The Gauntlet (and how to opt out of Christmas, continued)

Last week I mentioned some tough critique I had received for my questionable beliefs about the stranglehold the Christmas holidays have over Western society. In particular, MasterDebator had the following to say to my first piece on opting out of Christmas:

“Why don’t YOU completely give up Christmas yourself, hurt everyone’s feelings to do so and see how it goes before you broadcast to everyone that this is the morally right thing to do.”

Now, I know a gauntlet when I see one. And this particular person has been challenging me to new heights from eating dog food in elementary school to jumping into San Francisco Bay just last year. I’ve never backed down from a MasterDebator challenge and I’ve always emerged a better person for it, and this time will be no different. Here it is for the world to see:

I solemnly swear to completely give up Christmas next year.

Everyone now has fair warning – I will not be giving or receiving presents, cards, saying “Merry Christmas”, attending parties, or even producing any Christmas-themed videos, despite how much I was looking forward to making my “patchouli hair” piano rendition of “All I Want for Christmas”. I will, however, be keeping the spirit of Christmas alive by engaging in charitable pursuits that alleviate suffering and spread knowledge in the world.

Continuing on this topic, I mentioned in “How to Opt Out of Christmas” that you should start planning your boycott in October of next year. I now realize this is too late. Right now is the time to start opting out, if that is your wish. Here’s a 1-2-3 on what you need to do, and readers feel free to chime in with suggestions, as I am still a white belt opter out:

1) make a list of people to whom you normally give gifts at Christmas. Periodically review the list and do nice or thoughtful things for these people at random or unexpected times.1
2) plan a charity retreat for as much of the “critical period” as possible – that’s all of December through the first week of January. Consider volunteering at a farm, a disaster relief site, or working with a larger organization like Habitat for Humanity.
3) if you need to stay local, check with shelters, schools, churches and see what activities they have planned.2 Or start planning your own centered around something you can share, whether it be your cooking, a skill, or simply your company.

This idea of a charity retreat is one way parents who have already indoctrinated their children into the annual Christmas routine of excessive consumption can instill some real values while not completely erasing the holiday from memory. OK, I know MasterDebator, better wait until I have children of my own before I start telling all the parents out there to blast Santa Claus and his good-behavior-rewarding ways from the poor children’s experience. Fine, I’ll start with just me and let people know how it goes – but that’ll be on the to-do list for parenting when the time comes, along with homeschooling and other difficult but worthwhile pursuits (looking forward already to the conversations with my one and only on the subject!).

There is more to say on these topics, and I left MasterDebator’s last critique in the balance. That’s a long answer but if I had to do it in one sentence I’d simply say – we are all a product of the good and evil that exists in the world; still we can and should renounce the evil and pursue the good, for the betterment of ourselves, the species, the planet, and the universe.

That’s it for this week. Next week I look forward to delving into why it matters less than nil that it is a “new year”, and why resolutions based on that fact will never work. Happy week ahead!

1 This will help alleviate any concern about hurting others’ feelings, which MasterDebator pointed out is somewhat callous
2 Yes, I am critical of some of these institutions but they do also engage in good works


4 thoughts on “The Gauntlet (and how to opt out of Christmas, continued)

  1. Maya

    A final thought on Christmas… It is my favorite time of year, not because of what I get for Christmas (which is generally pretty minimal), but because I have so much fun shopping for others. I love getting toys for the kids and imagining how much fun they will have with just the right thing. I always restocked my children’s socks and underwear at Christmas so they would have lots of things to open. I also love getting together with family at all the reunions clustered around Christmas. It has always been a special time for us to gather together and feel the love of having an extended family to support us and lift us up. We own an investment property and I always enjoy buying a bag of Christmas cheer including ham and all the fixings for our tenants. One of them said she wanted to stay there as receiving a gift like that from her landlord made her feel really special and like someone cared.

    Christmas is not only fun – it is important in so many ways. I think that is why other cultures which are not even Christian have taken up many of the traditions. Just look at the lights in Tokyo! And I recently spoke to a Muslim man living in my area. He went to Kuwait to be with his son for Christmas – they are Muslims (his wife never comes out without a veil) visiting a Muslim country and still he said he went for Christmas!

    I think you need to rethink your stand on Christmas and re-read The Grinch… after stealing all the fixins, he found Christmas came all the same… all the whos were all singing without any presents at all. Think about it and maybe your heart will grow two sizes that day!

    1. Chris Duss

      It’s ok for you to feel that way about Christmas, and I think it’s a nice thing that you do for your tenants (not so much for the pig, but that’s a different story). We all do what we feel provides us and others with the most benefit – for you that may be giving gifts and organizing group celebrations. For me it is teaching, volunteering or working on any number of projects. I won’t claim that the holiday is all bad but I’ll certainly claim my freedom to do other things if I feel they will better serve me and others.

      The heart doesn’t need Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or anniversaries to grow. It only needs care and the will to put that care into action in the world. My heart grew by much more than two sizes when I made that realization.

  2. Maya

    Your blog on Christmas is terrible! – I love being with friends and family for the Holidays – it is a vey special time and I hope you come to realize it too. Even if you are not religious, having a special time set aside each year for remembering to tell those close to you how much you love them is important. Our lives get so busy the rest of the year that it is good to have an annual reminder. And, of course, the Christmas story in the bible is inspiring…

    Presents show you care enough about someone to think about what they would enjoy or need and to take the time to select it. How much you spend or the commercial end of it is not really that important – but what effort is put forth is. Being there for the poor is great any time of year – but being there for your family and friends are what make Christmas really special to me.

    1. Chris Duss

      Maya, thanks for your comments. I understand what you are saying about Christmas. I have very fond memories of it growing up and enjoy the events even now.

      But I naturally question anything that you have to participate in or face some form of punishment – social, economic, or otherwise. If you really look at who Christmas benefits, it’s two entities – businesses and churches. And that’s why they have so much incentive in playing it up as an important holiday.

      Like all creations of people, which are basically ideas and not real things that exist in nature, there is a positive and negative side to them. You list out some of the positives, while I list the negatives – frivolous consumption, a routine of over-consumption followed by resolving to repent in the “new year”, running around from activity to activity during a time we should be resting, good behavior in children being rewarded by physical presents instead of the inner satisfaction of doing the right thing. The lists can go on and on. My main qualm is that it is such a fixed part of Western culture that it has become mandatory – and that point I wish to balance, by opting out for a year. Anyone should have the freedom to do so without social backlash.