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Does Money Cheapen Celebration?


I’ve been to perfectly lovely weddings that cost about $5,000, some of which were nicer than weddings I’ve attended that cost more than $28,000 (the average cost of a U.S. wedding, if you can believe it). What made the difference? It depended on whether the money merely bought more stuff—and the entire event felt like a “bacchanalia,” or whether the money complemented the love for which weddings exist to confirm and celebrate.

Christmas is very much the same. I’ve known families that spend thousands of dollars on Christmas, with several trees around the house and new decorating schemes every year, plus gallons of lights and piles of presents. Even if we could afford that, I don’t think it would be very good for me or my young children. I honestly don’t like them to get more than two or three presents on their birthdays because we have more toys than I want to pick up ten times a day. So I rotate the toys, hiding half of them in bins in the basement. I’ve noticed that the kids enjoy their toys far more when they have fewer to concentrate on.

This is all part of the “money can’t buy you love,” theme, or my belief that, while money is not itself evil, people do a lot of stupid and evil things with it—such as driving themselves crazy following the stores into Christmas right after Halloween. It’s really hard to enjoy Christmas, a wedding or a life, if the celebration is consumed entirely by stuff, rather than using stuff to complement the reasons we celebrate. It’s the difference between buying to give or employ over buying just to buy.

[pullquote]     The fault lies not with tools such as money or gifts, but with how our broken souls abuse them.[/pullquote]

However, when people criticize commercialism, they often go overboard to the other extreme. My family did this when I was in middle school. We stopped celebrating Christmas, because the holiday had become so overwhelming. To this day, my family doesn’t really celebrate Christmas. I understand the impulse, but in our own new family we do like to celebrate Christ, as the church has done for centuries. And, we believe seasons are good for humans. Doing away with Christmas just because our culture abuses its meaning would be like eschewing weddings because Kim Kardashian’s wedding pig-out ended in divorce three months later.

As always, the fault lies not with tools such as money or gifts, but with how our broken souls abuse them. If you want some ideas about how to transform your Christmas season from “materialism central” to a heart-felt, appropriate celebration, this article at The Federalist is pitch-perfect. And if anyone has further ideas or thoughts on how to handle this tension, I would love to read them.