Holidays more than hype

The holiday season is weird.

It's a contradiction between happiness, generosity and self-interest.

Families strive to have the Norman Rockwell Christmas, the picture of perfection and family harmony. Everything must be precise and wonderful with scrumptious meals and much-appreciated gifts, otherwise the whole thing is a bust.

This probably sounds familiar to many people, but it isn't necessary, and rarely meets up to the expectations. The value of a holiday season does not rest on how tasty the turkey dinner is, how golden and flaky biscuits are or how many gifts each person receives.

Not only is this attitude self-defeating and a sure-fire path to disappointment, it places value judgements on something that should be judgement-free. As trite as it sounds, this is a time when it's the thought that counts.

The point of the holiday season, which includes holidays of many faiths, is to embrace others and help out where needed.

It is a time to think of another person and try to make them happy, not yourself. For instance, this is not a good way to get that Salad Shooter you've always wanted by giving it to your spouse, roommate, etc.

It is difficult to sift through all the holiday promotions and hype and get to the root of the season.

Christmas, which is now basically a non-denominational holiday, is an entire industry unto itself.

So are the holiday sales that bombard shoppers, tempting people to overspend even more. The capitalist twist on the season of giving implies that the more you love someone, the more you will spend on them.

This idea is ludicrous. The holidays are not about how many valuables you can rake in, or a measure of your worth. They are (or at least are intended to be) about looking past yourself and seeing other people's needs.

One Christmas my brother Matt gave me a bag of mini Reese's peanut butter cups. Some people are probably laughing and calling my brother a cheapskate now, but I loved that present. He knew I like Reese's, and he was considerate enough to give me something I would appreciate.

The holiday season is not specific to one religion, and neither is the goodwill it is supposed to foster.

While greed and placing dollar amounts on affection are a disgusting outgrowth of the holidays, Christmas and its counterparts can also provide an excuse to display our humanity toward others.

In a profit-driven society where many demand payment for almost anything, volunteering or showing genuine concern for others can be labeled "sensitive" or worst of all, a "bleeding-heart liberal."

Holidays give people the opportunity to do something kind and generous, something they might not normally feel comfortable doing, like volunteering or donating money for a better reason than a tax write-off.

It is sad that people need an excuse or reason to be charitable and thoughtful. Humanity should be a given in a society, but isn't always. But this is one case where the ends can justify the means. If a person donates food out of holiday guilt or obligation, that is his personal problem to deal with. The result of giving someone else a meal is still the same.

The sad part of this is that while charities can usually count on a productive holiday season, they always need more money and help. Many organizations fall short of their their goals, and are then faced with year-round shortages and must continue to scrape by and help people as best they can with limited resources.

Many people are year-round givers, and they should be recognized for their contributions. Not recognized by a plaque or newspaper article, but recognized as a person who cares enough to help out.

No person should go hungry, be lonely, forgotten or cold. Yet people are, and it doesn't start the day after Thanksgiving. While fellowship is an accepted part of the holidays, it can't stop there.

So please remember what this season is supposed to be about, and remember that all people deserve consideration, kindness and generosity regardless of their creed, economic status, race, ethnicity or any other category we shove people into.

That is what the holidays are supposed to be.

Sarah Garrecht is the Wildcat editor in chief and a journalism senior.

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