Christmas spirit doesn’t come from Christmas mythology
After Halloween harvest time explodes with color and relentless bombardment from a barrage of Christmas specials, wacky tunes, commercials, internet advertisements and gaudy decorations.
I don’t believe in old farts who switch from miserly to magnanimous, flying fat men who breed elves as indentured servants, or thirty-three year old virgins. But every November I marvel at the odd parade of myths resurrected to embellish this festive time of year.
Our fables return to sparkle with the lights on houses and trees. They reach brilliance in our collective conscious then die off like autumn leaves by New Year’s Day.
As winter solstice looms, broadcasts choke under the blizzard of sugary wishes for merriment and good cheer. Even agnostics and atheists who track holidays with a jaundiced eye fall sway to this positive vibe. Some border on mirthful.
We view Christmas as a laughable global spell whose trashy tradition and stolen rituals find eternal life through sacred retail marathons. We dig the goofball bling and silly trappings that light up offices, living rooms, and front yards. And who would turn her nose at a frosty glass of holiday cheer? So why do we struggle with a perennial funk before we carve out our slice of celebration? Easy. We get uppity under so much pressure to act jolly, believe strange stories, and pretend our lives resemble a Norman Rockwell painting.
Holiday classics fuel the Christmyth Industrial Complex with an orgy of happy endings
Stop-motion reindeer, cartoon snowmen, and celluloid humans miraculously overcome hardship. Through selfless decisions and personality makeovers, these creatures find redemption among whole communities, who then seek the affection of their villain in spite of damage inflicted on witless victims.
Closing scenes feature codependent characters laughing, dancing, or singing in ecstatic unison, helpless to suppress jubilation. Maybe I lack the spirit to bust out a joyful jig like Mr. Fezziwig at the company dance. But don’t get me wrong, I love holiday classics. Sadly the cherished performances of my youth no longer convey an innocent glow.
They have become rocket fuel in an annual economic blast off that can make or break businesses, guiding the financial fates of untold thousands.
I confess a secret resentment for my treasured shows that trot out adorable creatures to rekindle my sense of betrayal. Inspiring sheer wonder and excitement during my childhood, they have devolved into empty messengers who eulogize a magic I will never recapture.
Syrupy morality tales obsess over feeling good while connecting negative feelings with poor character. Luckily all antidotes heal through simple feel-good resolutions. Would be villains and ne’er-do-wells may select any of the following:
return piles of stolen gifts despite a clean getaway, befriend the Abominable Snowman and rescue the Island of Misfit Toys, add dazzle to a ragged sapling, choose not to waste final days as a moneygrubbing ass,
or just give away your last nickel to a hoard of empty-handed townsfolk, then trust a mentally challenged uncle with $8,000 (about $100,000 in 2012) in cash to make a bank deposit whose blunder sends your Building & Loan racing for the fiscal cliff. Don’t worry. They all work.
If your bum gets too itchy sitting through so much Christmas confection, you won’t wait long for the next commercial break. Buy this alcohol. Buy this toy. Buy this laptop. Buy this smart phone. Buy this iPod. You’ll feel better. People will like you more.
Congratulations. You survived Thanksgiving only to run the gauntlet of Christmyth giving
Perhaps the true mark of Christmas giving lives in the red-blooded bravery surging through the veins of early shoppers. Fortune hunters endure endless suffering in monstrous lines on a frosty night, only to be swept away by the crush of rampaging buyers eager to trample bodies for an off-brand flat screen.
Our culture places so much emphasis on retail gifting that anyone willing to face Black Friday should earn a medal of valor for holiday heroics.
We salute the gallant fools who confront commerce as a tactical operation. Comatose after a day of feasting and alcohol abuse, shoppers end their family holiday too soon, daring new dangers at midnight.
Black Friday has stolen our rest and recovery, sending Thanksgiving revelers into darkness, heedless of sleep at the wheel, DUI‘s, night blindness, or physical assault threatening their courageous grab for low priced electronics.
Wiley shoppers win kudos for attacking Christmas, battling seasonal madness in a surgical strike before it can infect their merry-making mojo.
Nevertheless my one-fingered salute goes out to you, Black Friday! Quit messing with my Thanksgiving. And tall praise to shoppers with the wisdom to consider the difference between giving a gift and giving a damn.
Christmyth and anxiety go together like Santa and Rudolph
Congratulations. You hunkered down during Thanksgiving’s emotional tempest to emerge defiantly with a bruised ego and a stubborn scrap of dignity. To your horror you realize you’ll have to muster again for a tougher trial in a matter of weeks. And this time you must temper thankfulness with joy and cheer, even as you fall under the shadow of a mounting storm. Here, look into its eye:
Where do we stash the kids over winter break? Whose names go on the gift list? Who’s been nice?
