Straight from the Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know department of the Repetitive and Mundane Co., LLC, is this years surprised screeching from the soccer mom’s, the religious right and the bored columnist who trots this pony out every single year.
“Christmas is becoming way too commercialized,” they moan. “Why, when we were kids, there wasn’t any of this mass consumerism and big advertising campaigns and shopping stuff. We all stayed home and baked pies, and cut out angels for the tree from bolts of leftover cloth and strung popcorn - on real thread! We tramped through snow the day before Christmas and cut our own tree! Got oranges in our stockings, and liked it! We certainly weren’t like these hooligans today!”
Let me lay this on you, oh piously frumpish ones. I’ve been around for a good long while now, and you ain’t telling me nothin’ I ain’t heard since I was a wee pup. I was a kid in the early sixties when I first heard this, and I know for a fact my Mom said the same thing the first time the Sears Christmas catalog showed up just after Labor Day. “Oh I can’t believe they’re sending this out so early. Why, you’d think all we have to live for is shopping for Christmas stuff. Takes all the real meaning out of Christmas, sure does.”
I couldn’t prove this, but I’m reasonably certain that my Grandmother probably said the same thing when Mom was 8 years old. It’s taken on all the keen insight of so many other seasonal phrases. “Boy, sure is hot outside” in mid-July, or “I can’t believe all this rain we’ve been getting” in April. Or my all time favorite, when someone complains of getting a head cold, “There’s been a lot of that going around“. Surely there has never been so much as a day when there hasn’t been A Lot of That Going Around. Not one day, I tell ye.
Listen. When I got the Sears catalog in September you wouldn’t hear any of this damned foolishness coming from me. About how commercialized Christmas was. An 8 year old has the morals of a Mongol when it comes to Sears and a Wishbook. And anybody who can stand up and whine about how they weren’t like that? Forget it, I won’t believe you.
I’ve heard the same cheesy soundtracks, seen the same megawatt lawn displays of a dancing Santa and his herd of caribou wanna-be’s, the same Thanksgiving Day newspaper that looks like it was published by the IRS and heard the same anguish over ‘fake’ Christmas trees for my whole life. And I’m not young.
Let’s just list a few facts of the season, shall we?
1. Christmas has always been about shopping and always will be about shopping. You think the 3 Wise Men just wrapped up stuff they had laying around the house? If you have any beef about the taking of Christ out of Christmas go talk to your local politician, who just yanked the ‘Merry Christmas’ sign off Town Hall and stuck up some edgy, new age PC thing like ‘Happy Multi-Cultural Holidays’. It will be commercialized ‘cause that’s how you get informed about buying things. Get over it. Disgusted about the crassness of it all? Talk to me on Christmas morning when you open your own pile of loot. We’ll see how disgusted you are then.
2. Surprised about how people drive automobiles from Nov. 30 until Dec. 24? Well let’s see. You take your average asshat, put a cell phone in one hand and a Starbucks in the other, put him behind the wheel of something he couldn’t properly handle on a dry day in June and turn him loose in an icy shopping mall parking lot. Now multiply that by millions. You did know that most Christmas shoppers only drive during December, didn’t you? The rest of the year they’re hunkered down at home, eating whole wheat and reading Harry Potter.
3. And after you buy all the stuff from all those commercialized vendors, you’re gonna have to wrap it. Last few years I’ve shopped where the young lovelies wrap for me, but it’s likely you’re gonna have to take over-priced wrapping paper and scissors and tape and actually try to disguise the fact that you went out and participated in all this madness. Or you could do what I did one year, and make use of old newspaper and some duct tape. I only did that the one time, though.
4. How about Christmas parties? Chances are if you’re not throwin’ one, you’re goin’ to one. For weeks this goes on, and yes I’m counting church events as parties. There’s food and beverage there, it counts. Might not be the kind of beverage selection you had in mind but like they say, it’s the thought that counts. This week - the Presbyterians. Next week - the Loyal Order of Moose.
5. Everybody is gonna say, if they’re not part of the aforementioned PC crowd, “Merry Christmas!” And you will need to have the proper spirit to put on your most jolly inflection and shout back, in a hearty way, “Merry Christmas to You!” I remember one year going shopping with my Dad, and after the first fifty shop clerks had benumbed his ears with greetings he got so tired of it he just started saying “Same to You!”, in a tone that suggested more of “Up Yours!” than anything. And Dad was a truly nice man.
6. If you’re looking for the real Christmas you might not find it at your local church function. I haven’t been in a while, but I imagine they’ve found a way to set ‘Hark the Herald’ to an up-tempo beat by now, something that requires both guitar and drums, and some dope with a tambourine directing traffic. I’d lay odds that if Martin Luther had tried to put a wreath on the door to his church they’d have dragged him off and shot him, so your average progressive behavior at Christmas is just a matter of perspective, I guess.
7. No one in history has ever ridden in a sleigh, with bells, on their way home from a quiet dinner party and seen a single candle glowing in the window of a snow laced cabin in the woods. It never happened. Stop buying Christmas Cards that promote this fallacy. What happened was the guy got a little smashed at the party, got lost at the edge of town and saw a lantern in the basement window of the Lutheran church, where Joe and the boys were having an all night pinochle tournament. That happens all the time, but you never see any Christmas Cards about it.
8. You will buy and distribute tinsel on a tree, be it a fake one or a live one. I happen to hate tinsel, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get stuck with doing it. My wife put our tree (fake) up last weekend, all by herself, with lights and ornaments and all sorts of stuff. She happened to be wearing a Santa stocking hat at the time. She had some sort of scented candle burning, and she’d just baked a cake. But she looked at me (somnambulant in the recliner, likely cackling over something on the internet) and said, ”Well all that’s left is the tinsel, and I’m gonna leave that for you.” Just like that. Tinsel, to me, has always looked like a suggestion box item at the aluminum foil plant, like the leftover foil was cluttering up the floor and some schmuck said, “Hey! If we put this in the shredder we could make a holiday decoration for Christmas trees! Sell it at the store! See, you toss it on the tree just right and it looks like . . .”. Ass, it looks like ass.
9. At some point someone will giggle and ask about eggnog. I like eggnog but all the silly giggling over it? Like they're getting ready to do something naughty? I can tell you for a fact that eggnog doesn’t come laced with bourbon when you pick it up at the Kroger. You have to make a separate run to the liquor store for that. And don’t tell me that you won’t be in the liquor store between now and Christmas Eve. People who don’t ever go to the liquor store will always go in December. Remember, these are the same people who don’t drive the rest of the year, either.
You might get the impression that I’m worn out, already, about seasonal things. Maybe so. I’ve been uncomfortable about Christmas for a long time now, mostly due to the public need to embrace a sort of false hilarity or false cheerfulness about the whole affair. All those phrases that come along this time of year. “I wish everybody could be as nice all year as they are at Christmas.” Yeah, me too. But don’t get me started on how this is all new ground, how commercial and silly it’s gotten to be. That’s been going on for decades. “Are you ready for Christmas, Outfoxed?”
Not if I can’t find that stash of eggnog mixer from last year, I ain’t.
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