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Individuals should not be pressured to conform to social mores associated with a specific date. While holidays act as an efficient medium for getting large portions of a community to perform certain actions (or to celebrate in certain ways), they should not dictate human behavior in a private setting – specifically the home. Holidays are best used as a means to organize and control large social events, not individual customs.
When holidays are celebrated in the home in a traditional manner, there exists a barrier to dynamic behavior. Actions become predictable and lose meaning, not to mention we become bombarded by expectations. Flexibility is sucked out of consciousness when we are forced to act a certain way, all because of a social construct. When we act a certain way year after year, the significance of the action becomes more dependent on the fact that it is tradition, and not on the real results of the action. It is a case of the means being valued more than the ends, which I have argued against before (though context is important). Essentially, the goal changes to following a set behavior pattern because tradition brings comfort. Why is this so?
People value tradition because it is perceived as an efficient means of attaining something, even if that something is as subjective as personal comfort. It is a created stereotype of self-action, but need not be created by the self. Tradition evolves out of our need to stick with what we are used to. It is our desire for safety and our fear of the unknown. It is the desire to adopt what works and the illusion of resourcefulness.
Regarding Christmas, I could not understand the emphasis on presents. It became an expectation long before I was born. It is ingrained in my psyche, it is deemed normal, but why? A great emphasis on giving is made to the modern consumer, but should we not be willing to give each day of the year? It has become a form of forced altruism. You must do something good for others, or there will be punishment. It just turns out that the punishment is social in nature. It ruins your reputation, and can facilitate one’s judgment of others. Here is the grand test my friends! What do you think of a man that gives nothing during the holidays? If you are compelled to judge him or think badly of him because he did not give at a certain time of the year, then there is something about this giving that is more sinister.
One should not feel different about a person’s action based on the date and time. If your opinion about someone changes over a holiday, you are creating expectations for others. You are adding restrictions to the kind of behavior that is allowed, based solely on a societal construct. This means society has warped your senses and altered your judgment. This leads me to my next two theses.
Services are more important than material goods when one is not in material need. When dealing with human desires (instead of needs), the level of appreciation for goods and/or services are inversely proportional to the person’s expectations. How do people usually help others or show love? It is through service and the use of time as the primary resource. Even when things are made for others, love is shown through the dedication and use of time to create the said thing. Buying goods is technically a use of time as time is needed to make money, but this is an indirect association. Less labor may go into purchasing gifts than the everyday errands and favors we do for others.
In many cases, gifts are unnecessary, but it is likely that services performed for others are completely necessary. Thus, services generally fulfill a certain need and are much appreciated. These hold a great value because they are dynamic. They belong to the present moment and fulfill current needs. But what about Christmas presents? People know they will be buying gifts year after year. It is expected of them, and these gifts lose value. More joy comes from the unexpected, the spontaneous, and consumers are flooded with expectations and damper the experience. A gift from out of the blue means more because you know for a fact that the person thought of you on their own. They did not need the help of a holiday.
Now imagine how one would value a service, such as the husband doing the dishes, if there were a day dedicated to this year after year. No longer would it be a favor, but a requirement. Not performing that service on that day would be worse than any other day, but an outsider could see the foolishness in such a concept. The same can be applied to gifts given during any particular holiday. If it is not a surprise, it does not excite the individual, and this impacts gratitude.
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I've been begging the people in my family to ignore the holiday season for years, but the presents just keep on coming, and you have to schlep all over the place to make sure you fit everyone in. Oy vey!!!
Thanks for putting all this down into words . . it's nice knowing someone else feels similarly, overmind. WIth love, Michele