Rigid Mental Boundaries: What has become of the Holiday Season?

holiday-season

The last months of the year are usually all about being festive and celebrating with family, it’s quite exciting, I know. But what are we even celebrating at this point? What has become of America that we longer know what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas? How far have we gone that we now have changed the meaning of these holidays, and have even denied the reality of where they come from?

 It may be ignorance or just the fact that we are all caught up in this hype that society has created around the months of November and December, but one thing is for sure and it is that most have forgotten the roots of these holidays and what they actually mean. Let’s be honest with ourselves and just admit that most of America neglects and overlooks the denotation of the Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Thanksgiving, synonymous with turkeys and pilgrims is a holiday that most of us know to be about people taking the day off to travel long distances to spend time with family and enjoy a nice warm dinner. Can’t deny that it sounds appealing and that I actually look forward to this day every time November comes around each year, but just as it sounds appealing it also makes me cringe because of the twisted truth it hides and the current consumer craze around this holiday.

Since we were in grade school we were always taught to celebrate it and we usually did so by making arts and crafts, not really knowing anything about it except that it symbolized when the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated a successful harvest. We have completely disregarded the implications of celebrating this, for example how people like the pilgrims came to conquer the land of the Native Americans through means of displacing and even eliminating them, not necessarily in a peaceful way but more of a in a barbaric manner. Again, Manifest Destiny and what America has engrained within our belief system has distorted our perception to forgive the savage ways Anglo-Americans created this country, coming into play in the present day.

Not only is the historical aspect of Thanksgiving often disregarded, but has also become about the empire of American sales and consumerism. Instead of being thankful for what we have, we become so caught up in the store sales and focus on making the most of this holiday by shopping. Shopping on Black Friday, shopping on Cyber-Monday, just everything around shopping and brands getting people to spend their money, and the crazy thing is that violence and death have now become part of the holiday season. And that’s not even to mention what has become of Christmas and the month of December.

The origins of Christmas have to do with the Christian religion and the birth of Jesus, but that’s not exactly synonymous with this holiday but rather the exact opposite of that. Within the word Christmas the word Christ exists, and to a certain extent this holiday has become a way in which America and many other parts of the world have offended and appropriated this holiday. What happened to the real meaning of Christmas? Since when was okay for us to teach children through media and commercials that Christmas was just about giving and receiving gifts? Whatever happened to “in God we trust”. Yes, maybe not everyone believes in God and we all have the right to believe and worship whoever we want under the rights granted to us by the Constitution, but it’s not okay to corrupt this holiday because to someone out there it actually means something.

It’s mesmerizing how in modern day America we have come to celebrate all kinds of holidays without considering the implications that come with them. Denying cultures, history, religion and replacing them with consumerism. Whatever happened to these holidays that have become everything but what they actually stand for, as society diverts the minds of Americans to see them as a time to spend money. But one thing is for sure, the American empire has manipulated holidays and history in a way that they have come to define what they mean and how the average Americans come to see them.

 I myself am guilty of letting society consume me with this hype around having a Thanksgiving dinner and celebrating Christmas with presents, but slowly and surely as I have come to learn more of America as an empire and I realize that we have major flaws to fix. There has to be a limit where we can stop and reflect to what has become of us, our consumerism, and manipulative ways of making everything acceptable regardless of the offense it may cause to others. This just all makes me wonder what has become of this nation that is so consumed in things that honestly do not matter, like shopping and companies having their products bought. At one point in time this illusion within our society will end just like everything does. When the focus of living and celebrating is everything except what it is meant to be, things always have the possibility of going awry.

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Photograph: Americans at a shopping mall during the holiday season

 

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7 thoughts on “Rigid Mental Boundaries: What has become of the Holiday Season?

  1. I completely agree with your view that the meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas now have very different associations with people than the true meaning that these holidays once held. Today, the holiday season is seen more as a time to buy, to give and receive gifts rather than to celebrate what these holidays actually stand for. This reflects Rousseau’s point of view on how we create inequality as well because the commercial aspect of the holiday season makes us compete against each other to buy items with the best deals before they are out of stock, especially on Black Friday. This is in line with Rousseau’s thinking on inequality because he saw that man created inequality once man claimed certain lands as his own property. We are essentially doing the same thing on a wider commercial aspect. People are consumed by greed and impatience on Black Friday, vices that Rousseau saw as a product of society.

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  2. I think you brought up some really good points about how our interpretation and execution of the holidays is actually quite distorted nowadays. I especially liked how you mentioned the also disrespectful craze we have over Thanksgiving because this year also a topic that has bothered me for a while as well. While it is surely tempting and exciting to go Black Friday shopping, I think it is absolutely ridiculous that this craze has hidden the true value and meaning of Thanksgiving. In previous years, the Black Friday sales were crazy and did undermine the significance of the holiday, but at least they started the morning of the Friday following Thanksgiving. This year, however, I noticed that a lot of stores actually opened 6 pm on the day of Thanksgiving. I found this to be absolutely ridiculous, especially considering that 6 pm is usually an ideal time for families to have dinner together and spend some quality time catching up and being thankful for each other’s presence. Also, as you mentioned, there is a lot of violence that takes place during Black Friday, so I find it rather ironic that such vices are occurring during a holiday that is supposed to represent gratitude and happiness. In addition, your statement about how Manifest Destiny masks the cruel ways of the Anglo-Americans also connects back to the irony of the holiday and how everything is supposed to represent thankfulness, but in reality, the historical context of the holiday was quite the opposite.

