Straight Talk
CANDICE MALCOLM - Christmas needs capitalism

Credits: FOTOLIA


There can be more than one true meaning of Christmas.

The Pope has told Catholics not to let consumerism overshadow the true meaning of the Christmas celebration. That true meaning for Christians, of course, is celebrating the birth of their Lord Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem.

But Christmas doesn't just have to be about the recognition of Christ's sacrifices. The "true meaning" of Christmas has changed as our society has developed. Christmas has grown from a somber day, to a fun celebration of life, of family, and of the prosperity we have all built.

Let me just say: capitalism has been the key to this transformation and we shouldn't be ashamed of it. We shouldn't shun capitalism at Christmas; we should celebrate it!

Look at the history of Christmas alongside the economic history of the West. The holiday has long existed, but it didn't become our biggest holiday until the 19th century. After the Enlightenment and then the Industrial Revolution, political and economic freedom provided new opportunities for everyone, especially to the poor and middle classes.

People were finally allowed to pursue their own dreams, own their property, trade their goods, and heck - even buy each other Christmas presents!

It is no coincidence that Christmas grew in importance just as we were getting rich. Families celebrated their new affluence by exchanging gifts, feasting with family and friends, and singing Christmas carols.

They rejoiced in their faith and good fortunes. This is the spirit of Christmas.

Just imagine Christmas without capitalism. It would be pretty depressing. Communist Russia banned Christmas, and when Stalin eventually permitted it, he changed the date and watered it down with communist symbols and characters. People were poor and miserable; there really wasn't much to celebrate. Capitalism is part of what makes Christmas so special.

Those who say capitalism centers upon greed and selfishness ignore Christmas, a holiday grounded in charitable giving, goodwill, and helping the needy. Each year, the average Canadian donates about $1,500 to the charity of their choice, according to the Fraser Institute's Generosity Index. Much of this happens around Christmas, the season of giving.

Santa Clause as we know him today was depicted in a 1930s Coca-Cola ad - the company that embodies North American capitalism. But the story of St. Nicholas filling stockings with gifts dates back to 4th century Byzantine. Remember, St. Nic isn't just the Patron Saint of Children, he's also the Patron Saint of Merchants.

And now Christmas is as Canadian as ice hockey or maple syrup. All cultures and religions can celebrate capitalism, freedom, and prosperity during Christmas. This includes religious freedom to celebrate any holiday you please. All these aspects represent Christmas.

The Pope is correct that Christmas began as the solemn recognition of Christ, but it has grown and now reflects the freedom and happiness brought on by capitalism. And there is nothing wrong with celebrating that too.

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