Monday, December 25, 2006

Humbug! I Say

Though I no longer celebrate the Christmas holiday -- there's no decorated tree, holly or tinsel in our house nor ANY depictions of a bunch of vagabonds standing around a barn looking at a newborn -- the one vestige of the holiday season I still keep is watching Scrooge (1951), starring the great British actor, Alastair Sim. However, as I've aged, the message I get from the movie is far different than when I was younger.

Throughout the early portion of this film adaptation of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol", our title character runs around saying, "Humbug!" to anyone who will listen. Now, according to this tale, he later realizes that there's no humbuggery at all to Christmas and turns over a new leaf which embraces this "giving" season.

Personally, I think he had it right the first time around! Christmas, as it is typically celebrated in this country, comes close to the definition of "humbug".

According to my New World Dictionary, humbug is defined as "something made or done to cheat or deceive; fraud; sham; hoax." And doesn't that pretty much sum up Christmas in our profit-driven world?

Christmas is all about unfettered consumerism -- buy, buy, buy. Buy early and often. If you don't purchase the things your children or other loved ones covet, then you obviously don't carry the meaning of Christmas within you and you should be strung up in the town square.

So, while we're told that Christmas is all about giving, it's really about filling the pockets of the big brass of the Walmarts of the world.

Now, I know some of you out there will say that Christmas is all about the baby Jesus and the anniversary of the little newborn's birth has been hijacked by these commercial interests. While I might agree that is the origin of the holiday, things change and, I'm sorry, but that's not what most people are celebrating today.

So, just let me say, Humbug!

But while the consumerism of our society rubs me the wrong way, I've come to realize that the story of "A Christmas Carol" isn't even all it's cracked up to be. In fact, in my estimation, the moral is rather pathetic.

When Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley, does this cause him to have a change of heart? No way.

How 'bout when the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit? The answer is still no. The Ghost of Christmas Present doesn't do the trick either. While these two spirits do move him emotionally, neither is able to melt the cold fortress of his heart.

What then finally brings him to the gates of redemption? It's the Ghost of Christmas's Yet to Come. Put in the simplest terms, it's fear that moves him to change his hard ways.

In my book, that's one of the worst reasons in the world to do the right thing. If you do something positive only in order to avoid some sort of future recrimination, your focus is on you and NOT the person you aim to help. You're still behaving as a selfish little wretch. Your heart hasn't really changed at all -- only your outward behavior or actions have.

And to that, I shout HUMBUG as well.


  1. Actually Jesus never had anything to do with the Holiday, it was an early Pagan feast to celebrate the return of the sun from darkness (December 25 is the first day after the Solstice that there is a noticeable northward movement of the sun, to those that observe it closely). The feast included gift giving.

    Constantine, when he converted the Roman Empire to adopt Christianity, also "converted" many of the popular pagan holidays, which is why Christians will dedicate a day to the pagan goddess of fertility Ishtar (Easter).

    But what do I know?

  2. Bob,

    That's the way I heard it too, but I wasn't prepared to go there. It's not always good to dispel too many myths at any one time.


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