By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne
“Maybe Christmas is not found in a store, maybe Christmas is about much much more.”
-The Grinch who stole Christmas
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We need the Grinch – We need someone to steal Christmas because we have lost the true meaning.
Christmas has become symbolic of all that is wrong with society, opposite of the original intent to bring out all that is right. Much like the Grinch, whose heart was three sizes too small; our hearts have diminished in size due to the culture of fear, conformity, and consumerism in which we reside.
In order to heal, we must overthrow the King. Yes, we need to kill the Western Christian version of God and change the way we celebrate Christmas.
This year, on Black Friday, I was reminded about the true meaning of life – and with that, the meaning of Christmas. I choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather honor the Day of Mourning for our Native American brothers and sisters. I surrounded myself in nature and spent time at a cabin in small-town Western Wisconsin. The sights and sounds were serene. It was a true “silent” and “holy” night with no one around, yet I was far from being alone as I was immersed in the picturesque landscape provided by mother earth. And it was here, at the local gas station, in which I re-discovered what the true meaning of Christmas was really about.
Black Friday has become as much part of the holiday season as Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Western world. Families anxiously await the moment the retail stores open for the extraordinary deals, and quickly abandon their feelings of gratitude and “thanks” by indulging on materialistic items.
I find it ironic how we published an article about the foundations of Thanksgiving and were slammed for “ruining Thanksgiving”, and being told “the meaning has changed and it is about being thankful and having gratitude.” While this sounds good in theory, it is not practiced. The day before Thanksgiving is the second biggest drunken night of the year in America – behind only New Year’s Eve. Then we have a phony meal together and cannot even make it a full 24 hours of showing thanks, as Black Friday deals start at 7:00 p.m. or earlier on the “Day of Thanksgiving.” It’s hard for me to buy into the concept of a day of gratitude when it starts with a hangover and before it ends we are ditching our families to wrestle with over others for materialistic items.
This leads to fights, people being trampled, arrests, and even a few deaths all in an effort to purchase “things” to provide for our family for Christmas – in the season of giving. This is what Christmas has become; it is about money, consumerism, and materialism.
The Season of Giving
The United States retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays in 2013, with the average person spending about $750 for the holiday. Additionally, 33 million real evergreen conifers will be purchased around $35 each for a market of $1.16 billion in Christmas tree sales.
It is estimated, by a United Nations world hunger project, that it would cost approximately $30 billion per year to end world hunger. Think about that. Only $30 billion to end world hunger per year; yet, on the season of giving, Americans will spend $465 billion for our own material possessions. This is not suggesting to abolish Christmas altogether, but if every family reduced their Christmas budget by fifteen-percent ($116.25) and contributed that to a world hunger fund it would meet the United Nations forecasted amount to end world hunger.
Wouldn’t that make a better gift? Wouldn’t that make for a better Christmas story if all the resources in the world were utilized to making a better life for everyone rather than benefiting the few?
In fact, this is how the original story of Santa Claus arose. St. Nicholas was a monk born in the third century. He lived near modern-day Turkey and was admired for his kindness and compassion. Legends suggest that gave away all of his wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Over the years, we have created a mythical creature to symbolize this monk.
But, instead of going around and donating his wealth to the poor, modern-day Santa Claus runs a foreign sweatshop enslaving people to work around the clock to deliver material items to the richest nations.
Living in a Material World
As a child, I remember this holiday used to be about sharing love, giving, and caring for one another. I have seen this idea evaporate as the years have passed in which I refuse to further participate in this lie. So, this Black Friday, while millions were out searching for bargains, I found my own bargain – peace and tranquility for free. I find the word “bargain” quite ironic when talking about retail prices. One must realize that these really are not as great of deals as advertised.
The markup prices are astronomical. Many United States corporations employ workers in sweatshops overseas in countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Haiti, etc. They pay below minimum wages in deplorable working conditions – typically 14-16 hours per day for seven days per week. It costs pennies to make this material and it gets marked up to allow for enormous profits for the CEO of these corporations. Here are the top ten salaries of the CEOs of retail corporations in America in 2013:
Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie and Fitch $48,069,473
Gregg Steinhafel, Target $19,707,107
Leslie Wexner, Limited Brands $19,230,484
Michael Duke, Walmart Stores $18,131,738
Paul Marciano, Guess $14,399,134
Terry Lundgren, Macy’s $13,840,531
Michael Balmuth, Ross Stores $12,478,239
Gregory Wasson, Walgreens $12,041,058
David Dillon, Kroger $12,024,543
Steven Fishman, Big Lots $11,924,662
Christmas is not a complete lie, we just need to understand that it has to do with symbolism. Santa Claus no longer has anything to do with St. Nicholas or helping the sick and needy. Santa Claus now represents the fat and jolly CEOs listed above as they showcase good but inside they are running sweatshops for elves overseas. The elves also exist, but they don’t do work in the North Pole. The elves symbolize sweatshop workers that get paid nothing to work themselves to death while providing your material possessions. Perhaps the reason they are so small in stature, is because they represent the 10 year olds working 16 hours per day to provide wealth for their respective Santa Claus.
