The Popularity of Christmas

Holiday cheer

Holiday cheer

83% of Americans are Christian.

However, only 2/3 of Christians view Christmas as a religious holiday and 1/3 as a cultural holiday. My high math skills also tells me that 17% of Americans are not Christian, of which apparently 80% celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday. In other words, approximately 40% of Americans view Christmas as a cultural holiday.

Despite the popularity of Christmas, compared to our childhood, we are less likely to participate in Christmas rituals like going to a holiday party (91 vs. 86%), putting up a tree (92 vs. 79%), or sending holiday cards (81 vs. 65%). We’ve seem to have given up on pretending there is a Santa (72 vs. 31%). Even buying gifts may have gone down (89 vs. 86%).

So why does it seem we make an even bigger deal about Christmas these days? It seems the entire month of December is given over to Christmas, and much of November now. I can’t find a single family event in Richmond in December that doesn’t have a Christmas theme. There’s hardly a store in town that isn’t playing holiday music or sporting holiday décor all month long.

I don’t even feel comfortable saying this aloud (so instead I’ll blog about it on the internet): It’s not that I dislike Christmas. I just wish there were a little less of it. I would just enjoy Christmas more if it weren’t everywhere, everything, all month long.

In contrast, the most important holiday for the Chinese is Chinese New Years. Approximately 1/6 of the world’s population lives in China. That does not count the rest of the world’s ethnic Chinese and other Asians that celebrate this holiday. Is there a single event in Richmond that I can go to each year to celebrate Chinese New Years? Where’s the parade with firecrackers? Does anyone in the grocery store wish me a Happy New Year in February? What if I got mad at them for not doing so and complain to the manager or write a letter to the editor about the War on Chinese New Years? I can’t even find red envelopes at the Martin’s, CVS or Target. Ai ya.

That being said, given that 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas in some manner, IMHO it’s appropriate for the Christmas theme to pervade our culture. I simply ask that if we’re not all so gung ho about it all month, please do not judge us. We are busy figuring out what date Chinese New Years falls this year and planning our private, solo event. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Holiday Reductionism: Scrooge-y or Sanity?

I love Christmas as much as the next gal.  OK, maybe I really don’t.  It’s not that I don’t like Christmas.  It’s just that I like other holidays more.  Am I the only one that doesn’t feel like Christmas is the End All-Be All holiday?  Just saying it makes me feel like I’m blaspheming.

Thanksgiving is a much better holiday in my opinion.  The focus of Thanksgiving is on loved ones and food, period.  What else matters?

Maybe Christmas is like Thanksgiving on steroids and with a different theme.  It’s family and food, but it’s also religion/spirituality, decorations, gifts, Christmas movies, dancing reindeer, plus-sized men with white beards.  With each of these additions, potentially comes time, effort, expense and worst of all, stress.

As a recovering perfectionist, in the past I had to do all of these things in spades.  My perfectionist tendencies were peaking around the time our kids were pretty young and career-building was in full swing.   The end result was adding one more straw to the proverbial Wise Men’s camel’s back.

In post-Perfectionland, I still love Christmas decorations and parties.  Other people’s.  I love the music, the embellished sweaters.  Ditto.

Don’t get me wrong, I do still participate in Christmas, but in a very scaled down way.  I don’t spend as much money on gifts as I used to, shopping may happen by mail.  The tree is smaller and simpler, so is the décor and gift wrap.  There aren’t as many parties to go to because of the economy, but if there were, I would say No to all except those involving the people I care most about.  Christmas cards?  What Christmas cards?

I don’t think our neighbors appreciate our minimalistic approach to exterior holiday decorating, which has pretty much been boiled down to a door wreath. We found some covertly-added holiday-themed ornaments in our yard a couple of years that I suspect was the work of a mischievous neighbor.  They’ve either gotten used to the minimalism, they decided we’re hopeless, or the home baked cookies assuaged their need to supplement.

The end result of Christmas down-sizing: I can actually relax during December and enjoy the spirit, the décor, the music, the craziness without getting caught up in it.  I look forward to the Salvation Army lady at the grocery store (where are they this year?).   I can enjoy the time with my family because I’ve had my work-out, some sleep, and time to write. I don’t feel guilty, resentful or stressed.  Does that make me Scrooge or Sane?