Christmas in New York

There's no denying that shopping sprees dominate New York during Christmas. All the malls, department stores and even little shops are jam-packed with humanity. With all these frenzy, one would think it's the end of the world and everyone's panic-buying all sorts of stuff before the Armageddon. Even the Europeans from across the Atlantic have invaded Saks Fifth, Barneys, Macy's, and Century 21, armed as they were with stronger Euros and Pounds against the weakening US dollar. As I see everyone struggling with bulging shopping bags, I wonder where exactly is the spirit of Christmas in all these commercial extravaganza?
Is it solely in the shopping? Ever since the biblical three kings showed up in the manger laden with gifts for an infant Jesus, the idea of gift-giving during Christmas has evolved into a yearly madness where everyone starts worrying what to give someone or give one's self. Retailers are of course just too happy to oblige and foment the fire to splurge - glitzy store displays, advertisements, and mail-in discount coupons act like a lighthouse in an ocean of would-be shopaholics. Even online shopping has become the crowd-free alternative to hunting for that perfect gift. At work, colleagues ask each other: "are you done with your Christmas shopping yet?" The idea of not being able to swipe credit/debit cards or pay cash at the counter during this season seem so absurd as to make one feel like living under the rock. Back in my younger days in the Philippines, the idea of a manito/manita (exchanging gifts) at school hover above my head as I try to think what's best to give above the minimum of 20 pesos. Now in New York, I'm dealing with a minimum of $70 for a Secret Santa with friends.
Unfortunately, not everyone in America believes in Christmas. In the American mainstream of political correctness, it's alright to greet anyone a non-denominational Happy Holidays (as opposed to Merry Christmas) and no one certainly cares if you shop till you drop even if Christmas isn't in your mind. While I was living in Saudi Arabia, the Religious Police (Mutawa) made sure no word bearing Christmas were sold in stores - thus I ended up sending greeting cards emblazoned with Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays and still bought gifts for our Kris Kringle at the hospital.
But for those who truly believe in Christmas, they find more to it beyond all the shopping expeditions and calorific intoxication, remembering fully well why this occasion is such an important part of their lives: families and friends gather together and remember the birth of Jesus Christ. For Christians and Catholics, honoring the birthday celebrant is the reason for having Christmas and should never be lost in the haze of holiday euphoria.

How would you feel if everyone attends your party and forget it is your birthday?
Merry Christmas to all!

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