This time of year is about miracles

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
December 23, 2007

Counting today, there are only two more shopping days left until Christmas. Of course, there are only two more regular days until Christmas, too. It used to be that stores were closed on Christmas Eve and Sunday, so the retailers had to remind us that the calendar count didn't accurately reflect our remaining opportunities for commerce, so we'd better hurry up and get out there and spend.

The suspension of blue laws, Bible Belt tradition and the two-day Christmas retail time-out has rendered the term 'shopping days' irrelevant, but we still use it.

Many people see this as another sign of the terrible commercialization of what should be a very spiritual time of year.

I've grown tired of the debate over 'Happy Holidays' vs. 'Merry Christmas' vs. 'Joyous Festivus.' If Lowe's wants to sell Holiday trees I suppose that's fine with me; we have a Christmas tree at our house, although if we wanted to be true to tradition we would hang it upside down from the ceiling, as was done with the first Christmas trees in 12th-century Europe.

Maybe that means we don't get the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, I was pretty sure of that a couple of weeks ago when my family came home one evening to find our 12-foot Christmas tree lying on the floor, with a room full of broken decorations spread about. I thought it was kind of funny. My wife didn't. What I really needed was three wise men and a miracle to extricate me from the situation.

Christians, Jews, Muslims ' regardless of your religious tradition, that's what this time of year is about: miracles. Even the ancient polytheists celebrated the miracle of the solstice and the return of the sun each late December. If the days were getting shorter, the nights colder and you lived in a hut without central heat and air, I suspect the winter solstice was a pretty big miracle.

So have we lost sight of the true Meaning of the Season? All of the forwarded emails I receive suggest so. But if this is all about miracles and the reality (or even the possibility) of God in man, I'm not so sure.

Sure, we have a lot more shopping days now, but in a society that is inherently selfish and greedy, think about all the effort and money we spend on buying gifts for others this month.

Maybe we do it in a way that creates anxiety. Perhaps some people get a little too uptight about getting the perfect gift or they feel pressured into getting their fourth step-cousin's ex-son-in-law a present. But how many times a year do people go to such effort on behalf of others?

I know a lot of it is driven by marketing that tells us that we are supposed to buy all these gifts. So maybe in an attempt to make a zillion dollars, Wal-Mart is actually creating some real Christmas miracles. It's a stretch, but think about it.

Some families only get together once a year ' at Christmas. Now there's a miracle. And if some of them can get through the day without a fight, that's one of those huge, Class A miracles.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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