Forget nice. Who’s been extra naughty and what should I get him that says “Keep it up”?
Can we drop off the kids and split town for a couple days? How do we convince our offspring that Santa prefers to reward smart children with books and educational presents, not iPhones? What’s the least I can spend on my knuckle-dragging boss without looking cheap?
What gestures can I make that bear modest expense but prove I really care? Should we even bother with family who offer so little in return? Why does Mom get to decide that? No. It’s never too early for single malt on Christmas.
I told you “never again” last year. Tell ‘em order the turkey burger at McDonald’s. Who’s cooking what for Christmas dinner? This knife goes straight to their jugulars if they tease me about tofurky!
They invited him? Is he the creepy one who drinks too much and stares at Sis? Why won’t those pain-in-the-ass in-laws ever come to our place for turkey dinner? I don’t know where your dad plans to visit, but it won’t be in my house!
Why do we have to arrange everything–again? Who’s covering the booze and party favors for the get together? Please plan on driving. I refuse to face your parents sober.
Holiday alliances, new and old, form every fall, marshaling friends and family under temporary détente. Tribal politics and old grudges determine where we meet and who attends. Economics and emotion inform the way we celebrate the season’s ritual of giving. Small wonder many of these reunions reflect all the charm of a border war in the Middle East. But keep the faith. Christmas miracles really do come to pass if we manage to bid farewell to bastard, bitch, and beloved alike without angry tears or sworn vengeance.
Sorry Charlie, a few scriptures and a bony fir tree won’t make you happy
At the beginning of my favorite classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie confesses to his pal, Linus, that he’s having difficulty finding his holiday spirit:
“I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess.”
“I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards, decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”
Linus listens to his friend’s complaint and offers the best advice of the entire show:
“Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right – of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”
As our story continues, Charlie laments the behavior of friends, family, and Snoopy, all of whom have succumbed to Christmas commercialism. While Charlie attempts unsuccessfully to direct the school play, Linus recites the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 8 through 14.
Following the “Tidings of great joy,” Charlie and Linus go tree shopping and bring back the scrawniest weed on the lot. Some decorative flash transforms the shrimpy fir into a huge and glorious sparkler. Charlie is redeemed, finds his happy spirit and everybody likes him again.
None of this naive horse poop makes a lick o’ sense. Damn it, Charlie, you had it right in the opening scene. Next time trust your instincts and look for a sane solution to December madness.
Define your own Decembers during this dysfunctional season
The holidays can go pretty rough on us. Competing expectations demand a lot of work, money and emotional expense.
How do we resolve the guilt when we’re too broke for all that giving? How do we avoid feeling worse when friends and family still lavish us with presents?
Are we rude for growing exasperated with humans who vex us for not accepting their brand of mythology? Truly, reason itself is reason enough for not accepting their reason for the season.
How do we deal with homesickness while our friends celebrate with loved ones? How do we heal our insecurity for not fitting into this cultural fantasy of true believers and TV-perfect families with deep pockets? How do we escape from this seasonal asylum and stay merry at the same time?
A little anxiety, depression, or confusion look like a healthy response to this joyous psychosis. Remember, Christmas comes but once a year and you’ll get over it.
Stop trying to measure up to December’s delusional ideals. Focus on the people you genuinely care about. Steer clear of folks who steal your cheer, including your passive aggressive mom, verbally abusive dad, and alcoholic brother.
Christmas has no supernatural power to make the you the family meat puppet. Don’t accept commitments that lead to self loathing. Sharing genes does not obligate you to share the same house. Shut up, smile and nod on the 25th, but don’t take any bait that allows crazy relatives into your head where they can piss on your mirthful mojo. Shield yourself from wintry angst by creating traditions that make sense to you. Through positive personal rituals you’ll Jones anew for the solstice to taste again the starry-eyed wonder claimed by followers of flying fat men and thirty-three year old virgins.
Humor is my reason for the season
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” — Jay Leno
“There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.” — P.J. O’Rourke
“The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husband.” — Joan Rivers
“Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, “Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?” — Jim Gaffigan
- Sparse Holiday Firs – The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree is an Ironically Bare Evergreen (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)
- After Pressure from Atheists, Church Cancels Student Matinee Performance of Merry Christmas Charlie Brown (patheos.com)
- It’s A Bad Brains Christmas, Charlie Brown (video) (brooklynvegan.com)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas – For The Kid In All Of Us (futurelawyer.typepad.com)