Thursday, November 27, 2008

"It Ought to Be a Law to Start Christmas Before December"

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I am very much a traditionalist--I like my holidays to have the same foods and rituals as they always have, with no interlopers, no drastic alterations. But recently I've wondered why the meanings surrounding these holidays have increasingly meant little to me.

I cannot remember the last time I had real holiday spirit. I try to get into it every year, and occasionally there's a glimpse, but I feel it's been sucked out of me just by the relentless commercialism. Like Easter in March, I find Christmas before December--even early December--distasteful. It's just too soon. Christmas becomes all about presents--what do you want? What does everyone else what? When will you have time to get it? Is it too much? Ahh! Enough with the hassle! Rarely does anything seem worth it; even with the best of intentions it's just another check on a list. I tend to think of the best gifts in March for people who have birthdays in October, and of course I have no clue by the time December rolls around. I should just get gifts whenever I think of them.

Presents, like many of the things surrounding Christmas, have become oppressive. The saccharine, omnipresent music that only passes muster because of the season, the constant wonderings of what to buy, what to wear, what to give obscure nearly any meaning attached to what makes the holidays special and just makes it a month to get through.

Dragging out Christmas only intensifies the antipathy. Instead of eager anticipation, the days become merely rote, banal—plain ol’ January, February or March, another dark winter day with tacky decorations and music. Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets bypassed between Halloween and Thanksgiving, lumped in as another food-heavy day that dieters should be careful of. The decorations are warmer, the break a respite. Christmas is all-empowering, suffocation.

I hate being asked what I want for Christmas. I hate not being surprised, and going, “Yep, that’s exactly what I said,” because I rarely truly, truly want something, and even then it’s usually not material goods. I want people, as silly and unrealistic as it sounds, to just know that I like something and get it for me, because they know I’d never buy it for myself. I want Christmas to feel special again, to make it really exciting and worth looking forward to, instead of just another chore.


petpluto said...

I love Christmas. I'd have it all year 'round if it could remain as wonderfully magical as I find the weeks into December to be. But I love it for noncommercial reasons. Everyone seems nicer around Christmas (excepting those who get grumpier!), and the world seems quieter somehow. Plus, I love the saccharine music. I love the Victorian Christmas carols and I love the Christmas tv specials, and I love putting up the tree with my family, listening to Bing Crosby and talking about whose ornaments are whose and why (and how the tree will be bare when I move out) and drinking eggnog and setting up the holiday village scene beneath the tree.

I understand Andy Rooney's complaint. I love Thanksgiving too. And it is bothersome to see Christmas consumerism (separate from the Christmas spirit) come like a tidal wave to beat back whatever real Christmas spirit some people possess. But whenever we talk about Christmas consumerism coming earlier every year, I think about A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, where Sally and Charlie Brown - in 1973 - complain about the same thing. And then complain about how commercialized everything has gotten in - in 1965. Complaining about the two seem to be very "these kids today"; it is simply nostalgia that makes it seem better in years past.

I do think that you should buy presents when you think of them; it's what I do. The only issue is then losing those presents or forgetting you got them in the first place. I have a bin devoted to presents, and so does my mother, after we forgot about our 'clever' hiding spots and found presents for people months after we were supposed to give them.

The other thing is this: I'm completely with you in hating giving out lists of things I want. The only things I will give people lists of are cds, books, and dvds - and I make my list early and I put so much stuff on it that I couldn't possibly get it all. That way, I forget a lot of what I put on, and I'm always curious to see what I got. Other than that, they've gotta use their imaginations.

John said...

Your title was a bit confusing, MM. It made it sound like you wanted to start Christmas early.

Being a very commercialistic and materialistic guy, I understand the need for a gift wish list. I've got so many comics, books, movies and video games (yet I still want so many more! The economy LOVES people like me!) that people frequently have no idea whether or not I already have the thing they want to buy for me. This year I'm trying to curb my appetite for personal acquisition, though, and focus that energy and time on others.

I really wanted to include a link to the SNL TV Funhouse sketch where Jesus tries to communicate with everyone who is exploiting Christmas (and ends up smiling when he sees Linus's scripture quoting from A Charlie Brown Christmas on the TVs in a store window) but NBC Universal made Youtube take it down and hasn't put it up on their site yet. Bah humbug, indeed.

MediaMaven said...

Damn, John. I'd really like to see that clip!