Introduction:

I’ve decided to start a new series of posts here on my blog.  It’s called, “Why Everything You’ve Ever Loved is Terrible” (or WEYELT in the tags).  These posts are more Pop Culture inspired than aesthetics inspired.  That doesn’t mean that aesthetics doesn’t play a role though.  In fact I think there’s a real give and take relationship between pop culture and aesthetics.  Pop culture is made up of images, which means aesthetic theories can be applied to them.  In turn, it seems a bit naïve to think that the pop culture of the time had no influence on these philosophers’ theories of aesthetics.

I supposed before I get started I should just clarify what I mean by Popular Culture.  While there are numerous definitions of what pop culture is, many of which make a distinction between high culture and pop culture, for me pop culture is simply culture that is popular.  I make no judgments of quality.

On with the show!

 

Christmas:

Since Christmas is only a few days away, I decided to use it as the start of this series.  Though Christmas isn’t terrible per se, especially if you embrace is for what it really is.  I suppose the alternate title for this is really, “Why People Who Complain that Christmas has Gotten Too Commercial are Idiots.”  But that doesn’t really roll off the tongue.  Anyway, those readers who know me probably know that this semester I wrote a paper about Hallmark Christmas ornaments (and now everyone else is caught up), and it’s the research for that paper that’s inspired this post.

The Christmas that we think of and celebrate today (in America) is largely influenced by the “traditional” English Christmas, which was invented in the mid-1800s.  The Victorians were great at inventing traditions and making it seem like they had been around for centuries.  This version of Christmas has been commercial from its inception.

Theologically speaking, Christmas has never really been the big holiday.  Easter is really the more important one, since it celebrates Jesus’ resurrection, which is generally seen as being more significant.  We don’t even really know Christ’s actual birthday.  December 25th was chosen to compete with the various non-Christian winter festivities.  Before the Victorians Christmas wasn’t really a big deal, and often wasn’t celebrated at all.  So why did the Victorians reinvent the holiday?  It’s no coincidence that the holiday became popular only after the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution brought with it the ability to make a lot of stuff.  And the new jobs brought a new class who had money and wanted to buy well, a lot of stuff.  All these changes also brought a nostalgia for simpler, better times (that never actually existed, by the way).  It was out of this nostalgia and looking for an excuse to buy things that the traditional Christmas was born.

Nearly every aspect of the new Christmas had consumerism at its base – Christmas cards, trees, buying gifts, even Christmas carols.  Essentially the traditional Christmas was a celebration of a new market economy, with a religious aspect tacked on to ease some guilt.  Does this mean Christmas is terrible?  No, not really.  Christmas can be a joyous time, a time of family and generosity.  It’s a time that many people look forward to all year, and not just for the free stuff.  And hey, if the holiday helps some people get more in touch with their religion/spirituality, that’s great too.  Just don’t go yelling about “keep Christ in Christmas” when from the beginning he’s barely been a part of it.

There’s also Santa. In America Santa Claus is a jolly old elf with a stomach like a bowl full of jelly. His past is a bit more sinister though. His ancestors were far more mean and way more into corporal punishment. If you were a child back in old Germany, Holland, and the like if you were bad, you didn’t get coal. You got a beating. Even the original Christmas trees had a judgment aspect to them, similar to that of St. Nicholas.
 

I won't even get into the fact that the most popular image of Santa was designed for Coca-Cola.

I won’t even get into the fact that the most popular image of Santa was designed for Coca-Cola.

If you find this topic interesting I recommend reading The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum, Christmas in America: A History by Penne L. Restad and/or Christmas, Ideology, and Popular Culture by Sheila Whitely.

Or if you want to yell at me for being a blasphemous heathen, I also recommend reading those books.

And if you need another reason Christmas can be terrible, make sure to check out the Weird Fetish of the Day over at Pizza Clubhouse.

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