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EIGHT
Dark Realities

Each year there are millions of voices expressing their inner joy when Christmas arrives, and millions more expressing their inner desire to escape.  These people seem to think that if they could give Christmas up then their life would be less complicated from the worries and hassles of it all.  But thinking and doing is where the line is most always drawn as they go on year after year hoping to make the best of it.  At this point - from everything that has been told thus far - one may not only be contemplating such an idea as much as they are now ready to do something about it.

The truth is, it can be (and most often is) a very painful and difficult decision.  When family members and friends discover that you do not observe Christmas any longer they usually will not accept your reasoning.  Trying to explain the other side of the Christmas story to them becomes almost impossible and trying to escape from the spirit becomes no easy way out.  It's like trading in one load of problems for another because the spirit is not about to let anyone go without a fight.

There are a few religious sects that are well-known for not observing Christmas.  Instantly you are labeled as one of their members.  People just can't rationalize anyone giving up Christmas unless he has become (swayed) by some religious group.  One thing is certain and to their advantage, it is easier for the members of these organizations to give up holidays because they are a body of believers who share the same focus.  They have each other for strength, but the real test is when you step out on your own.  This when one fully realizes the powerful hold the spirit of Christmas has on us.  Not to say that it is any less painful for those who do have support from their religious group, but the unity does make it easier.  This should not, however, become a reason to rush out and join one.

It's very important to note that in our society it is not acceptable to forsake Christmas.  Non-Christmas people cannot help feel like an outcast when they no longer are part of this affair.  It is acceptable to complain and complaining is almost welcomed, if not at least expected, so they won't feel alone in their burden.  Dropping a hint or two that you’re not into Christmas (this year) is more than understood, so people will sympathize with you.  But the majority cannot let go completely without feeling guilt for deserting their family, friends, or God.  And they cannot fully come to terms with those who have ... without feeling resentment.

The perplexity of the situation is that we are encouraged to find our own belief which will guide us down the path of life.  Through time we have learned to tolerate each other's views, although we do not always see eye to eye.  This rule hold true whether the issue involves politics, religion, career, rearing kids, sexual preferences or one's taste in food, clothing, and decor.  If you choose not to celebrate Christmas this rule no longer seems to apply.

More People Are Celebrating Christmas Without ReligionIt is feasible that with time, and hopefully the increasing support from others who come to share this same conviction, Christmas people will someday learn to accept non-Christmas people by allowing them to enjoy their freedom without discrimination.  Most likely before this happens it will take many non-Christmas people to draw public attention to the problem.  If this ever does happen, in the long run, non-Christmas people will be thankful for taking such drastic measures.  Perhaps then both sides can find some ground to function together on with less pain.

There is no logical reason why the December holiday season cannot be a time for family gathers.  There need not be any tension or uncomfortableness when people come together for the sake of love.  Why does the spirit of Christmas want to cast out the spirit of love if indeed this is what its all about - like people claim?  Perhaps Christmas people should prove that it is a season of love by allowing everyone the right to enjoy the time the government has given us.  And this will no doubt test the spirit.

The "do your own thing" principle is supposed to mean "as long as it does not harm others".  It does not always work that way but the Christmas spirit has its own set of rules where this saying goes, as many people have discovered.  It's "do your own thing as long as you do it with the Christmas spirit".  And with 95 percent of Americans celebrating Christmas - doing their own thing - the spirit has had little to worry about thus far.  Perhaps challenging the spirit may put a lot of minds in a different perspective when they see what can result.

When considering the results taken by a survey in November 1988, it is not surprising to discover that 85 percent of Americans agree that Christmas has become too commercialized.  It is surprising that with so many sharing this same attitude that nothing is being done about it, except a lot of griping.  With 95 percent of Americans participation in the Christmas festivities they must be aware that commercialism is sure to be on top of the holiday (every year) despite all their grumbles.

Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on Christmas is a joy to some and a nightmare to others.  The question is not how much you spend or whether you spend at all, although this has become a  major factor, but more to the point it is a matter of if you believe in the spirit and show your support.  This is what the spirit depends on the most.

