During the holiday season, most retail locations play festive music to fill shoppers with the holiday spirit and perhaps encourage them to add a few more items to their shopping cart. Home Depot is no exception but they do something that I hadn’t heard before. For the first half of the holiday season, they play older, more traditional songs (none newer than probably 1980) and then during the second half they play newer, more modern songs (most within the last 5-10 years).
I noticed something troubling about the mix of those two different generations of holiday songs. The older songs had a mix of about 50/50 between Christmas songs and holiday songs. By Christmas songs I mean tune such as:
- Angels We Have Heard on High
- Away in a Manger
- Go Tell It on the Mountain
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- Joy to the World
- Little Drummer Boy
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
- O Holy Night
- Silent Night
- The First Noel
By holiday songs, I’m referring to songs such as:
- Baby, It’s Cold Outside
- Frosty the Snowman
- Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
- Santa Baby
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- We Wish You a Merry Christmas
- Winter Wonderland
The difference, in case you hadn’t noticed already, is that the first list consists of Christmas songs whereas the second list contains secular songs about Santa, Frosty, Rudolf, and gifts under the Christmas tree.
What I found disturbing, and why I’m writing this post, is that the second wave of seasonal songs—the ones mostly produced within the last decade—consisted overwhelmingly of holiday songs. (In fact, I don’t remember hearing a single Christmas song in the entire bunch!) As I listened to the words of the songs, I realized that, speaking very broadly, they can almost all be summarized in two categories:
‘Santa, bring me a sweetheart’:
- All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, etc.
- Christmas Is The Time to Say “I Love You” – Billy Squier
- Last Christmas – Taylor Swift (no surprise there, right?)
- My Only Wish (This Year) – Britney Spears
- Oh Santa! – Mariah Carey
- You Don’t Have to Be Alone – ‘N Sync
Or ‘Winter is a wonderful season‘:
- Green Christmas – Barenaked Ladies
- Merry Christmas, Baby – Sheryl Crow
- Shake Up Christmas – Train
- Sock It To Me Santa – Bob Seger (I realize this one breaks my rules because it doesn’t fit in either category very neatly and is more than a decade old)
Another disturbing clue I noticed is that, out of the hundreds of holiday decorations we sold, I didn’t see a single nativity scene. Instead, I saw 8-ft tall inflatable Santas, plastic snowmen, stuffed moose, stockings with puppies that sing while their mechanical ears flap, and other secular holiday paraphernalia.
The most disturbing thing I saw was a Santa, dressed in camouflage, who sings “Proud To Be An American.” Somehow, it almost seems as though we’re making patriotism synonymous with the Holiday Spirit. When I originally saw this, I thought “who in their right mind would buy this?”
We sold out of them!
The most ironic decoration I saw was a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree:
To appreciate this, you have to remember that A Charlie Brown Christmas is about rejecting the materialistic, meaningless sham that this holiday has become and rediscovering the true meaning of Christmas. But now we sell Charlie Brown Christmas Trees!!
So what am I getting at? My point is simple: we have subtracted Christ from Christmas.
Christmas – Christ = Mas.
Mas, ironically, is the Spanish word for “more.” My point is that when we remove Christ from Christmas, this holiday season becomes a shallow, materialistic pursuit for more, more, more. ¡Mas! ¡Mas! ¡Mas! How else do you explain the fact that we—Americans, one of the most affluent civilizations in human history who have all our needs met—spent record numbers of money this Black Friday despite the fact that median household income has fallen 4 years in a row, 85% of middle-class people say it’s tougher now than a decade ago to maintain their living standards, 77% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, and 40% of Americans have $500 or less in personal savings?
It’s insane! We’re spending more, earning less, going deeper into debt, and saving next to nothing. But, if Christmas is not about the incarnation—about the Savior coming down to earth as an infant—then we have to fill that void with something, don’t we? And what makes us happier than spending a couple hundred dollars on gifts?
It saddens me to see what we, as a society, are doing to Christmas. Even more so, it saddens me to see this tendency within my own heart. My love language is gifts; I love presents! I love receiving gifts but, if memory serves me correctly, it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). So, I turn to you, the reader, and ask: What can we do to recover and preserve the true meaning of Christmas?