Don’t get me wrong. I like holidays. It’s great to eat my mom’s roast beef and cook my special mashed potatoes and have that warm, happy family time by the fire and all that. I like falling asleep on Christmas Eve and knowing I’ll wake up in the morning to a world that feels just a little more special than it does on other days. And, of course, getting presents is awesome.
What I can’t stand is the Christmas season. I don’t want to hear an easy-listening version of "Jingle Bell Rock" playing in Safeway a week before Thanksgiving. I hate pre-Christmas sales, the proliferation of eggnog and all the fucking "Season’s Greetings" cards. It’s not a season, people. It’s one day of the year. Maybe two days, if we include Christmas Eve. Hell, I’ll even go so far as to include the time in between Christmas and New Year’s as part of the revelry. But this whole holiday-decorations-in-September trend simply has to stop.
If you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. It’s a happy time where one considers the miraculous birth of the Lord and Savior and all that. Which is fine and dandy, if you ask me. I ain’t got no beef with the J-man. But why the holly wreaths? Why Santa? And why start in early October when you haven’t even bought the Thanksgiving turkey yet?
Non-Christians have even less of an excuse. Oh, sure, it’s become sort of a cultural thing–everybody does it, even the Jews, and they’re still waiting for the Messiah to show up. It’s cool that there’s a certain time of year that we all give each other presents and show our appreciation for one another, but now it’s become so regimented that environments (like the workplace) where people don’t even necessarily like each other are still required by social convention to buy each other gifts.
Christmas has become an orgy of consumerism. That’s certainly not an original thought, but it seems to me that a lot of people are just willing to go with the flow and participate in yet another round of Secret Santa. If this is indeed the "Season of Giving," shouldn’t there be more sense to what we decide to give and whom we give it to? Shouldn’t there be more sincerity to it?
Like many other things that started out as good and meaningful rituals, Christmas has become just another example of our zombie-like desire to conform. Gifts are expected, and rather than being a sincere expression of the giver’s appreciation for the givee, we’re handed lists of stuff that the recipient wants and it’s implied that if we deviate from that, the person we’re trying to please will instead be disappointed in us. Any inspiration or creative impulse is stripped from the giving, and instead it becomes a business transaction–I’ll give you an iPod if you’ll buy me that spiffy KitchenAid mixer I’ve been coveting. And what if (egads, no!) one spends conspicuously less on a gift for someone else than they spent on you? Social ruin!
Why don’t we call a spade a spade and change this to "The Season of Getting Shit for Oneself." It would be much more honest. Instead of racking up massive credit card debt trying to please your grouchy mother or ungrateful boss, you can spend the same amount on yourself. That way there’s no guesswork, the same amount of money is spent, and we all get what we want. You’ll still have to shell out for the kids, but you can just ask them what they want and then take them to the place where it’s sold. Done!
This year, perhaps we should try to spend less money but more time and energy on letting those we’re close to know how much we care about them? Make a mix CD or knit a scarf or write a sonnet or something. Don’t race the other little sheep to the front of the line to purchase overpriced, mass-produced crap. Stay home and think about what it really means to give, and spend your holiday with the people you love. And then spend the money you save on that new iPod or KitchenAid mixer you’ve been coveting. You’ll be glad that you did.