I went on a long walk in Zürich today, and by avoiding the busy streets of Bahnhofstrasse and Löwenstrasse, I accidentally passed through a lot of back alleys. Many of these contained windows into the rec rooms or staff cafés of the big hotel chains and the expensive stores that have their more glittery faces towards the shopping mile.
In those rooms I saw the people that make sure that everyone else gets into this wonderfully commercial christmas spirit: Cleaning staff, cooks, assistants, receptionists, salespeople. They looked completely exhausted and miserable. Not a smile to be seen far and wide. I’m sure they’re doing extra shifts to accomodate the madness that’s going on on the other side, and that’s where their last few smiles of the year go.
Every year I wonder when we will learn that this is a pointless exercise, a stress amplifier that serves no one except some retailers, some hotel chains, some restaurants. And even those are doing humanity a questionable service. Yes, you get to have your christmas dinner or your shopping “experience”, but the companies are grinding their staff to the bone during these weeks. Is it worth that just for a few bucks more?
I know it’s not as simple as that. Maybe some people are happy to get an extra christmas shift because they need the money. Maybe some restaurants couldn’t survive if it weren’t for some fat christmas dinners every year. But that is just arguing after the fact — if christmas had never reached this level of commercialization in the first place, no one would be losing as much from making it less commercial.
Christians are supposed to celebrate the birth of their prophet at this time. Pagans the winter solstice. Everyone else is supposed to not celebrate anything. Guess that didn’t work out so well, did it?