In America, the holiday season generally begins with Thanksgiving (or, as it’s now known, Grey Thursday, because of shoppers who stand in line on the fourth Thursday in November to get “deals” on products they mostly otherwise don’t need punched in the face). I was disheartened by last week’s Grey Thursday and Black Friday madness — the lead in to the celebration of the birth of Christ, who once told a rich man to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. I was disheartened by the greed that lures people away from home and family to wait, to fight their way through Best Buy and Old Navy and Target; I was disheartened by this nation that can’t get enough of the hype, that fills parking lots and populates lines.
I’ve thought a lot about why we as Americans do this. I realize that some go to Walmart to film fights between women over televisions, and some participate in this ritual for nominal discounts on electronics, but I wondered why we wait, why we wait hours and days and what that wait means. And then I realized that this waiting matches the motif of the season as we now understand it. At its most fundamental, the religious season of Christmas is a season of waiting, and even in the secular observance of the holiday, most of us wait, a little bit impatiently even as adults, for presents under a tree. We are always in expectation.
Perhaps we wait because for centuries, we have waited in December. Perhaps this explains why for years the day after Christmas has made me want to cry: Once the expectation is fulfilled, I feel empty and bored and a little bit despairing. I wait for the parties and the food and the presents and the singing since the first of November, when that stupid 12-foot reindeer goes up at the mall entrance. Once it’s over, I realize that I waited in expectation of something that will never, can never, give me the fulfillment that I desire. And maybe that is why we wait, because the wait is always better (at least in these things) than the disappointment that comes with a fulfillment that we later realize is only mediocre. We still have hope while we wait.
Maybe we are just waiting for the wrong things. This Christmas, it is my hope that I will get better at waiting for things with more lasting value than a cocktail party and an iPad.
Laura Creel (@Little_Utopia) is the managing editor of Little Utopia.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Grocery Stores: Expensive? Yes. Universally Designed? No.
♦ “Angry Birds” Movie Leads the Promotional Campaign with the Tagline: “So Many Birds Have to Die”
♦ Celebrity Hair-Cutting News: #WhyJenWhy
♦ An Interview with Documentarian Jeanette Garcia on Video Games, Storytelling, and Her Upcoming Film “World 1-1″
♦ Little Utopia’s Epic NBA Season Preview Extravaganza: Part 2