According to the estimated numbers of those who do not observe Christmas it is only about 5 percent, though if a proper poll were taken the numbers would show higher.  Millions of people have many reasons why they do not observe Christmas.  Some feel a strong religious controversy over its heathen origins and the way it was unduly adopted by the Roman Catholic Church.  But most of them feel that Christmas is a political issue and have chosen to wash their hands of both state and religion, allowing it to flourish freely outside their congregations.  Some are Jewish or from another religious sect and though many of them are finding their own personal compromise somewhere in the midst of it all, many are beginning to express their rejection.  Then there are those who feel Christmas is nothing more than a material corruption, a way for the government to get rich off of them and they refuse to have anything to do with it, besides perhaps the enjoyment of the family gathering.

From whatever walk of life they may be and for whatever reason, every year non-Christmas people are confronted with "Merry Christmas" ringing out at department stores, banks, libraries, places of employment, schools, neighbors, and loved ones.  Every year the majority of these people humble themselves and gracefully bow out.  Most have come to show their respect toward the beliefs of those who cherish Christmas.  They sorrowfully must abide by the "do your own thing" philosophy and try not to make waves or cast their family and friends to the side.  And though most of these accept others for their beliefs many of them receive little, if any, acceptance. themselves.

The Power of Christmas SpiritWhat about the children?  Parents find themselves trying to teach their young ones how to deal with this peer pressure but it is very difficult if a child is in school.  Weeks before Christmas, classroom work is weaved in and around the spirit.  If a child does not observe Christmas they either feel forced to join in (out of embarrassment and shame) or risk being completely excluded (thus making them feel hurt).  Non -Christmas children are either sent to the library or to the back of the room to find something else to do during Christmas activities.  Most of those who go along with the program may just leave the details out when they get home.  They are confused and their difficult adjustment and religious rights are rarely considered.  In a real sense, their rights are actually violated.

School officials admit they are not in the business of religion.  They say their business is education.  So why don't they have any direct answers for religious occasions being taught in school?  It seems to be on the neutral list of debatable issues and the best excuse they can offer is "it breaks up the monotony of boredom".  These educators must confess that the majority rules.  Santa makes it easy for them to slip by any religious discrimination by avoiding Christ's birth, and so far this issue has been laid to rest.

The reality is, Christmas rules the world.  There is no real escape because it has seeped in everywhere.  The attitude of the spirit implanted in mankind toward non-Christmas people is one of rejection whether it be family arguments, scorn from friends, ridicule from coworkers, or a very wrinkled-up nose from society in general.  People will accuse you of forsaking God.  They will call you a humbug or scrooge.

There are some pleasurable reason to give up Christmas.  Putting rejection aside, it is wonderful not having to stand in mile long lines in hectic department stores.  It is wonderful to sit in your home uncluttered from the mess and overly anxious kids.  It is wonderful not to be in debt for the pressures of gift giving, and it is wonderful to be free from the expectations that haunt you.  But the most wonderful part of all is knowing that you are not contributing to the sorrows and deceptions of this season.  If you are a Christian it is truly a wonderful feeling to know you are not compromising God's Word.  All of this makes dealing with rejection worthwhile because when Christmas folds up, and appears to drift away, so does almost everything else, except for those who serve it.  For them ... it is just their beginning.

Charge cards are at the maximum, the paycheck is gone, and here comes the bills.  There are more accounts of unpaid bills during the months of November and December than any other time of the year.  These overdue accounts begin to flood collection agencies around March and April.  By then the bills are so overwhelming it makes it difficult for debtors to get back on their feet.  The problem has become so widespread that collection agencies are now trying to help people deal with this increasing problem by offering some logical solutions like financial counseling or low payment plans, so it won't keep snowballing them year after year.

Theft is another rising problem that hits hard at Christmas time, provoking merchants to seek better solutions to alleviate their losses.  Statistics show that the nation's retailers lost 1.5 billion dollars in 1986 and 1.8 billion dollars in 1987 due to shoplifters, employee theft, and general calculation errors.  The total is expected to rise in the years ahead.  Owners and managers of department stores are finding it a must to hire more security officers, as well as ask their salespersons to be doubly aware of shoplifters.  The most dreadful drawback for merchants is that it's costing businesses more money and the sacrifice of employee efficiency.  This takes a bite out of their profit.  Some of the hot items in the past have ranged from calculators to designer jeans to ladies' expensive designer lingerie.  A lot of big ticket items are lifted and sold in order to supply the drug addict with his need for a "white" Christmas.

