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EDITORIAL: Commercialization of holidays harms all

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It is no secret that Christmas is now a commercialized festival with a near-two month duration, though many likely do not find any issue with this.

After all, the holiday season is a supposedly joyous time of year, filled with friends, family and gift-giving. By commercializing it, Christmas is extended to all those who want to celebrate, and it extends the holiday season in length as well. 

Christmas being a commercial holiday is not a recent development. In fact, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed Thanksgiving up a week — from Nov. 30 to Nov. 23 — in 1939, an act the government hoped would stimulate the fragile pre-war economy.

The extension of the 1939 Christmas season was met with mixed reviews, with critics of the move denoting it “Franksgiving.” Still, the tradition stuck, and now we celebrate Thanksgiving the third Thursday of each November rather than the last.

Commercializing holidays — be it New Years, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas — may seem a harmless inevitability at first, a predictable byproduct of a capitalist economy in which the bottom line is the bottom line. This manufacturing of holidays does harm to everyone, though, whether religious or not.

First and foremost, it completely dilutes the original intention of the holiday’s origin, and this not only applies to Christmas, but also to every holiday that has been rampantly commercialized. But, as the season is prematurely upon us, Christmas is used as the example.

As with most Christian holidays, Christmas was originally a simple feast in celebration of Jesus Christ. The importance of the holiday rested on spending time with loved ones and celebrating the religious teachings and life of Jesus.

About those teachings: Jesus was a man, whether you believe in his divinity or not, who placed supreme importance on giving to the poor. "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me,” said Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew.

Evidently, the modern economy failed to pick up this message straight from the mouth of Christmas’s namesake. In that way, the market has completely twisted the essence of Christmas, leading many devoted Christians, who actually follow the teachings of Christ, to resent certain aspects of the modern holiday and economy. 

This is only getting worse. This holiday season will be home to the biggest sales in human history, according to USA Today.

The religiously devoted are far from the only ones facing issues from this commercialism. Those who follow other faiths, or are not religious at all, also feel the brunt of this. 

An atheist, for example, constantly seeing Christmas decorations, Christmas-themed food, Christmas shows and movies and other media, may feel, even just slightly, that a holiday, that does not coincide with their personal views, is being forced upon them by their peers.

But the real victims of all of this are everyone with a few bucks for the nearest retailer to try to coax you out of. The free market is based around manipulation, and that manipulation stems from marketing. Marketing usually presents itself in subtle and unexpected ways. For example, a product on sale for $4.99 rather than $5, is a tactic businesses use to manipulate you into thinking the product is cheaper than it actually is.

The holiday season is an open season for marketers. You love your spouse, do you not? Well, prove it. Buy them a new car. Your kids, how about them? If you want to keep their faith in Santa Claus alive, you better buy them that new toy they want. Here is a coupon. 

The next time you head out to a retailer, coffee shop or other venue of choice, take note of all the holiday-themed products or promotions present. Realize that it is all marketing and that such vibrant holiday cheer would not be present if it did not help sales.

College students must especially be wary of this, considering they have been spending more and saving less as a group. Every dollar is important for students on a fixed budget, so keeping their heads straight and not getting swept up in that trademark holiday cheer is critically important. 

Not all change comes via bombastic, extravagant protest. Sometimes personal reflection is the best driver of true paradigm shifts, and this is one of those cases. 

Nobody is saying you cannot celebrate your holidays, but it should be done with a tighter wallet. Making gifts instead of buying them is a good first step, as well as denying business to companies that push Christmas and other holidays on every product they sell. Some Christians may support the commercialization of Christmas, but it is clear that festivities of the holiday are not representative of Christ's teachings any longer. 

Everyone's greed is perpetuated by the manufactured holiday we face, and the only way to stop it is to all do our part in sucking the money out of the holiday.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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