As another Christmas winds its way down, the grinches who feel compelled to attack the commercialism every year can put away their pitchforks. They seem to miss one of the most fundamental aspects of all the shopping and spending: by and large, people aren’t out there buying presents for themselves. They are hitting the sales, filling up their carts, and wearing out their credit cards so they can make Christmas bright for their children, their spouses, their families, and their friends. What better way to spend a fortune than on gifts for others?
Are there crass aspects of the season? Sure, but it all depends on your perspective. Everyone is free to celebrate the holiday as they choose. Some opt to skip the whole thing and go on an anti-Christmas vacation. To some, it’s still a very religious holiday, a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. To many Americans, it means spending time with family they don’t get to see for much of the year.
One thing is for certain, Christmas is a huge boost for the retail industry. Many major chains depend on the days between Black Friday and Christmas to keep them afloat. To see this as some American, capitalistic weakness is a sadly twisted way to view the holidays. Millions of Americans depend on the jobs these retailers provide. Millions more depend on the stock they own in those companies. The entire economy depends on a healthy Christmas season in many ways.
Giving and Goodness
Then there is the charity. The Salvation Army kettles are ubiquitous in December. In 2013, Americans donated nearly $136 million to the charity. This money is used in a variety of ways, going to fund programs that help people get off drugs, help the homeless, provide shelter for women and children, assist the working poor, and much more. And the Salvation Army is only one of many. Each Christmas, Americans donate to Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and many others.
There’s this persistent habit among many to see capitalism as a system that encourages greed, forces a portion of the population into poverty, and glorifies the individual ahead of the collective. In practice, though, it’s still the best economic system man ever devised. And to complain about its negative aspects is to miss what’s really great about it. In that respect, it shares a lot in common with Christmas itself.