It's Harder to Be Christian During Christmas in the States?

Ok, I admit that I mainly wanted to practice writing a “catchy” title for this post. I’m sure that people who know me are thinking something along the lines of “but you’re not even Christian!” And I’m not in the U.S. right now either. But I did just read a fantastic TIME article about how Christian church groups are standing up against the insane commercialization of Christmas in the States, offering some proof that this title might not be as outrageous as it appeared at first glance.

What I really wanted to write about was how I found myself slipping back into a more commercial/American mindset when I left the Philippines, which manifested itself in the fashion magazines that I pored over and many additions to a mental wishlist of wants. And also when I found myself back in the States at Honolulu International Airport facing an array of eats at the food court. My first instinct was “I want McDonald’s.” Which is not a rational decision because I rarely feel the need to go to McDonald’s and indulge in a Big Mac. I usually indulge in Pringles when I feel the need for junk food – another story for another time.

For me, choosing to eat McDonald’s or some other American fast food chain is (usually) more of a capitulation to what that meal symbolizes (e.g. American culture) as opposed to actually wanting to eat fast food. The fact that I didn’t actually end up eating at McDonald’s in Honolulu because there wasn’t one that I could see, or because I saw mapo tofu instead (way too tempting to give up after 2+ months of no tofu) is irrelevant. I can only shake my head at the commercial success of American fast food companies that makes me crave “something really American and easily accessible” with more regularity when I’m traveling to and from the U.S. – despite the fact that fast food is trashy.

Another thing that struck me when I left the Philippines was how I immediately slipped back into the American mindset of constantly weighing the (perceived) value of my time and how much that time gets wasted on a regular basis. At Hawaiian Airline’s check-in line in Manila Airport, I was stopped by airline employees no less than three times because I had let slip that I was carrying a lithium laptop battery in my check-in luggage. When I finally capitulated and laid my suitcase down to pull out the offending battery, another gentleman slipped past me and cut my place in line. After I quickly pulled out that damn battery I then proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes glaring and feeling generally pissed off at the world. Yes, I had just waited in a line that snaked across the concourse for almost an hour. But was it really worth it for me to spend the last 15 minutes in line feeling angry and sorry for myself? Not really.

As an American who’s just spent a few months abroad, the “commercial” aspect of the American psyche really stands out in high relief when I returned to the States. And this aspect of the American psyche is something I’d like to ditch in favor of something a little more zen. I think I found my zen in the Philippines – now I just need to figure out how to retain it.

Maybe a more fitting title for this post would be it’s harder to be Christian in the commercialized environment of the States, period? 😉

To wrap up with something completely non-related and has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas (since tonight is Christmas Eve) – but will make you laugh – check out the octopus video below!

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