While merchants are working hard all year to gear up for Christmas, organizations are gearing up to help the needy.  Clear across the nation they work hard all year to disperse their collections at Christmas.  They join forces again after it is over for another long-haul effort.  The purpose of these organizations is to make sure as many needy people as they can reach will receive their tokens of love with a hearty meal, warmth and goodhearted cheer, used toys, and hopefully a roof over their head for a few precious moments.  This purpose revolves mostly around glorifying the spirit of Christmas by showing how devoted and kind people can be under its influence.  The work is never done to make Christmas special, more meaningful, and the most important time of the year.

Though organizations for the needy try to provide help all year long, and these fruitful efforts have been a blessing to millions of recipients, the month of December is their greatest time.  The many organizations around the world must take advantage of the generous holiday giving for whatever reason charitable donors have at this time of the year.  If they don't, people would conveniently let the need slip by - like they are usually accustomed to doing.

The effort that is stirred up during the Christmas season lingers around, receiving astounding attention.  In the past, shortly after Christmas had faded away, thoughts of the less fortunate faded away too, at least in the minds of the majority.  This is not the case anymore.  The problem is now too big to ignore and the Salvation Army is trying to project a new message that says, "You don't need a Season to have a Reason to give".  Christmas may still be the world's main event but the hope for solving this problem through Christmas has failed.  What it has proved more than anything else is that it robs the poor more than it provides for them.

It is estimated that Americans spend at least forty-two billion dollars on Christmas gifts (Increased to $721 Billion 2018).  About four hundred and sixty dollars for each household, but it is not unusual for some to plunge thousands or millions into this wishing well (Current Estimate).  When the stock market crashed on October 19, 1987, there was an intense panic that Christmas sales would be low.  Despite the worries and fears all went fairly well, leaving merchants with a sigh of relief.  The homeless, however, were the ones who suffered.

There was apprehension at the many Salvation Army stations that season, and other charitable organizations also found the Christmas spirit slow in arriving.  Some reported that their denotations were slightly up, only because of an earlier effort to start collecting - which many are finding a must these days.

Many people have placed the blame for our increasing numbers of homeless people and hunger problems on government administrations.  They shout that in a nation as wealthy as ours this reality is a disgrace.  Can the problem simply be placed on the shoulders of our government?  Are there not many contributing factors to blame, Christmas most definitely not excluded?

People seem to believe that Christmas is the only time when giving is done more freely, more abundantly.  But if we look at where a great deal of money is going we find that very little reaches the poor.  Instead of being an eye-opener this has become an over stressed glorification.  When most people are lavishing in their delight, the needy are left out in the cold.  This is where the real shame to humanity lies and must be dealt with.

We are implored to give by many agencies but advised to give wisely by the Philanthropic Advisory Services.  They warn us that out of the nation's three-hundred-thousand charitable solicitors, not all are legitimate.  We must be cautious of those street corner Santa’s, the pleas that flood our mailboxes, and the numerous telephone calls that hit harder at Christmas, because our money may not go toward its purpose of intent.  One should be absolutely sure before giving or they may be taken in.

Too many people don't concern themselves with how their money will be spent.  They give blindly and often this is to ease their guilt.  A lot of people are afraid to give.  They know how crooked some organizations are and have learned not to trust anyone.  They feel much safer dropping a few cents in a Salvation Army kettle and perhaps feel better inside for doing it, knowing they are either going into a store to squander money or just coming out.  But regardless of how some frauds have scared off donors, there are many reputable organizations and many sincere, generous givers who continue to help the less fortunate throughout the year.

Guilt has become just as much a part of Christmas as complaining.  One magnifies our unhappiness, the other our selfishness.  Isn’t there something inside telling us that what we are doing is not right?  Yet when Christmas is in the air floating about on a silver-lined cloud, showering the world with droplets of angel dust, it undeniably fogs mankind's perception of priority.

The message may ring in with peace, love, and cheer but it's not a very peaceful time, loving scene, or cheery attitude when millions upon millions of less fortunate souls are pouring out their cries for mercy.  On print the outcome of help endowed looks impressive.  It shows what a good deed mankind has done.  From a single student to major department stores the earnest effort is in full bloom during the Christmas season.  Just who receives the praise for these kind acts?  The individual person or group?  Perhaps in a small way they receive some recognition, but their pleasure is in letting the spirit take the bow.

