MURPHY: It’s the most appropriately-rated time of the year

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Ryan Murphy

It’s that time of year: Christmas music plays everywhere you go, the Hallmark Channel is popular with moms again and stores are chockfull of Christmas displays and deals. Despite the cold, people are warmer, and not because of their hot chocolate or peppermint coffee (though those don’t hurt), but at the prospect of reconnecting with family and friends, eating rich foods and exchanging gifts. Andy Williams is absolutely correct: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Not everyone is so enchanted, as my colleague to the left makes clear. “It’s annoying! It’s too commercialized!” she and her lot complain.

As simple as it would be to brush them off as Grinches, let us entertain their arguments – entertaining, after all, is a large part of the holiday season.

Their most common complaint is the music – what other holiday has its own genre? No stores play “Here comes Peter Cottontail” in the month leading up to Easter! It’s true that we all have at least one carol we would like to hear less often – mine is “Christmas Shoes;” it’s just too sappy. But the modern world we live in has a solution, and humbly, I recommend it: earbuds.

Today’s Scrooges whine endlessly at how commercialized the holiday season is. It’s so contrary to the entire spirit of Christmas, they argue, to engage in such meaningless consumerism!

But at their most basic level, all the ads and deals around Christmas time are because of gift exchanges. Even the wise men brought the Christ child presents. Today’s commercialized holiday hype is the market’s way of giving gift-givers more options than the gold, frankincense and myrrh the magi had to choose from.

It would be a cold person indeed who had anything to say against giving gifts. Gift giving is forefront at Christmas time, but it is also integral to our humanity. Psychology Today explained that the Biblical aphorism, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” is right, scientifically speaking. Studies show that people feel happier when they spend money on others than when they spend it on themselves.

But that doesn’t make receiving bad. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Melvin Konner explained that gifts are a tangible way for people to express the significance of their friendships and relationships. While the things we buy for ourselves may decline in meaning over time, the things we receive from someone important in our lives retains emotional value. It’s not so much about what we receive as from whom we receive it.

People don’t exclusively spend money on their families and friends during the holiday season, though. It is one of the most popular times for charitable giving. Forbes reported, “almost half of charities receive 30 to 60 percent of their annual contributions between October and December.” Charitable organizations benefit as much from the hype as retailers, and for that reason alone, the season’s hype seems justifiable.

Of course, the most important aspect of the holiday season can never be perfectly represented in a song, symbolized by a gift, or measured with a charitable donation. The gathering of family and friends transcends all those things. Even the bah-humbuggers must admit it. Have fun listening to the corny music and exchanging gifts, but above all, hold your dear ones close. Along with Tiny Tim, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas (or whatever else you are celebrating) and say “God bless us, everyone!”