Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Commercialization of Christmas

With Halloween over and Christmas just 'round the corner in Tokyo, shops have already put up their Christmas decorations. Trees, lights, stockings, the whole works are all over the place, not just in the major department stores, but even in tiny cafes and family-run shops. And the music they pipe through the shops remind you of chestnuts roasting on open fires, going home for Christmas, and winter wonderlands.

And of course there are the sales. Oh, the Christmas sales. Wonderful Christmas sales, that would make even Singaporeans happy (Of course, the word sale in itself makes Singaporeans happy). I bought a pair of jeans for just ¥3,500 the other day, that would ordinarily have cost close to ¥5,000 (it's a valid buy too; my only other pair of jeans has a hole, in a less than flattering spot).

And dear old Mr. Claus is everywhere. His presence can be found on the ubiquitous Coca-cola ads (which I heard is where he gets his red clothing from), to Santa uniforms at the 100yen markets, to even calling for you to join the end-of-year lotto.

And if you're anything like I was in the past, you would be decrying this commercialization of Christmas.

You would be upset that Christmas has lost all its meaning. That what should be a time of remembrance for our Lord coming in human form has lost its significance to a rather overweight old man who has somewhat of an odd fondness for climbing down peoples' chimneys. That as much as we like the idea of Christmas being a season of giving, it still pales in comparison to the real meaning of Christmas, the Christ-Mass.

And so invariably, every year, I would go into a silent rant about how humanity has managed to push the greatest gift of all out, in favor of 50% sales and lots of good food.

But this year, in Japan, I was suddenly struck with a bit of insight. Not through my own personal brilliance, as smart as I may be, but through what Steve said, and most likely, through the way the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes.

See, Japan, as you might know, is not a Christian country. In fact, unlike some other non-Christian countries I can think of, Christmas isn't even a holiday in Japan. The 23rd is, because that is the birthday of the Heisei emperor, but the 25th this year would be a normal working day, if it wasn't for the fact that it falls on a Saturday (making it a normal working weekend).

And I can't help but feel that if Christmas was like any of the other 'Christian' holidays (Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving), it would remain a special occasion celebrated only by the foreign community living here.

However, as noted earlier, Christmas is a time of sales. Lots of sales. Big sales. And the big winners in all these sales are the department stores. And children of course, but that's a different matter. So, in order to capitalize on this unexpected source of holiday income, the stores have Christmas sales. And they amp it up, making it a happy time of giving (like in the West), and a happy time of romance (somewhat like the West).

So the final result is that Christmas is a fairly big event here in Japan.

And that gives us Christians a chance to tell people the original Christmas story. And you'll be surprised at some the reactions people give. One lady at E-moms was pretty astonished at the story, and this was what she said about it (or something along those lines):
"How come they don't teach this in school? How are our children going to know about this if no one talks about it? They should teach this in school!"
It should be noted that the lady is not a Christian.

And even the idea of Santa. I grew up thinking that Santa was a character who drew peoples' attention away from God. After all, as everyone knows, Santa is an anagram for the evil one, right? So Santa should be banned in church!

And yet, the original Santa was a bishop named Nicholas, who in trying to help a man whose three daughters needed financial aid, also gave birth to the idea of hanging stockings, and also reinforced the whole idea of gift-giving.

So the next time you think, 'oh how terrible it is that people are forgetting all about God, and only focusing on buying stuff', instead of just moaning the commercialization of Christmas, think of how you can Christianize the commercialization!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...