Ho Ho Hum, Holiday Thoughts

I don’t want to offend by this post, I won’t be snarky, but I’m going to be honest as always. I wouldn’t say I “hate” Christmas. In my life (sleeping by day, going out little, working weekends) I’m not exposed to it enough to hate it. Yeah, I might see some Christmas lights on my way to work and hear some music in the grocery store on my weekly visit, but that’s about it.

But before I started working at a nightclub I was exposed more, and I can honestly say I DID hate it then. My main problem with Christmas is what it has become, not necessarily what originally was. For the last five years or so I’ve spent $0 on the holidays. If I want to get something for the family I do it, but not because of a holiday.

1. It’s far too pervasive. I don’t need to hear Christmas music for two months everytime I’m grabbing groceries. The same goes for the imagry — Santa, reindeer, bells, wreaths, trees, nativity scenes, snowflakes, candy canes, stars, snowmen. It’s in the stores, on TV, radio and advertizements. The imagry is everywhere; from the shiniest malls down to the seediest bar. It’s just overdone and starts to get stale as anything would. A big part of this is “Christmas Creep,” the phenomenon of Christmas being pushed earlier and ealier so children will see it and ask for presents for three full months instead of just one. It feels desperate, and the result of all this is “Jingle Bells” no longer makes me think of Christmas, it makes me think of cash registers. By the time Christmas actually comes I think a lot of people are just over it.

2. Some people have made it divisive by creating a cottage industry around a supposed “War on Christmas.” You can mostly avoid this if you ignore politics, but some people think this really exists. To these people it really means something whether a greeter at Wal-Mart says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” If there’s a war on Christmas it’s been proclaimed by people with marketing degrees.

3. There’s too many carb- and fat-heavy foods around that no one needs to be eating. I’m no health nut, but I keep myself in shape, and this time of year is full of temptations. It starts with Thanksgiving (maybe even Halloween), then there’s Christmas parties for weeks and weeks through December where relatives, friends and co-workers push it on you. Then in January all you hear about is how to “drop the holiday pounds.” It’s not enough that Christmas puts people into debt, it can also make you fat and contribute to heath problems.

4. It has become too focused on rampant consumerism. Christmas is retail’s “money shot” at the end of the year. Sure I loved presents as a kid but what I remember now are the good times with family and friends. The focus on buying has gotten far worse over the past few decades and no one cares if there’s a recession, they will advertise even heavier to squeeze out every dollar from public they can. As someone who has worked in retail, I hate “Black Friday” — it’s sheer ridiculous. We have all heard the stories of people stampeded to death and even shot on this day. But this isn’t recent phenomena, when I worked at Wal-Mart over a decade ago a pregnant girl was run over by a cart and had a miscarriage later at the hospital.

5. Some people just can’t decorate well and no one has ever told them so. You see everything from garish blow-up lawn atrocities to badly strung lights, to way overdoing it. Most people keep it tasteful, but there’s always that ugly house in your neighborhood.

6. I think all of these get-togethers are held at the wrong time of year. Putting aside the fact that Jesus likely wasn’t born on December 25th, winter should be a time to rest and conserve energy; take a cue from nature. It’s an introverted season; cold, blustery — it’s 3 months that beg to be spent at home with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa. But instead of doing what’s natural, we journey out on slushy, slippery death-rides to the mall or plan expensive parties often with people who stress us out. I think extroverts are just afraid of getting lonely this time of year.

7. Christmas “guns up the works” of everyday life. Traffic is worse where you’re just trying to get to the store for normal necessities. And don’t go anywhere near a mall if you value your time. On top of this the mail is often delayed.

8. There’s too much drinking, I don’t mind drunks, I work at a nightclub after all but lets be honest, this time of year it can become excessive, leading to more aggressive drunks, more fights, more puke and more messes. Combine this with increased traffic and unsafe roads and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

9. I’m OK with exchanging gifts with immediate family or giving them to kids, but when someone else, outside that circle tells me they’re getting me something, I feel like I have to give them something too. And of course there’s the yearly Academy Award for acting when you open something and think “W-T-F?” but pretend you like it…as you turn it over in your hands…hoping the receipt is taped to it somewhere.

10. I don’t like what I see as a front, a veneer of caring about the poor and needy. The average American spends $900 on the holidays (I spend $0), does a handful of change tossed into the Salvation Army bucket really help or just make us feel better?

11. I don’t like the expectation of getting together with extended family. Neither my immediate nor extended family have any “issues,” but frankly I have little in common with my extended family and I hate their barrage of questions. “Do you have a girlfriend? When ya getting married? What type of work are you doing?” People I hardly know at all, hitting me with questions that they really don’t care about the answer to anyway.

12. I don’t like how during the holidays schools close and colleges shut down and life just stops in many ways. People act like we need 2-3 weeks to go see our families, but I’ve met very few who need to go out of town for more than a day to see their family. I remember in college wishing some (any!) building on campus was open because normal life just came to a halt.

13. There’s too much advertisement this time of year and it’s too personal. Changing the channel on TV feels like pulling off a leech. Advertisement pervades our lives, but for the whole month of December we’re hawked to with even stronger guilt-trip implications. They know what I need to get for Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa, Cousins, Nephews, the postman and the garbage collector. And of course the ad has to have the jingling bells in the background and some tired Christmas theme.

14. Christmas exasperates many people’s depression. The elderly or those who have had family members die in the last year find themselves feeling worse than usual. On top of this winter is bad enough, the world is cold and dead, people are busy and if you don’t have anyone it can be very quiet, very lonely. I had a friend who worked at a church who got depressed every year because although there were many things going on in the run-up to Christmas, once they were over, during the week of Christmas itself everything just stopped on a dime, and everyone was gone.

15. People don’t realize that Christmas is a mixture of various religions and traditions. Many Biblical scholars will admit that Jesus probably wasn’t really born in December at all. That date was chosen centuries ago to correspond with the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice when the days stop growing shorter and start growing longer again. The Christmas tree also has Pagan origins, but only became common in homes after Queen Victoria popularized it in England. The “modern day” Santa Claus originates from a weird mixture of Christian, folkloric and corporate influences. I hate how all the interesting parts of this season have been removed so it’s bland enough for mass consumption, with a strict focus on spending cash. Ever heard of Krampus? It’s a Germanic folk legend; a horned, hoofed demon said to take naughty children away in a sack to eat them during the Yule season. In some countries its a tradition to dress up and go around scaring each other. Now THAT actually sounds like fun — I could get behind that. How about the Winter Solstice? I think we can all appreciate the start of longer days. But these things aren’t about spending money, so they’ve been eradicated. I hate the corporatization of genuine festivals in general. The various winter celebrations; the birth of Jesus, Yule, the solstice, etc. were once real festivals meant to bring people together. People need genuine, organic festivals that can create communal bonds and express spontaneous joy in food, dance and music. What we DON’T need are corporatized versions of holidays that destroy the true spirit of festival and break communal bonds.

All of that said, I wouldn’t mind Christmas if it were just about seeing family and friends. I like listening to a little Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, enjoying some good food and seeing well-done decorations. Mid-winter would be an excellent time to have a non-stressful gathering, but we’ve taken our natural propensity for this and turned it into a monster. It’s become far too pervasive, lengthy, aggravating, stressful and costly.

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