Now that I spend more time with people who weren't born in the US, I see American culture differently. I'm fascinated by the things such people identify as being good and bad about us. I have new appreciation for our American never-say-die attitude and the way we're a culture of second chances. We pride ourselves on not quitting and that's often an admirable trait.
But I'm now much more aware of how hollow our Christmas is. I know, I know: it's been this way my whole life and I've been listening to others complain about the commercialization of Christmas for decades. But I've still maintained a child's glowing view of the Christmas season. With my child's adoration of it, I've overlooked the crass merchandising and pretended our American enthusiasm for Christmas items in October showed how devoted we were to celebration and warm feelings.
But hearing how the American Christmas makes us look to others has been very sobering. Apparently, it doesn't take long for someone who moves here as an adult to see through Christmas buzz words like "joy" and "family" and "celebrate." They can see that each of those words is usually connected to spending money, in spite of our heavy insistence that Christmas is really about God. No, American holiday hypocrisy isn't news to me, but I was successfully deluding myself that we weren't so different from the rest of the world. I wanted to believe the whole planet used Jesus' feast day to make truckloads of money. But they don't. It's uncomfortable to realize that in France and Mexico and Germany they celebrate without our drive to conduct massive commerce at the same time. The United States is unique in how fiercely we insist that Christmas is about Christ while we inextricably link our celebration of his feast day to spending money, money, money and acquiring more things, things, things.
So, sadly, a bit of the shine is off of Christmas for me. This year, my Christmas inner child has grown up a little.