snowflakes in front of Safeway, streamers of red and green tinsel at Longs, and a collection of drying evergreens wilting in front of Big Save. With the trappings so obviously imported from somewhere else, it's apparent that the holiday itself is foreign. We're not celebrating the birth of the Savior of Man in some desert town two millennia ago. This holiday is about Victorian romanticism, winter in New England and a sort of aggressive nostalgia that goes beyond rose-colored glasses.

This painting-over reminds me too much of a certain species of missionary who brings not just the Gospel but a belief in the white man's superiority. Salvation for the savages in the form of proper clothing and afternoon tea. I'd like Christmas adapted for location, with lights strung on palm trees, garlands of hibiscus flowers, and "Santa" gone native in shorts and a T-shirt.

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