It’s the eve before Christmas in the Western world, and if you adhere to the Christian faith (or you just like getting and giving) then you’re trying to prepare for a holly, jolly…well, you know…

Personally, I’m annoyed by Burl Ives’s voice, but the fact the matter is, that the holiday season has changed for many people in the United States and throughout the West.

Call it the backlash against consumerism, the wreck of the post-Industrial Revolution age in which we all now live or the backwash from the events of 2001 and 2008, but there is the image of the holiday season, pushed and promoted through advertising, marketing and media, and then there is the lived reality.

When the legend becomes reality (or fact) the old admonition used to be to “print the legend.” And while that admonition still holds in too many public spheres, the fact is that much of the Western public, privately has moved on, forging new meaning and new definitions for this time of the year. And the fact that those definitions and meanings don’t show up in a Youtube video, or in a television advertisement, doesn’t make them less valid.

Things have changed in three areas:

Family experiences seem to matter more than gifts: Much is regularly made about how the “definition of family is changing” or has shifted in the last 40 years, but quite honestly, people still travel and communicate with people than they know, like and love over the holiday season now, more than ever before.

Public political proclamations don’t matter much at private holiday get together’s: Yes, Uncle Don came out last year after 15 years of being in the closet and is bringing his husband to dinner. Yes, Niece Sharon is 34 and had a child without a “man” in her life and is bringing the new child to dinner. Yes, Cousin Matt is a political conservative and a business man who just married an African-American woman who is a vegetarian and won’t eat the turkey.

A lot is made of these surface divisions in the media, political writing, and even in marketing, but the fact is, family and friends either get over it, or they fake it like they have until the person (or persons) have left, in order to preserve the peace, aiming at the higher goal of “family togetherness.” This is not wrong, this is not right. This just is. And for all of the family strife that is typically marketed (or displayed) in individuals’ Facebook feeds, the vast majority still gather around a table with people they disagree with.

The gadgets are not anymore the separators than the newspaper and television were 40 years ago: Are people on the screens more often? Yes, because there are more options and more screens than ever before. But while screen time may have increased, the sharing of that screen time with others cannot be accurately measured. The gadgets may separate, but they also draw together, and at the furthest end, are disconnected from when it comes time to engage with meaningful, face-to-face communication.

So, maybe Burl Ives was right, and maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. But while our tools have changed and transformed, the internal stuff that makes us people hasn’t shifted dramatically in a few thousand years.

I think someone else pointed this fact out to stunned crowds without the benefit of high technology around 2000 years ago as well.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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