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Merry Christma$: Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays

In this op-ed, “ARI’s Onkar Ghate explains why Christmas is “a spiritual holi­day whose leitmotif is personal, selfish plea­sure and joy” and why the commercialism of the season, “far from detracting from this celebration, as we’re often told, is integral to it.”

Before Christians co-opted the holiday in the fourth century (there is no reason to believe Jesus was born in December), it was a pagan celebration of the winter solstice, of the days beginning to grow longer. The Northern European tradition of bringing evergreens indoors, for instance, was a reminder that life and production were soon to return to the now frozen earth.

This focus on earthly joy is the actual source of the emotion most commonly identified with Christmas: goodwill. When you genuinely feel good about your own life and when you’re allowed to acknowledge and celebrate that joy, you come to wish the same happiness for others. It is those who despise their own lives who lash out at and make life miserable for the rest of us.

The commercialism of Christmas reinforces our goodwill. When you scour the malls in search of the perfect gift for a loved one and witness the cornucopia of goods and lights and decorations, you can’t help but feel that your fellow human beings are not enemies to be feared or fools to be avoided but fellow travelers and potential allies in the quest for joy. It’s no accident that America, the world’s most productive country, is also its most benevolent.

Christmas’s relation to goodwill leads many to believe the holiday is inseparable from Christianity, allegedly the religion of goodwill. But the connection is tenuous. A doctrine that tells you that you’re a sinner — that you must seek redemption but cannot earn it yourself and that Jesus, sinless, has endured an excruciating death to redeem you, who doesn’t deserve his sacrifice but who should accept it anyway — can hardly be characterized as expressing a benevolent view of man.

Read the whole article here.