There are so many things I hate about Christmas, that I struggle to list them in order of hatedness. Granted, I can name three or four things I hate about Christmas at a moment’s notice, any day of the year, but when I really sit down to focus my un-charitability toward the holiday? Hoo boy. Look out. Consider:
I hate Late-October Christmas, in which jacks-o-lantern are chased away by (or in many cases share porches and storefronts with) Christmas decorations, as though we fear we won’t survive the 54 days between the bucket of Baby Ruths and Smarties we scored from our neighbors, and the sack of trinkets we expect to receive from family, friends, and an inexplicably jolly elf with unnerving home invasion skills.
I hate Aircraft-Diversion Christmas, the holiday mocked by Chevy Chase movies but misguidedly imitated by so many, in which the light pollution of competitive gaudiness and flair renders invisible the tranquil beauty of stars in the winter sky.
I hate Cookie Christmas, in which we prepare ridiculous quantities of labor-intensive, horrifyingly sweet, unjustifiably gaudy confections and distribute them to friends and family, all while patting our slightly-less-svelte-than-we-wish-they-were bellies and chuckling demurely, “oh, no, I really couldn’t.”
I hate Santa Christmas, by which children are indoctrinated to associate material wealth with good behavior—as though the Koch brothers were the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be—and by which kids learn early on that the people who teach us wrong from right clearly don’t have a clue how the world actually works.
I hate Suddenly Religious Christmas, which pretends that December 24 is a more important day for spiritual community than, say, September 10, and accepts rote recitation of mythology in place of authentic, disciplined relationship with transcendence.
I hate “It’s-The-Thought-That-Counts” Christmas, that condescendingly self-righteous holiday that serves not to liberate its participants from blatant consumerism, but rather to justify their perceived need to purchase self-worth by wasting money on unnecessary, unwanted gewgaws that, in a slightly less imperfect world, would hit the dustbin along with the wrapping paper, saving the recipient the awkward “It-Was-A-Gift” period during which they are socially bound to pretend they appreciated the gesture.
I even hate “Merry Christmas,” as a phrase. For musicians and religious professionals and retailers and medical professionals and so many others in service positions, December is the busiest, most stressful time of the year. Generally, if I can make it through a day in December without cursing anyone out I call it a success. “Full of cheerfulness or gaiety? Joyous in disposition?” Take that and lump it, and just let me go home and lock the door and be alone with hubby and the cats until January, thankyouverymuch.
And I hate—heaven help me, I hate so excruciatingly, rage-inducingly much—Retail Christmas. The jingle bells that underscore every commercial for the last 25% of the year… the countless (but expensive) things “’tis the season” for… the way one can’t shop even for everyday necessities like groceries without suggestions that one really should be spending more money than one had planned to. How I loathe Retail Christmas, to which the American economy is inextricably yoked, on whose under-the-wire profits solo business owners and megacorp execs alike depend, and at whose altar so many of the other things I hate about Christmas bow!
But most most most of all, I hate “Real-Meaning-Of” Christmas: the insidious ways our culture
tries to convinces us that we’re wrong to question any of it—that if we speak out against mindless tradition, compulsory pleasantries, or consumerism, we’re committing a mortal sin against the Holy of Holies.
Kids, cover your ears.
I mean, pardon my French and all, but this is something about which I feel quite strongly. And I feel strongly about it because (don’t tell anyone) I really, really need Christmas. But I need a different kind of Christmas than the one that I drown in for far too many weeks every winter.
I need the kind of Christmas that finds divine, world-redeeming purpose in a child born out of wedlock to a political refugee and her fiancé.
I need the kind of God who would surrender omnipotence and omniscience to fully understand the hungers and fears and uncertainties of humanness.
I need the kind of good news that is delivered late at night to dirty, exhausted, hard-working tradespeople, because the folks whose power was handed down to them find it threatening, and collude to silence it.
So every year I climb on my high horse, put on my Grinch face, update my non-gift wishlist, take lots and lots and lots of deep breaths, and start counting down the days until January. Not because I have a right to claim my own kind of Christmas—though I do—but because I have a feeling I’m not alone.
What kind of Christmas do you need?