Monday, November 27, 2006

Reflections on Holidays and Shopping

It's been a long week. Holidays have a tendency to get in the way of routine sometimes, although this one has been nicer than others I've had in the most recent past. One of the good things about being sidelined from work is that I was actually able to spend time with my wife and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. That in itself made me happy.

I've been hearing and reading news reports about the so-called "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" crazy shopping days, and from what I've been able to glean out of what I've seen and heard, it doesn't sound as though the Christmas shopping season has started out with great craze. That said, I was listening to CNN on my way to work this morning, and one of the reports was about this very subject, in fact, with some other reporting about the stock market and other things related to it. The gist of the reports I heard, in essence, was that while the start of the holiday shopping season seemed to be robust, you wouldn't know it by the way stocks are, at this point. The top 30 retailers on the NYSE, according to the report, had 25 of their number lose value. Other companies on the NYSE, and on the AMEX as well, were having difficulty maintaining their value due to profit-taking. That didn't surprise me, though; think about the fact that over approximately the past 4 months the Stock Market has increased dramatically in value, to the point where hearing that its value is up over 12,000 is becoming commonplace. Is the selling off of shares a bad thing? I don't think so, especially when the value of the market shares of any company trading on it increase. The selling/profit-taking/whatever you want to call it is a safety valve of sorts, and this so-called safety valve keeps things from becoming overly-inflated and having a type of false value associated with it. It keeps those folks who work on the exchange as brokers, etc., honest. And it keeps the rest of us who don't trade, because we are mere mortals, interested.

I guess my point is that no matter what your perspective is, it's either really good or really bad to shop at the holidays or to work in the places people shop at. I don't consider myself a scrooge, but I do feel that holiday shopping can become rather overblown. Honestly, what is the origin, and the meaning, of Christmas, anyway? Did the three wise men find the Baby Jesus sitting next to a tree with wrapped presents underneath it? I don't think so; last time I checked, the story of how it went, according to Luke's Gospel, goes, "and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn [Luke 2:7 NAB]." Now tell me - where was the "Good Will Toward Men" in that? I mean, Mary and Joseph were homeless when she gave birth to Jesus. They also were being hunted by Herod. Both of these circumstances didn't bode well for them, and being made to share space with farm animals was especially difficult with a newborn. However, the meaning of this is missed on most of us, I suspect; even though they were in misfortune because of the situation they were in, the animals probably provided a fair amount of warmth, the straw was clean (I hope), and they were able to stay dry. Plus, if Joseph and Mary were the kind of parents I think they were, I suspect they were not as concerned about their surroundings (or their plight) as they were about their newborn child.

I guess I got a little scattered there, but my point is simple: Christmas shouldn't be about the shopping. The meaning is much deeper, and if you're willing to take a break from the insanity of finding that Perfect Gift for a loved one and look for that meaning, it's worth the time to do that.

On a lighter note..... I was reminded of the "bloody vikings" recently; my son and I were chatting about Monty Python's Flying Circus over the weekend, and the conversation turned to Spam. He reminded me that I am a lunatic when I am not medicated. Anyway, that conversation inspired me to locate the video, and I have posted it below for your viewing pleasure. Notice the subtitles in Japanese - I find this extremely funny just by itself, the sketch notwith standing.

Till next time.

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