OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a Christmas junkie.
Not the religious Savior of the Worlds holy day, which is fine with me, by the way—I’m talking the garish, kitschy, Santa-sated bacchanalia of excess eating and bad music—the secular “Xmas” instead of the religious “Christmas.”
No, I’m not a secular humanist and no, I’m not trying to get Christ out of Christmas, it’s just that like Halloween, the fact that Christmas as a season is sometimes only tangentially related to its religious roots doesn’t irritate me all that much.
(By the way, I do think there is something called a “Christian Humanist” and I would not consider myself not very philosophically far from that).
Why do I like secular Christmas so? I suppose it’s partly related to its history in my own family. Christmas meant staying up late and waking up early and finding a stocking chocked full of cheap candy and breakable plastic toys already waiting on your bed. It meant the magical transformation of the living room as presents “appeared.”
I know it’s part of the “lore” of many families to find the “hiding place,” but I don’t remember ever being tempted, even when I was far too old for the Santa mythology. (That’s right, I said it right out loud, all of you 6-year-old who read my blog can now smoke cigarettes, drink Kentucky bourbon and become jaded cynics—by the way, parents who try to keep a lid on the whole Santa thing are almost as irritating as fans of Sarah Palin. Almost). Suspense and surprises are part of the magic of Christmas.
I grew up in the TV generation before cable, so “It’s A Wonderful Life” didn’t even appear on my radar until well into adulthood—by the way, what a wonderful movie. Christmas on TV was primarily “Charlie Brown” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” By the way, like “Star Trek,” somehow both of those shows looked better in black-and-white.
Not that certain aspects of Christmas can’t be irritating. I am not a huge shopping fan at the best of times, and Christmas shopping is the nadir of holiday experiences.
Yes, even with the Purgatory of shopping and Collins Road turning into its annual parking lot phase, there is so much to like:
• Christmas is close to the pagan celebration of the solstice. It’s a day conveniently scheduled as the northern part of the planet swings back towards the sun and light starts to return. I like light. Granted, the coldest weather is ahead of us at that point, but at least the sun is coming back and who doesn’t like that?
• Fudge. Any holiday that features fudge and chocolate covered peanuts and mint chocolate bars has many plusses in my book, and on my waist.
• Also, eggnog. Yes, I know, a disgustingly artificial concoction that clogs the arteries and dilates the eyes. Yum.
• Family time. School breaks and togetherness. Granted, for some young couples that means some added stress and too much togetherness, as in the “pre-kid” days you sometimes struggle with “where to go.” Audrey and I were lucky to not live in easy commuting distance during our early married years. Anyway, I’ve never had a problem with the “family” Christmas being a different day than the “Christmas Christmas” anyway.
Now, I’m not too fond of too much of a materialistic bent—I’ve seen families where young kids are buried under mountains of expensive electronic nonsense. That’s like having 24 frosted brownies at once. The first 3 are great—the next 21, not so much. But, it’s up to the adults to set some reasonable limits.
When I was growing up, I don’t think we were ever wealthy enough to go overboard. And in my own family, it seems like Christmas has usually been a fairly modest holiday, where we get what we most want as long as it’s in the budget, and not a lot more.
So, no, I’m not saying I’m OK with Christmas always being about the “stuff.” I’m just saying the hoopla, celebration, music, Santa, etc. are fine by me.
Yeah, Thanksgiving has less stress, and is a fine day. Yeah, I get a bit tired if radio stations switch to all carols on Nov. 1. Still, my reaction to Christmas?
Bring it on.