Germany Says “Enough!” To Christmas Commercialization Creep; What Do You Say?

How early is too early to hear Christmas carols in a shopping center? Does “Black Friday” ruin the Thanksgiving holiday? Is there something wrong with Christmas lights going up in November?

These are not new questions for us Americans. The tug-of-war between keeping Christmas special and maximizing both its joy and its bottom line has been going on since I can remember, and I’m not what they call “young.”

But I’ve been interested to notice lately, on the edges of the news, stories about Germans pushing back against “Christmas Creep.” There is even talk of regulating when Christmasy treats can begin to be sold! The Christian Science Monitor cites a recent German poll on the subject:

According to the survey, done by the polling institute YouGov for the news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 1 in 3 Germans want the government to regulate when stores can start selling Christmas gingerbread cakes and other Christmas goodies. Most of the survey’s 1,000 respondents say that that date should be Nov. 30. Half say the early display of Christmas commercialism erodes the meaning of Christmas.

Yep, that’s right: the government telling stores when they’re allowed to start selling. Can you wrap your head around such an idea even being uttered in America, let alone approved of?

Sigh. Of COURSE I don’t want that kind of regulation in my own country. But. I sure wish consumers and advertisers could get together and make their own “regulation”–i.e., common sense. Respect. Dare I say “honor”–of the meaning of Christmas?

What a hoot. Get a grip, Wing.

Germany and Austria are also apparently waging a war against Santa Claus–bless their hearts. According to the website dw.de, 

Bettina Schade says she doesn’t have anything personal against Santa Claus. In fact, she likes a lot of things about today’s celebrations of Christmas — the lighted trees, the gold ornaments, the silver stars.

But all the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas. She’d like to see things changed, or at least toned down a little.

“The Christian origins of Christmas, like the birth of Jesus, have receded into the background,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more a festival that is reduced to simply worldly gifts and to commerce.”

She is part of a campaign called the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative, founded by a Roman Catholic priest in Frankfurt, Eckhard Bieger. Alarmed by the growing commercialization of Christmas in Germany, he launched the initiative that’s aimed at putting St. Nicholas, a fourth-century monk, back in the Christmas spotlight where he used to be.

The article goes on to point out what all Americans ought to know (though I’m guessing that most don’t), which is that our current image of Jolly Old Saint Nick was created for, and promoted by, the Coca-Cola Company. The “real” St. Nicholas would probably not have sold too many fizzy drinks. Which is kinda the point.

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

Orig. photo courtesy Wikimedia; Jonathan Meath portraying Santa)

I am not intending here a discussion of the so-called “War on Christmas”–you’ll need to go to someone else’s blog for that. But I am interested to hear if my readers have similar ideas on when is a good season for Christmassy “stuff,” and when is not. Perhaps you hate seeing wrapping paper on sale in October, for example, but still enjoy Christmas lights as soon as Daylight Savings Time kicks in.

Can you articulate when you like to begin to see, hear and smell “Christmas,” and when you do not–and why?

Speaking of News: Why I Love the Christian Science Monitor

First, you have to know: I’m not a Christian Scientist. There are probably others who are LESS of a Christian Scientist than I am, but…not too many.

But if you’ve never looked at one, don’t let the Christian Science Monitor’s name scare you away. This is one SUPERB magazine. I know I described in my last post how I use my husband as my news source, but that’s for TV. My daily breakfast (when I’m not at the bakery) = cereal + Monitor.

It used to be a 5 days-a-week newspaper, which I received as a Christmas gift over a decade ago from my parents. I was soon driving myself crazy trying to keep up with the daily waves of great writing that washed into my mailbox, and usually ended up reading the last pages of each issue–the op-eds and book reviews, plus the PMADs (I’ll get to those in a minute)–on weekends.

Problem was, EVERY ARTICLE gave me something to chew on. First of all, the Monitor has an enormous staff, so their writers are all over the globe, deeply embedded into the population of some pretty out-of-the-way places. So you get REAL stories about Mali, about Bolivia, about Uzbekistan. (If Herman Cain had read the Monitor, he would have remembered much more than who was the President of “Uzbeki-bekistan.”)

I may be a little shaky on Justin Bieber’s latest exploits, but even without my regular dose of NPR or The Mate’s updates from Al Jazeera and CNN, I can tell you what’s going on in South Sudan.

A few years ago, the Monitor switched to a weekly focus. Thank goodness! Even now, though, if I travel, I get behind, but I can NOT throw away an unread issue. I just work through ’em slowly, like good novels.

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The main reason for this savoring has to do with the penultimate page, which is always the PMAD: People Making a Difference.

When my heart is sick of terrorist bombings and imperialistic annexations, I flip to the back of any issue and read about a woman who lost her brother but finds peace helping kids in the Philippines. Or an Indian woman who recruits men in the fight against domestic violence against women. Or a former gang-member tutoring inmates in reading. Or a guy adopting a houseful of Nepalese orphans. Or someone living on a remote beach to protect endangered sea turtle nesting sites. Or…

The stories go on and on. Good news in a troubled world. They all include resources to get in touch, or to contribute if the story has touched you. They all leave me feeling heartened, and renewed in my own commitment to continue making my own small difference in the world.

What if…hold up, here’s the craziest thought: what if ALL news media included a bit of that, in between the important pieces on terrorist bombings and Justin Bieber?

I know. I know. But a girl can dream.

And I can collect my own PMADs…from you. Tell me (briefly) about an unsung hero that you know about. Who is someone in your own life who is Making a Difference?