Then to tell children he delivers only to the “good” girls and boys create further separation. Again, it is symbolic, he delivers toys to those who have money and wealth. How do you explain to a child in poverty that he did not get gift this year? By this mythical logic, it would infer that he is a “bad” child because Santa did not bring him gifts.
This tale of Christmas we share is 180-degree difference from the true story of St. Nicholas. He helped those in need, but today we only help those with greed at the hands of the poor.
The concept of sweatshops is industry as it sporadically pops back up in the news. You see, it has never gone away; we just selectively decide when we want to pay attention. It was all over the news in the 1990s with Nike and Gap having 10-13 year old kids working in these shops as slave for their profits. The public outrage led to changes to be made; but once we saw the “great deals” on Black Friday we forget about the torturous conditions it takes to make these items.
Every few years, there is a story on the slave labor that produces the clothes we wear. Then the corporation tells us they have looked into things and have made changes. Yet, just a few years ago a factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing thousands of people and we come to find that Walmart, Gap, Target, etc. were all having clothing made at these factories.
It is a mass marketing scheme and manipulation of people. We have a group of people watching television, listening to the radio, or surfing the internet and the marketers simply pay money for air time and tell people what they need in order to fit in. Once they have these items, then they will be ok. It is based on fear, fear and consumption. A quote from Marilyn Manson says it all:
“Because that’s not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, you’re being pumped full of fear, there’s floods, there’s AIDS, there’s murder, cut to commercial, “buy the Acura”, “buy the Colgate”, if you have bad breath they’re not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl’s not going to fuck you, and it’s just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that’s what I think it’s all based on, the whole idea of ‘keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume.”
The Christian Rebuttal
The real genius-work behind this big façade is the connection with Christianity. This too, stems from fear. We tell our children that if you are good, then you will spend eternity in the clouds with a nice guy, or, if you are bad you will burn in fire with a man with horns. We decide to instill this into our children’s minds when they are impressionable, that way they believe it is true. In connection with Christmas, they are told that if they are good, that a man from the North Pole will fly his reindeer all over the world in less than 24 hours and deliver presents to them.
It is a way to control children by manipulation. It is a cycle that continues from generation to generation. Then your kids go to school, and those that do not participate in this lie will not receive presents, and become the outcasts. So the pressure is put on them by their peers, it is put on by television, and it is put on by society, and by this so called “Christian nation.” They will say,
“What you don’t believe in Jesus? You don’t want to celebrate this man who preached love and acceptance? What kind of person are you?”
My answer is No. Your god is dead. He has to be, in order for us to move forward. This version of God has done more harm than good. This fairy tale version of God has caused fear in children, it has caused wars to be fought, and has caused many secrets which lead to shame. It has caused the manipulation of generations and it is all celebrated on this day. So this version of God needs to die.
As George Carline once eloquently stated:
“Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there’s an INVISIBLE MAN…LIVING IN THE SKY…who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time…but he loves you.”
“He loves you and HE NEEDS MONEY. He always needs money! He is all powerful, all perfect, all knowing, and all wise. Somehow he just can’t handle money! Religions take in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.”
Many of the patrons inside the church that stand so faithfully behind their religion that stands for unconditional love and kindness, are the same ones that walk out the church and instantly abandon these teachings. The same people who complain about the poor receiving “handouts” are part of a church that can build a million dollar church without paying a dime in taxes while the poor go on without food or shelter.
In June of 2013, newly appointed pastor of Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, reverend Willie Lyle spent four days disguised as a homeless man living on the streets. He wanted to see what it was like to truly live without anything and see who would offer food and assistance. Then, he transformed back into the role as pastor while delivering his sermon and addressed the congregation:
“Too many of us want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That is not God’s plan.”
Similarly in November of 2013, Mormon bishop David Musselman did a similar experiment by posing as a homeless man outside a Taylorsville, Utah church one Sunday morning. At least five people asked him to leave the church property, some offered money, and some were indifferent. He addressed the congregation stating that his point was not to be so quick to judge one another.
“Many actually went out of their way to purposely ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he said, “I’d approach them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me was very surprising.”
Spending my Black Friday in this small town it occurred to me how I am forced to conform. It is impossible for me to neglect Christmas; for if I were to not purchase my children presents then they would feel that I do not love them. I was really struggling with this as I pulled up to the gas station and noticed an elderly woman carrying a few turkeys and other groceries in a pull cart. At the time, I thought nothing of the lady or this scene.
