The most wonderful time of the year?

About this time a week and a half ago I was at home sitting by a fire and stuffed sick with turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, squash, corn, green beans, second helpings of all the above and pumpkin pie.

Basically, I was pretty much the happiest person on the face of the earth.

Then I turned on the television and was reminded that in fewer than five hours it would officially be Black Friday. Unofficially, however, Black Friday had probably begun hours before I had even sat down and stuffed my face.

The brief TV report I saw showed lines of eager shoppers waiting at the doors of some retail outlet. Judging by the time of the report, it was apparent that some of the people who populated these lines had foregone enjoying their Thanksgiving meal that evening, choosing instead to camp out in front of a store on lawn chairs and bundled in layer upon layer of flannel.

My mom and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes (I probably was also still licking off the last remnants of gravy and turkey that remained around my lips and wishing I could go back for thirds). She and I both know how silly this time of year gets, and we can laugh together at the hysteria that it creates.

But there is truly something a bit disturbing about all that hysteria that beckons a little more than simple eye-rolling. Last week’s already-infamous incident at Wal-Mart that left an employee dead at the hands – er, feet – of over-excited shoppers is evidence that something truly sadistic underlies what we should otherwise consider a benign holiday.

Indeed, I won’t be the first, nor the last, to decry the consumerist mind set that seems to have locked its jaws around Christmas and sucked the joy right out of the holiday. Such an argument seems to be common discussion and newspaper-editorial fodder around this time of year, and I’ll beg your forgiveness for beating a dead horse by saying this, but it must be said – something’s wrong with Christmas in this country.

I probably only truly realized this for the first time last year. I would have slept in, had doing so been possible, but my younger brothers – God bless their gift-eager hearts – made sure I was at the tree by the standard present-opening time, which means I was up at the crack of dawn.

I usually try to conceal my anticipation for receiving gifts on Christmas, instead attempting vainly to adhere to the truer meaning of the holiday. But I admit it’s near impossible not to get excited about opening up a mountain of presents – I just can’t help it.

And so, try as I might to avoid wrapping the spirit of Christmas in giftwrap, the excitement surrounding the holiday seemed to evaporate last year as soon as the last present was opened. My efforts at Christmas purism had failed.

Indeed, I cannot judge the people waiting in line Thanksgiving Day to rush after hot deals at Wal-Mart or Best Buy, nor can I judge even the stampeding shoppers who killed a man over a sale. I’m one of the same, even if my corrupted ambitions surrounding Christmas don’t manifest themselves in quite the same ways.

But I write this story with a purpose – the thing I learned last year was that it is impossible to avoid falling into the false excitement and silly anxiety that surrounds Christmas unless you completely – and I mean completely – break ties with the consumerist message.

This year I told my parents not to buy me anything for Christmas at all. If I had nothing to anticipate, I’d have nothing to get between me and the holiday’s true and blessed spirit. I didn’t pass that memo onto other family members, though, and my parents have promised to get me something anyway, if not simply a smaller amount of something than they got me last year. So I guess I’ll get something this Christmas after all.

But there’s been a conscious shift within me since last year, one that I know – or at least hope – will keep the consumerist spirit out of this year’s holiday. And, hopefully, next year I will get even less.

And, just as a side note, getting rid of all the presents and hype has one more benefit – it will make it even easier to anticipate stuffing my face with Christmas turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, squash, corn, green beans, second helpings of all the above and pumpkin pie all the more.

Merry early Christmas.

Bennett is a junior print journalism major and staff writer for The Spectator.