Stephen Kent

Stephen Kent

Once it was easy, now it is more difficult each year to write about the excesses of the Christmas season.

For one, the name has long been perverted by merchants into “the holiday season.” Still, there ought to remain some targets to spoof.

“The actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist,” novelist Philip Roth once remarked.

Once it was easy to take one of the brouhahas in communities across the nation dealing with Christmas pageants in public schools, such as the changes made in “A Christmas Story.” To mollify the secularists, it could be tongue-in-cheek turned into an oversecularized edit and become “Jesus: A Special Kind of Guy.” Or one could write about many of the Christmas creche controversies.

Once it was about the presence of the Christ Child in the manger. Now we have cases such as one in Santa Monica, Calif., where city officials refused to reopen spaces in a city park for displays, including Christmas Nativity scenes, rather than be involved with an atheist’s display.

The case went to a federal judge who declined to force the city to reopen the decades-old display. There is no God … there may be a God … but not in Santa Monica.

You can’t make up stuff like this.

In pining for the old days of easy targets for satire, objects with prices far in excess of their utility were common: the $18,000 wristwatch, the $500 pen. What do you do when the culture tosses up an automatic watch winder, a battery powered movable tray, replacing the lack of motion on the wrist of the buyers.

This could result in another product offered by the same store: a remote barbecue thermometer that allows the cook to stay inside at the buffet bar until the last minute when it’s time to turn the steak.

Increasingly, more prevalent are the home improvement stores displaying artificial Christmas trees shortly after Labor Day and Black Friday creeping up to Thanksgiving Day and threatening to be Black Monday before this decade closes.

Christmas-present wish lists of wants written by little tykes with the bottom line totaling to the gross national product of a small state.

This is all part of overdoing, where methods replace goals: baseball’s home run derbies, basketball’s slam dunk contests, baseball playoffs that drive the World Series into the chill of late October nights.

This demand for more is all part of a frame of mind that life isn’t good enough yet. The current concern over the nation’s economy is well-publicized as the “fiscal cliff.” But the nation is at risk by teetering on the edge of another cliff. That is when wants are satisfied by “stuff” while the needs of others go lacking for food, shelter and clothing.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He can be contacted at