However, it did allow me to reflect on some of my religious upbringings from the past. While people literally would put on their “Sunday Best” before walking into church to bow, chant, hug, and love each other; we were really just putting on an show for each other. We all put on our masks and went through the routines. Once walking out of the church, if we were to see an elderly woman such as this, we would be told not to do anything because they were likely trying to scam us out of money, abduct us, or kill us.
This is how extreme the fear-based society has become. We are guided with fear, rather than love; which creates separation, as opposed to our natural instinctual reaction to connect.
This is where spirituality differs from religion. Spirituality is about finding a connection to the world outside of ourselves, finding a sense of purpose and meaning, and living in harmony in the present moment with our surroundings. Spirituality teaches us that we are all one interconnected being and that at our true core there is only unconditional love.
Religion is a type of spirituality. It is meant to offer all of the above. In fact, if you look into the basic teachings of all religions, you will find this exact same message. However, as these messages get misinterpreted throughout the years we have received the opposite message. Religion starts to create separation and judgment which is the opposite of its intent – much like Christmas.
As explained by Don Migeul Ruiz:
There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play the game with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, &Okay, let’s play the most wonderful game, but you do what I tell you to do.& Brahma agreed and following Maya’s instructions, he created the whole universe, the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. He created life on earth: the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.
Maya said, &How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create an animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your own creation.& Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start.
&We will start right now,& she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece inside every human and said, &Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!& Maya created the Dream and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. When you awake from the Dream, you become Brahma again and reclaim your divinity. You now know the trick of Maya and can share the truth with others who are going to wake up too.
This story explains how we are to find ourselves, and find God, in every person we encounter. We don’t do this buy purchasing items at a store, but by helping those in need, and showing unconditional love to each soul we encounter.
As all these thoughts were going through my mind, my friend comes out of the store and starts speaking with the elderly woman. As they continue to chat, I got out of the car to see what was going on. As I approached them, I noticed the woman’s wheel on her pull cart was missing.
“We are giving her a ride home,” my friend told me without asking. She never hesitated, she saw an opportunity and did the right thing without thinking or judging.
We packed her bags into the car and drove her about another mile to her house. It was a very cold day and her bags were awfully heavy. There is no way she would have been able to make it that far on her own. Many people saw her, but no one did anything, which was probably all based out of fear. Fear of a disabled, elderly woman on Thanksgiving.
I was overcome with emotion, and was told by my friend not to talk about it. She said “that is just what we should do, so I do it.”
I thought that is so true and so simple. We should do what we should do. Yet, no one seems to do this and I am not excluding myself. This is the difference between being guided by fear, as opposed to love. As John Lennon said:
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from lie. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
This is the real meaning of life. This is the real meaning of Christmas. To help, to give, to be with others and to love unconditionally. It doesn’t have to be some big act.
“People who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.”
Christmas and life is about helping the elderly lady. It is about loving each other on a daily basis. It is about calling your parents, family, and friends and just being there for anyone and everyone. If we treated everyone like they were a piece of God, maybe then we would realize behave differently.
It doesn’t matter what we call our God, it is all the same. It is similar to the story of nine blind men that were all reaching out and touching an elephant. Each of the men were touching a different part of the elephant and describing what they felt. One is touching the elephant’s leg and says “it is a tree”; another is touching its tail and says “it is a rope”; another is touching its trunk and says “it is a snake”; another it touching a tusk and says “It is a spear”; another is touching its body and says “it is a wall”. However, they are all touching the same elephant. Imagine if they all fought and killed each other over this argument. How silly that would be? They are all blind, and they are all right. But they are fighting over their perspective.
The same way we fight wars over who is right about religion. Is it possible we are all right? And we are all wrong?
We are told we need this God in our lives to survive. But, in essences, it is the opposite. For it is this created God that is leading us to killing each other, phony holidays, and self-hatred and destruction. This holiday symbolizes all of the above. In order to survive, we need to remove the mask of God and remove the mask of Christmas.
How the Grinch Saved Christmas
While we like to claim the Grinch stole Christmas, it is clear he did the opposite. He saw the true meaning of Christmas and put an end to the charade. While his means were extreme, by stealing all the presents; he learned that the real meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with exchanging gifts, but exchanging love.
The Grinch was not the bad guy. The Grinch was a revolutionary but was misguided with fear, which led to his acts. But once all the gifts were gone, the masks were removed, everyone lived together in harmony.
For it is Wall Street, Corporations, and organized religions that “stole” Christmas by hijacking the holiday and changing the meaning. It comes from St. Nicholas who gave up all material wealth to help those in need. Yet, after the title was stolen it has turned into a celebration of consumerism and greed.
We need the Grinch to steal back this holiday to help us remember the true meaning.