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  3. First off, I completely agree with what you express in your post. I think it’s sad that the American people have come to celebrate holidays without acknowledging where they originated from. Each holiday has an entire background of culture behind it, and like you stated in your post, we have become ignorant to it because of commercial interest. I think your post can highly relate to the film The Revenant when the antagonist John Fitzgerald violates life due to commercial interest. He no longer cared about self-preservation, but about gain and advantage over others, also known as vanity and “love of self” as expressed by Rousseau. Your post also ties into how an empire and the superior power is the one to determine how history is written. For instance, the Roman Empire made sure to emphasize glory, advancement, and expansion in their history due to them being the superior power. Those considered inferior and non-Roman were regarded as barbaric and uncivilized in history. I think this can relate to how the empire of America has slowly conditioned Americans into seeking commercial gain during Christmas and Thanksgiving via Black Friday and Cyber Monday, slowly forgetting about the cultural and religious meaning behind each holiday. In Thanksgiving, rather than being grateful, people result to shopping chaotically, only seeing what they want and not what they already have. This just shows how the true meaning of the holidays has shifted throughout the years. Overall, great job on your blog post, nicely done!

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  4. Your points about the transition of holidays from gatherings that celebrated the simple joys of life (debatable of course) to overly-consumeristic events is really astute, and I totally agree with what you are saying. Thanksgiving really does have roots in something that most Americans really don’t like talking about – the genocide (again, debatable) of Native Americans in relation to Manifest Destiny. Many people don’t associate these two events, but I think it is important that you pointed it out because, although we are lucky enough as humanities students to learn about these types of events and understand that not all seemingly happy events are as great they seem, and the savagery that Coetzee describes on the part of characters like Colonel Joll are really based on some of the events that happened in the real world, like with the displacement of Native Americans. This barbarism even extends to the modern world, when people literally brawl (and sometimes kill) over a cheap TV. It’s ridiculous, and although I hate that these things happen, it seems like our consumerism is getting the best of us. On a side note, the real origins of Christmas stem from the pagan tradition of Saturnalia, a much more crazy and bloodthirsty celebration that did in fact involve gift-giving.

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  5. I think that recently things have gotten more and more out of hand. I don’t alway remember when stores would open the day of Thanksgiving for early Black Friday sales. And sales for Cyber Monday seemed to start the weekend before. The consumerism has gotten out of control, to the point where people get hurt and violence occurs. It makes us question humanity? People are literally fighting over a t.v., it makes you wonder how they would fight over a resource like food. As time goes on, it seems as though this will all escalate and get worse. Thanksgiving will be overlooked and Black Friday will be the November holiday. Christmas, associated with the birth of Christ, is regarded as the time of year when we give and receive presents, rather than the story behind why we actually celebrate Christmas. And now, there is a decline in Christianity, so will we still consider the December break “Christmas”? Or will we just consider it ‘Gift Day’? I guess there is some hope left, as the generation of millennials, we get to reflect on elders and their actions, thus allowing us to realize how their ignorance will never be our own.

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  6. I totally agree with your claim that America has succeeded in giving new meaning to the holiday season. Instead of celebrating the holidays for what they truly stand for, we have manipulated the reason for the season in favor of consumerism. For the past few years, my family and I have continuously partaken in these activities, much to my dismay. Yet as I read your article, I began to reflect on the current situation and started to realize that maybe it isn’t so bad. From personal experience, whenever we go Black Friday shopping, my family and I do not just purchase things for ourselves. My mother, specifically, is always on the lookout for something that she knows her sisters, brothers, or anyone else she knows might need or want. Likewise, our relatives also keep us and others in mind as they go about their shopping. In this way, we form a symbiotic relationship where we are not competing, but looking out for our own well being (such as clothes, appliances, etc.), along with putting the needs of others at top priority as well, something Rousseau would have agreed with, as doing so eliminates competition in favor of fostering amity. On the other hand, I still agree that these holidays, especially Christmas, have deep roots that go beyond a price tag and in no way should be reduced to signify a great deal.

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  7. Though I completely agree with your argument and this is the exact same belief that I hold, I’m going to try to argue for the opposite side, just because I feel as though I am always caught up in the negative aspect of everything.
    The holidays in America have become more of tradition and customs tied to America, not so much their actual purposes anymore. They are American holidays and are mainly celebrated as a result of assimilation purposes. The thing is no one is forced to celebrate the holidays, yet they chose to. It is amazing that we live in a world where all of our citizens celebrate the same holiday but in very different ways. There is no structure to how the celebration has to be; all that matters is that our citizens, coming from all different backgrounds, actually care enough and put in the effort to show that they care about these national holidays.
    Then the consumerism that is brought up, all though these events are beyond hectic, when you think about the actual meaning of the event or implications that are now tied with it, these actions are not too bad. To me Black Friday itself has become an American tradition. The sales that come with the “midnight madness” is not worth the exertion of energy that is needed to attend these long lines and hustle and bustle. Instead it is almost like an event that people attend just to say they attended. For example, when my relatives came over from Vietnam they wanted to go black Friday shopping, it was partially for the deals, but because everyone worldwide knows about the madness it is something people just want to encounter, like Disneyland.
    Overall, I really liked your blog, it talks about a controversial issue, and it brings light on what people should really focus on during the holidays.

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