It's the holiday season, which is undoubtedly my favorite time of year and undoubtedly when I'm in the best mood (at least once my final exams are over). Something about the spirit of giving, downtown stores spangled in lights, and songs playing on the radio render late November into December the best time of the year. I always dub the weekend the radio stations switch to Christmas music "the best weekend of the year" and therefore am a huge fan of holiday music.
In mid-November of this year, I was already compiling my annual Christmas playlist I'd listen to when studying. In the midst of searching for songs, I came across NewSong's "The Christmas Shoes." It's a sappy song that I hear many times every year and it has been a talking point--with my family, with my friends, and even in classes when we discuss writing that evokes emotions. Bottom line: it's everywhere.
But this year, in particular, I encountered many examples of backlash against this song, including comedian Patton Oswalt's routine that was mocking the song's lyrics and overall meaning. While the video and animations were meant to be satirical, Oswalt was essentially saying that it's holiday time so we don't want to hear about anything sad, especially this song that he calls "dark and disturbing."
However, what is more disturbing to me is that we are so privileged during the holidays that we don't want to hear about any other people who aren't so fortunate.
It's a pity that hearing about the less fortunate "ruins the mood." I'm sorry that it makes everyone "so depressed" to hear about the spirit of giving. It's too bad that hearing about how a man helped a little boy pay for shoes for his ailing mother "kills the holiday spirit." And Oswalt wasn't the only one to criticize the song. There were many other people bashing this holiday hit ranging from The Joplin Globe to The Guardian. These outlets use twisted logic about how Jesus cares about the shoes you're wearing when you enter heaven and how the man is smug for helping the boy buy the shoes but they convey the same message:
Although people are suffering during holiday time, we don't want to hear it.
But reality check: people are suffering. Rather than taking time to micro-analyze how NewSong conveys the story and what is cliche and what isn't, we should focus on the people who are in similar situations to the boy in the song (because those people exist). We should focus on families where a member does suffer during holiday time or families that have to suffer every holiday season with a vacancy at the dinner table, with a missing stocking on the mantle, with one less person collectively singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You."
But as these critiques suggest, we are so privileged that we don't want to hear it. And we're missing the point about the holiday season.
Yet, above everyone acting happy and cheerful all the time, this season is really about compassion. The purpose of the song is to highlight a man who helped a little boy and a little boy who helped his gravely ill mother--not dying, not trying to make Christmas dark, not that Jesus cares what shoes you are wearing in heaven.
So for all of us who are fortunate enough to be with our whole family for the holidays, to come home to a warm home with clothes on our body, to receive gifts when the holidays come around, the season is about helping those who aren't so lucky. The gesture could be as small as putting extra change on the counter to help a little boy or as giving large donations to the needy, but those gestures count.
And when people are suffering during the holidays, we should hear about it and give back, not complain that those situations ruin our own holiday cheer.