If Christmas consisted only of greed, selfishness, and a time of sorrow, its purpose would ultimately defeat itself.  It takes acts of kindness, giving, sharing, caring, and hoping for a better world to keep our faith in the Christmas spirit alive.  Without some kind of reward for our devotion it could not survive to fool the world.  Yet the consequences are by far beginning to outweigh the rewards.

The holiday blues in another increasing, devastating problem on the rise during this season.  It seems we can't open a magazine, turn on a talk show, or browse through the paper without being made aware of this reality.  Mental health agencies have come to dread the Christmas season, and they report that at this time depression and unhappiness is at its all-time high.  They believe that how one copes at Christmas depends much how supported one feels by their family and friends.

Dealing With Christmas Blues

 If a person only has a few friends or no close family ties, depression is more likely to take hold during times when parties and family gatherings are all around.  For many there is no place to go, no people to see and this can often cause loneliness to set in.  Sadly, suicide or harming others may be the only way for some to find release.  Christmas can be dismal if relationships are on edge, and when alcohol is a problem it can ruin special plans.  Every year someone hears about a relative who gets drunk, parents that argue, and coworkers who become entangled in illicit affairs.  How paradoxical it is that these things are most true during the "season of good cheer."

Our hope and expectations of Christmas are aroused by television commercials and special features.  For those who are distressed, watching such unrealistic impressions can bring agonizing disappointment.  The promise of joy and fulfillment is falsified by the brilliant decorations, making one vulnerable to the blues.  Children also can be highly susceptible to the blues but they reveal their depression through hyperactivity or excessive good behavior, not by acting sad as we would expect.  Many people are incapable or unwilling to admit to their unhappiness because this is not what is expected of them.  What is expected is joyfulness.  The fact remains, many people just can't get out of their slump for the simple reason that the holiday just doesn’t match up to its popularized image. (Judy Cosgrove, "Holiday Blues or Serious Depression?, Modesto Bee, 20 December 1987.)

Whatever we may call it, depression inevitably makes one feel anxiety, guilt, and resentment.  One factor that specialists have detected is the thinking patterns of a depressed person become confused and irrational.  Concentration is difficult and making decisions is often too overwhelming.  Christmas shopping seems useless and impossible to them.  When negative events arise, as they most always do, to the distressed person they take a prophetic meaning.  Traffic become insurmountable and jam packed stores seem terrifying.  The most frightening realization related to a depressed person are their suicidal impulses.

 We are urged to be on the watch for and encourage medical attention to those who show signs of excessive dependency on others, if their need for endless amounts of reassurance start to cause clinging behavior.  Irritability and aggressiveness can be a sign of the blues since anger frequently masks depression.  Physical symptoms might include insomnia, nightmares, excessive sleep, poor appetite, or a feeling of never being satisfied.  These symptoms can lead to headaches, muscle aches, stomach or intestine disorders, and even disturbances in one's sex drive.  More common of the blues, however, is fatigue.  (Judy Cosgrove, "Holiday Blues or Serious Depression?, Modesto Bee, 20 December 1987.)

 

The holiday blues should not be mistaken with another disturbing reality lingering around the winter season.  The "Seasonal Affective Disorder" syndrome, better known as "SAD" is raising new questions for us to ponder.  Time Magazine, in its article "Dark Days, Darker Spirits" (by Anastasi Toufexis), points out that it is:

A syndrome characterized by severe seasonal mood swings.  "This is more than the winter blahs," says Psychiatrist Carla Hellekson of Fairbanks.  "this is something that needs to be taken care of."  Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health began studying and defining the syndrome in the early 1980s ... Typically, SAD suffers become clinically depressed with the approaching of winter.  Besides gaining weight, oversleeping and being listless, they withdraw socially, lose interest in sex and feel anxious and irritable.  As spring approaches, depression subsides and behavior returns to normal... 

