“So Christmas Isn’t About Santa?” Black Churches, Scholars Concerned About The Focus on Gifts

December 26, 2012  |  

A shopper at a Massachusetts mall on Christmas Eve. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Since we are Madame Noire’s business page, of course we’ve been concentrating quite a bit on the holiday spending and gift-giving aspects of the season. However, there are a lot of people, particularly in the black church and academia, who are concerned that Christmas gifts are overshadowing the importance of the day.

“Everyone knows the true meaning of Christmas. Everyone knows what it is and everyone knows we are not doing it,” Dianne Diakite, associate professor of religion and African American studies at Emory University told The Grio.

Sources in the article point out everything one could be taking away from Christmas, including the political radicalism that serves as backdrop of Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ humble beginnings, which is similar to the “economic disadvantage” of many in the black community (and many Americans in general). Instead, it’s all about snowmen, stuff, and St. Nick.

“What is happening now is the triumphalism over the Christmas story by consumerism. The story has been hijacked,” said Adam Clark, an assistant professor of systematic theology at Xavier University.

Many people across the board think the preoccupation with gifts has taken away from the more important aspects of Christmas — whether that means a focus on the religious importance of the holiday, or simply the idea that it’s a time to be grateful for family, friends, and all that you have. If the latter is more your concern, then you probably expressed the same feeling at Thanksgiving during the Black Friday obsession.

As far as we’re concerned, giving gifts and turning the holiday into a celebration is perfectly fine. One problem is that some people do over-spend, putting themselves into a predicament for the sake of having a lot of presents under the tree. If there is an emphasis on quantity, in order to stay in budget, there should also be a reliance on stocking stuffers for future Christmases — cool things like cozy socks, specialty candy, and books that you can buy in multiples without smashing your budget to smithereens.

But more than that, the idea that “less is more” should be a financial philosophy that one follows throughout the year. The excess of the holidays is a magnified version of the excess that’s infused in our lives throughout the year. Think about it. How many pairs of shoes do you own? And how many do you really need? How many purses? How many times per year do you get a manicure? What’s stopping you from painting your own nails at home most of the time and getting a professional manicure three or four times per year? How much money would you have for other things, like vacations, new business endeavors, savings funds, or even things like home improvements and car repairs, which are necessities that sometimes get pushed back for lack of money.

As we’ve stressed a couple of times here, there’s a time for indulgence, but that time isn’t every day. One could argue it isn’t even for Christmas; that having this time with your loved ones to eat, drink, and be merry is indulgence enough.

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