The Christmas season officially began with Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” blaring in every department store and supermarket. Now that Jesus is here, we’ll need to change our tune and address the emotional and physical labor of the holiday, which is mostly done by women.
Mary has at least six weeks of recovery, so we have plenty of time to talk about it. Adjusting to motherhood, domestic chores are not a part of her postpartum timeline.
Still, with or without children, women in heterosexual relationships are expected to take on more at Christmastime. “Christmas labor still seems to be considered ‘women’s work,’” writes Hope Reese in “The Gendering of Holiday Labor.”
But the magic of the season isn’t free or the work of tiny little elves. It’s most often women who make the season bright, who decorate the house, plan and cook the meals, and clean up after, ensuring everyone makes their return flight home.
It’s unpaid labor, and it adds up with American women performing chores and caring for others at least four hours each day, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. There is even a special calculator to tabulate what she could be paid.
Meeting the needs and expectations of family members, women are expected to extend themselves. Housework viewed as an extension of herself, it is treated as something women just naturally do and, worse still, work that only a woman can do.
But where is Santa Claus and his little helpers when you need them? Is he resting up all year long because he has an annual long night shift?
Also, why does he get cookies for just doing his job and nobody else does? Delivering presents, it’s literally in his job description.
He doesn’t make the toys or package them. He’s the delivery guy our children take pictures with.
Mary did you know that old Saint Nick was going to steal the show? She carried the baby for nine months, but he comes with toys during the last month of the year and is treated like the fun dad.
It sends the wrong message, but if you don’t like this one, then I am doing something right according to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an international bestselling author most known for her 2013 Ted Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists,” which was later sampled by Beyonce.
In her book Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, she suggests that girls and women should “reject likability.” So, there you go.
Choosing truth over cleaning up the details of this story, I don’t like this Christmas tradition – even if it comes with eight reindeer, a man with rosy cheeks, and a cute button nose.
To be sure, I like the story of Saint Nicholas, the third century monk turned patron saint of children. I just don’t like how capitalism tells it. I don’t like that America sells it and, worse still, that some of us will go into debt or dip into our savings because we have bought into it.
“Retail sales for the combined November-December shopping months will grow between 6% and 8% this year compared with the 2021 holiday season, to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion, according to projections released Thursday from the National Retail Federation, the industry’s largest trade group,” writes Parija Kavilanz for CNN Business.
Looking at these numbers, it seems we will get all we want for Christmas, or will we? Turn the music down and look around for the women in your family.
When you find them, take whatever is in their hands so that they can snap their fingers. I’m certain that they would rather dance to the song than hum it while clearing the table or doing the dishes.
Director of The Raceless Gospel Initiative, associate editor, and host of the Good Faith Media podcast “The Raceless Gospel.”