15 December 2011

A scrooge’s advice for taming the runaway Christmas season

Billy Bob Thorton as Bad Santa (2003).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Okay, I am a bit of a scrooge with Christmas approaching. No disagreement, but even we scrooges are entitled to some suggestions on how to improve the bloated and drawn-out holiday season, which even its most fanatical adherents agree has lost its bearings.

For that reason, I’m not going to dwell too long on the commercialization of the Christmas, except to say that shopping locally and avoiding the retail giants, while it may produce some economic benefits, doesn’t address the deeper problem: We shop too damn much and spend too much. So, how about less gift-giving, say, limiting each person you care about to a single gift?

How about an agreement that Christmas carols can’t be broadcast on public airwaves before December 21? The winter solstice is also an auspicious day to initiate the ridiculously long holiday stretch from Thanksgiving through all of December to sometime in early January. (It isn’t called a “season” without reason.) The best lead-up to Christmas I ever experienced was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, a largely Muslim country still heavily influenced, at least in the north, by the Russian celebration of the New Year, which incorporates some elements of the Christmas, like Grandfather Frost, a dead ringer for Santa, and decorated conifer trees. Anyway, in 2007, I did not notice a single advertisement or public gesture about the holidays until about Dec. 21 or Dec. 22, which meant I wasn’t oversaturated by the time New Year’s Eve rolled around.

And once the assault of the Christmas carols begins, can a little discretion be exercised? Not every song about Santa, snowfall or sleigh bells is worse listening to. And just between me and you, is there a worse Christmas carol than “Jingle Bell Rock”? Your nominations will be gladly accepted.

Let us accept that Christmas is a holiday for children, as it should be. What that means is that adults who wear those silly-looking reindeer- and snowflake-patterned sweaters should give them to the children in their lives, and all those pins and pendants representing holly, mistletoe, or Santa’s elves should be removed and put back on the tree where they belong.

We could also remind the on-air media personalities that they don’t get a cut on the local mall profits so there is no need to harass us about holiday shopping or to convince us that we have some patriotic obligation to sustain the economy by guaranteeing the retailers’ profit margins.

Why not take a tip from the natural world, for which winter is a period of dormant restoration, and spend some time in quiet reflection? The early Christians weren’t trying to hoodwink anyone by celebrating the birth of Christ in late December. For them, Jesus was the Light of the World, so it only made good sense to celebrate his arrival at the time of year when the light of the world starts to lengthen after the shortest days of the year.

You see, I’m not totally opposed to Christmas. After all, it is the one time of year in which many of the most annoying pains in the ass try to be pleasant. Many, but not all.

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