teaching, blogging and researching on art and culture, viewing the world through the camera's eyes, continually contemplating on the world of aesthetics and art theory and expressing it in art criticism and discourse…
Is Christmas real?
Christmas celebrations are mostly real. At least, as far as I’ve experienced it with my family. Christmas Eve was the first time I thought of this article, after I read this from Rolando Tolentino’s tweet “ang pasko ang pinakamatagumpay na fantasy production ng bansa: gumawa ng bubble na masaya, kumonsumo para sumaya kahit sa dami ng trahedya.” In the midst of tragedy and consumerism, do we really have the spirit of Christmas? Or is it simply a part of a grand fantasy production? My Christmas song for this year is actually, Final Fantasy X’s To Zanarkand. (It lifts my spirit up, thinking that Brandon Sanderson finished the first draft of A Memory of Light. But that is a story for another time.) The news is uplifting, and the best part of Christmas, as far as I can see, is that it uplifts people.
Yet, I still can’t get rid of the voice in my head that all of this isn’t really real. The decorations, the supposed “happiness” and celebrations. It’s all marred with fantasy and consumerism. The malls are filled with people buying things on “sale”, they even extend their hours to accommodate all the Christmas shoppers. Admittedly, for a number of times, I am one of those shoppers who like clothes, shoes, bags and accessories. Though as the years pass by, I find it more and more taxing to go to malls during the holidays. As I don’t have a car, there is always a long line to commute. From what I see, even if I do have a car, there’s just plain too much traffic jams and parking areas are crowded and expensive. Do we really understand the “Spirit of Christmas?”
We’ve all heard “peace on earth and goodwill to men” bit. (Ehem, what about women?) But another complication is the basis of Christmas itself. The birth of Jesus? “Peace on earth and goodwill to men” is really more acceptable. Biblically, if there really is a Jesus, it’s very doubtful that he was born in the dead of winter. From the description, and even from traditional beliefs and stories, this birth is more probable during spring or summer. Most certainly not during winter. It is very likely that various winter solstice celebrations are appropriated for Christian practices, similar to other Christianized feast days. This alleged birth of Christ is not based on an actual computation but on a Papal declaration. (Read more on The History of Christmas and Christmas at History.com.) Christmas celebration as we know it is first a fantasy production of the church to Christianize “pagan” practices and inculcate religious practices to the people.
With all these inaccuracies, I need to ask again, is Christmas really real? Or is it really one big fantasy production? After all, it is a creation and production of a Christian church. Yet, I have been celebrating Christmas all my life, and I have to say that it is real, at least, as real as you want it to be. Children are happy, families are bonding and there is a spirit of happiness and sharing. If such things are sincere, I have to say that Christmas is in fact, real. But not necessarily in the Christian sense of the celebration.
After the church, the next institution to capitalize on Christmas celebrations are the corporations. The fantasy production of the market created the need to spend money and purchase to celebrate the holiday season. We now have this need to buy things, then buy more things, and then buy and buy more things. It’s an impulse that a lot of us have. To say otherwise is hypocrisy. We can control this impulsive need, but to say that we don’t feel it is unbelievable. We can’t help it after being bombarded with images and expectations of purchase. That is how we celebrate–buy abundant food, buy expensive gifts and buy the entire Christmas experience. We have created our of Christmas fantasies based on the commercial market.
This forceful expectation results in a lot of sadness and ennui. There are expectations that Christmas should be happy and magical, otherwise the season becomes depressing for a lot of people. Falling short of such magical expectations is an incredible let down. Where the magic of Christmas? Or does it even exist? I was going down the road of questioning the magic of the season until I saw the Christmas decorations made by my nephews and nieces. It’s simple, yet sincere. They do not have the expectations that us, adults have. These children just feel it, not force it. They do not have the sense of creating a fantasy production. They see the fantasy but they do not yet have the impulse to create and buy it. Yet, it is us who creates the expectations for them until they learn to have such expectations for themselves. As they grow older, such expectations become disappointments. There is no matching the fantasy production of religious and commercial advertisements.
Maybe at its core, Christmas, as we know it, isn’t real. It is a big trap of a fantasy production that we fall into. But for some reason, this time of the year has been celebrated even before the birth of Christ. There are still sincere celebrations going around. As I said, families are bonding, children are playing and there is still a sense of happiness for a lot of people. Maybe there is still something to it worth investigating. We just need to be conscious on not falling into traps that make Christmas a source of ennui and depression rather than a source of happiness and hope. Being happy and expecting happiness are two very different things.
**On that note, there are a number of engagement videos going around Facebook. Part of me was thinking magic and romance of the season, while a part of me is also questioning if this is also a part of fantasy productions that cause disappointment and disillusionment for a lot of people. What do you think of it?