The article reveals that "... With research in its infancy, investigators can only guess at the number of SAD victims - in the United States the figure is estimated at anywhere from 450,000 to 5 million ...  Experts say the syndrome, which afflicts about four times as many women as men, usually appears in the early 20's.  But the malady has been diagnosed in children as young as nine ...  What causes SAD is a mystery.  Experts suspect there is a genetic factor, because more than two-third of those with the syndrome have a close relative with a mood disorder ...  Also baffling is the exact role that the absence or presence of light plays in seasonal mood shifts ...  The only certainty so far is that light therapy relieves SAD ... (Copyright 1988 Time Inc. Reprinted by permission.)

Other views on SAD reveal that it is more a physiological disorder whereas the blues is a psychological disorder.  If someone does suffer from SAD, we are told that the blues tends to increase SAD's level of depression.  Whether it be one or the other (perhaps both), this time of the year ironically brings symptoms that seem inappropriate to the season.

It may seem bizarre that depression descends most widely in a presumably happiest period, but it should be no wonder then when one realizes where Christmas came from.  What Celebrating Christmas Is Like When You Have Seasonal Affective DisorderThe spirit of darkness works best during the darkest periods, when people are more likely to be prone to emotional upheaval.  Although Christmas is a time when we're supposed to feel good, this expectation has been proven to put many under extreme pressure.  As the pace of activities abnormally accelerate, the devotee tries to keep up with an impossible situation.  They can scarcely face department store madness and, therefore, their shopping lags behind becoming an endless battle.  Hoping to make everything perfect, a person can reach a point where their energy is drained and so is their enjoyment.

Our dilemma goes back to childhood where we have grown up conditioned to think in terms of Christmas as a big happy family gathering with lots of gifts and plenty of mouthwatering goodies.  Experts agree it does not always turn out that way.  In many cases the family is split and new members (often not accepted) have drifted into the picture.  Many single people and one-parent families find the holiday difficult to put into perspective.  Their loneliness and shattered fantasy makes them feel as is something has died.  The homeless and other poor souls hurt deeply because they cannot give their child what he or she has wanted all year.

For these and numerous others in closely related situations, the typical polished image of Christmas no doubt falls short when measured up to reality.  The problem for those who feel helpless and hopeless is their tendency to lash out.  Law enforcement and Victim's Assistance officers know quite well the growing numbers of those who are embittered.  During the Christmas season ti seems they receive more requests for their services than any other time.

Dealing with the lashing out problem faces everyday life, but during the proposed carefree and jolly atmosphere of Christmas it not only receives more notice, it actually does increase.  Christmas can also be a season to be victimized because con artist find themselves in the midst of a successful advantage.  It is easier for them to defraud people because they know their victim is seeking an opportunity to make a fast and easy buck.  The con knows that people are more likely to be gullible to a stranger’s lies.  People believe Christmas is a time of goodness and honesty and this makes them a prime target.

Innocence and wonder may be the desired mood at this time. but more alert-minded people are increasingly becoming aware that innocent wonder is no longer a practical approach to take.  With greed being no respecter of age, the new cautious attitude means less worry about being taken.  The conclusion of it is caution has created a distrust that the good, kindhearted devotees of Christmas have worked so long and so hard to dispel in their effort to show the spirit's love.  Again, another dark intruder that comes in to greet the season.

How to Avoid Christmas Tree ToxinsThe dark side of Christmas undeniably outweighs the little bit of good that still remains to shine.  The light grows dimmer, the struggles grow harder, and the frustrations continue to sour.  Someday, giving it all up might not look like such a bad idea to pursue.  Someday, it may be the only choice left for those who can sacrifice no more.  Whatever way one chooses, the fact remains that we need a new perceptive on the situation if our problems are ever going to receive the priority they deserve.

Turning our world into a Las Vegas electrical side show is a grand display.  It shows our devotion to the spirit of fantasy.  Squandering vast amounts of money and energy extravagantly shows our devotion to the spirit of greed.  Slaughtering billions of trees for a brief moment of ecstasy proves our devotion to the spirit of thoughtlessness toward our environment and our future generations.  It's no wonder then that this is the spirit of darkness and deception.

Seasons Greening: How Christmas Tree Farmers Are Cutting Down on Pesticides

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the Light, as He is the Light, we have (true) fellowship with one another (1 John, 1:5-7).

 

 

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Copyright 1990 / ISBN: 0-533-08812-7 / Library of Congress
Catalog Card No : 89-90466 (Out-Of-Print)