We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. - Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”
It’s that time of year again! Despite the efforts of retailers (I’m especially looking at you, Wal-Mart) to move it up as early as possible, today is the traditional start of the Christmas season in the United States. As I wrote in my first Christmas Eve column,
…Christmas displays [now] start going up on November 1st, and many have referred to Thanksgiving as a “forgotten holiday”, overshadowed even by what is vulgarly (and endlessly) referred to as “Black Friday”…now touted as an observance in its own right.
A few years ago I noticed that many email ads now refer to Thanksgiving week as “Black Friday week”, and online merchants created their own pseudo-holiday called “Cyber Monday” (which has also spread to Canada, Europe, the UK and other countries). People have been decrying the increasing commercialism of Christmas at least since the 1950s, but I think some of those early critics would have a stroke if they could see what it’s turned into now. I try to deal with it as little as possible; most of my presents have already been purchased and wrapped, and as soon as we finish decorating our tree today they’re going under it. The few things I still need will be purchased on normal shopping trips, and I’m not going anywhere near a store either today or anytime between December 21st and 28th if I can possibly help it.
Though it may sound sentimental to some of you, I really do believe it’s a greater pleasure to give than to receive, and though I no longer have the kind of surplus cash I did when I was hooking I still make the effort to be especially generous at this time of year. As Christmas approaches I will make up gift boxes full of homemade treats for all the local businesses who regularly trade with us, and I always give what I can to the US Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, my favorite charity. If you’re in the United States please read the linked column and consider donating at least one new toy for an underprivileged child who might otherwise have to do without; if you don’t want to go to a toy store you can even donate money directly on the website via credit card. Furthermore, as I have the past two years, I will make a donation of equal monetary value to Toys for Tots in the name of anyone thoughtful enough to send me a present from my Amazon wishlist anytime from now until Christmas. If you’re outside the US in a country that celebrates Christmas, won’t you please take a few minutes to discover if there are any similar charities where you live? As I’ve said before, being a poor adult at Christmas is bad enough, but children can neither control their situations nor understand economic realities.
There is one Christmas-associated charity which I ask my readers to avoid, however, and that is the Salvation Army. As I explained in “Bell, Hook and Kettle”, the SA was among the earliest promoters of “sex trafficking” hysteria:
…by 1884 Salvationists were composing lurid accounts of “child sex slavery” and soon launched a campaign to raise the age of consent in the UK from 13 to 16. The moral panic they helped to create was the driving force behind most modern anti-prostitution law, especially in the United States. Once these laws were in place the Salvationists’ efforts to persecute whores became much less energetic…but in 2003, the Salvation Army reclaimed its prominent place among crusaders against harlots by establishing its “National Anti-trafficking Council”, one of whose principles is “Prostitution and related activities are not forms of work, are inherently harmful and dehumanizing, and contribute to the phenomenon of trafficking in persons.” It was one of the instigators behind the “Anti-prostitution pledge”…its propaganda calls all prostitution “sexual slavery”, and its name is always found alongside that of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Polaris Project, the Hunt Alternatives Fund, Shared Hope International and other anti-sex worker organizations whenever they agitate for further criminalization…
Though the bell-ringers make it easy to donate and most of the money put into the kettles does indeed go to helping local poor, there is just no way to know how much of it will be diverted to buying anti-whore ads and lobbying governments for increased criminalization. So please, take the time to find a charity worthy of your generosity, especially ones like Toys for Tots or food banks where the distribution is not only local, but the donations are in a form which cannot easily be diverted to promote a political agenda.