by David Sisler

The young fellow told his Dad, "I want a Nintendo 64 for Christmas, but I know they are hard to find. So I'll settle for a Sony Play Station."

For ten of the last eleven Christmases, I have made my living working in retail. I have been a manger, knowing my year's bonus would depend on the production of four weeks or less. I have been a salesman, counting on the increased commission that the Christmas selling season brings.

Every year you hear it, this year was no different -- Christmas is too commercialized. Let me say, not as a salesperson, but as a Christian, I am glad Christmas is commercialized! I am glad the world as a whole is catching on to Easter and making it a buying time, too. I am glad that businesses and business people have recognized, even if they don't know what it is, there is something special about Christmas and Easter, and because of that, we can make an extra buck. I would hate to think we had something so wonderful -- the birth, death and resurrection of the Savior -- and that the world of business and merchandise would ignore it. But back to cash register.

As everyone who works behind the sales counter knows, between one third and one half of your firm's annual business is rung up in the days between the Friday following Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Many businesses stay open eleven months so they can have December. If you do not make it then, you will not make it all.

I remember the rage over the Cabbage Patch Doll. I remember one lady who found the long-sought for toy, locked it in the trunk of her car and went back to shopping. When she returned to her vehicle, the trunk had been pried open and the doll was gone. In its place was a note which said, "Put $500 in a plain brown envelope and drop it in the garbage collection box at Third and Elm at midnight tonight, or your Cabbage Patch Doll will be coleslaw!"

This year, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, 300 shoppers charged into a Wal- Mart store which had 48 Tickle Me Elmo dolls for sale. An employee lowering the dolls from the top shelves was hit by the crush, knocked to the floor, and treated for bruises at the local hospital.

Every year, it seems, there is one special toy that our children must have, and we adults act like wild animals trying to find it for our little darlings. I stood in line outside of a store this year, waiting for the gates to go up, so I could search for a coveted gift. Before I arrived, mall security had to be called to control the adults. Inside the store, one man, in his mid-30s and twice the size of the lady behind the counter, screamed at her, "What do you mean, you don't have one for me?! I was here before that woman and she got one!" Tis the Season? Is this the way to celebrate the birthday of God's first born Son?

Now we can add some new traditions to the way we celebrate. Hanging the mistletoe, decking the halls, mixing the egg-nog, sending cards, putting up a tree, and decorating with bright lights will no longer suffice. Now we must fight with fellow shoppers and store clerks so that we can go deeper into debt for something our little darlings -- and our big darlings -- have demanded will be the only thing that will make their Christmas bright.

Or as the young man said, "I will settle for something less than what I want."

So his dad was in the appropriate store, and when the clerk started to say, "We are out of ..." he interrupted and said, "That's okay. We are settling for the Play Station."

With a knowing smile the clerk took down the game and said, "You know it only comes with one controller."

"Okay," dear old Dad said. "Add another."

"And it needs an adapter."

"Right. Throw that in."

"And it doesn't come with a game. Would you like to pick one out?"

At that moment, something happened. Maybe it was the constant add-ons and add-ups. Maybe it was the idea of settling for something less when what he wanted was not available. Maybe it was because, all at once he remembered, "Christmas is not about settling for second best." The father tore up the check he had started writing, thanked the clerk, apologized for making her work needlessly, and walked out of the store. Behind him, someone muttered, "Scrooge!"

Commercialize Christmas? Absolutely. Start advertising in July? If you must. But next year, somewhere in all of the rush, in all of the buying, and the jostling and the pushing and the general ill-will we generate towards each other at this otherwise happiest time of year, stop. Just stop. And like the father of the non-Nintendo Kid say, "This will not do! There is something more to Christmas than this year's gotta-have. And until I can find Him, it will not be Christmas, no matter what the calendar or the advertisers say."


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 12/28/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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