Tag: Christmas

Christmas CHEER Over-kill is Like the Worst Date I Ever Went On

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

I don’t hate Christmas.  I don’t hate people having a good time and eating a metric ton of sugar in the name of Christ or the anti-Christ.  I don’t hate people gathering to drink and eat and gossip and keep warm and drum up a whole lot of good will.  I don’t mind seeing people become more generous and I don’t mind all the decorations except for all the Santa-specific ones.

The onslaught of Christmas crap started before Thanksgiving which pissed me right off.  I heard people talking about holiday shopping  before they even sat down with their family to simply be together and eat and be thankful.  Then I saw that people were putting their trees up the day after Thanksgiving.  I resent this.  I resent the urgency people feel  to get over the quiet and peaceful Thanksgiving to rush into a holiday that most people claim stresses them out.  Yet there they go – rushing right into it.  Let me tell you: you all have a choice in how aggressively you celebrate this season.  You all have a choice in how many people you exchange gifts with.  You may feel pressure – but you still have the choice.

So my first pet peeve is for all those people who complain about how overwhelmed they are and can’t recognize that they are complicit in the madness of their Christmas experience.  I hear people talk about how big their family is.  How they “HAVE TO” exchange gifts or people will get hurt.

Fuck that shit.  Balls-up everyone!  You have the power to say “NO”.*  You have the power to set the boundaries.  You have the power to make this holiday whatever you want it to be.  So if you like the madness – just admit it.  Stop complaining about it.  You only have to make 12 dozen cookies a week IF YOU FEEL LIKE IT.

I used to hate Christmas.  Until I married Philip I loathed it 100%.  There’s so much pressure to BE HAPPY AND EXCITED AND TO LOVE THIS RIDICULOUS SUGAR FESTIVAL.  Philip’s family never did the BIG Christmas.  They didn’t even do Christmas on Christmas day because they spent it at Church feeding the poor people in their community.  So he didn’t care if I liked Christmas or not.  Having the pressure completely removed from my immediate sphere allowed me to cautiously enjoy small aspects of it.  A little bit of decorating.  Modest gift exchanges.

Over the years I have ignored more and more expectations directed at me.  Christmas is now what I want it to be and I enjoy it quite a bit in my own quiet way.  We decorate and we hang out together and we exchange gifts only with immediate family and I have dispensed with the obligation of card-giving.  Over time people have stopped sending them to me too and I’m totally happy with this.  If someone really wants to send me a card I will appreciate their thoughtfulness but usually it’s out of obligation and there’s nothing personal written on them anyway so I feel fine not sending any out in return.

So, I don’t hate Christmas.

But I do hate it when adults talk about Santa Clause like he’s real.  I HATE IT.  It creeps me out.  I have hated the whole Santa angle of Christmas since I was a young kid.  I always knew Santa was my parents.  I didn’t need a creepy all-seeing old man watching me sleep to make my holiday magical.  In truth, the only thing I needed to make my holiday magical was for my parents to stop yelling at each other.

I also truly hate Christmas music.  All Christmas music that isn’t classical**.  So I get really grumpy during the holidays because for a minimum of 25 days every public place that has a music system is playing Christmas music on an endless loop.  It burns my brain.  I feel like everyone is trying to force me to be cheerful and excited all the time and if I don’t respond that means I’m some horrible Grinch person.

The real problem is that everyone is coming off a little too strong***.  If you encounter Grinchy people, don’t assume they’re ghastly people incapable of joy.  It might actually be YOU that’s causing their irritation and ruining their holiday experience.

It reminds me of the worst date I’ve ever gone on.  The man in question kept telling me how beautiful I was.  Kept complimenting me.  The more times he complimented me as we ate the lousy-ass dinner he made for me the less I believed anything he said.  By the end of dinner he came off as a lying sleaze and I loathed him.  He couldn’t let the compliment mean anything.  I ended up feeling gross rather than pretty.  He totally cheapened me.

From my perspective – the more desperate the fervor over Christmas the cheaper it is and the less it actually means.  In the pleasant and calm oasis that is my home – I will still love Christmas.  Next weekend we’ll get a tree and decorate and it will be plenty cheery.  Maybe I’ll make cookies but I probably won’t.  And if I do it will be because I FEEL LIKE IT, not because I feel obligated.  Inside my small world my Christmas is simple and quiet and completely stress free.  There’s no Santa to call the authorities on.  There’s no forced cheer.  There’s no massive time suck.  There are no holiday parties I don’t feel like going to.  It’s totally pleasant and full of my favorite people.

It’s only when I go out into the world that I HATE CHRISTMAS SO MUCH.

So how about everyone just mellow the hell out?!

*I do have one friend who is the kindest person EVER whose family pretty much bullies her into doing the whole Christmas dealio – and I totally get how hard it would be for her to tell off her family and if I could I would step in and tell them off for her.  So maybe you’re like her.  If you want me to – I’ll step in on your behalf.  Just let me know.

**I love Pachabel’s Canon and The Messiah.

***Did I say a “little” too strong?  I actually meant that everyone is coming off like Christmas addicts who can no longer operate without a major snort of Christmas-related excitement every single minute of every day until THE DAY.  Jesus.  No wonder people get so depressed after Christmas.

The Day After All That Joy

It’s the day after Christmas and I spent most of yesterday in bed, napping, and feeling like total crap with a sore throat.  I have a cold.  Whatever.  The thing is, and it’s important that you know this, I had a marvelous Christmas anyway.  I may scrooge my way through the inevitable (and slightly disproportionate) build up to Christmas which makes everyone who has no money, barely enough food or clothes, and bad family situations feel worse than they do for the rest of the entire year…but in the end I do really look forward to Christmas.

In my town there are plenty of houses with those queer little signs that say “Put the CHRIST back in CHRISTmas” and “Jesus is the reason for the season!” but it is, in spite of these sweet little efforts, largely a secular holiday now.  Which I believe it started off as in the first place though I know there may be some vehement argumentation to be had on that point.  I’m not a Pagan or a Wiccan even remotely, nor am I a Druid or a Satanist, or any other “ist” of any kind.  I’m not really an atheist* or even necessarily an agnostic, but I do celebrate Christmas with my family.

Does it really matter if Christmas used to be something other than the highly disputed birth of a messiah?  For those to whom that belief is treasured and meaningful there will always be a Christ in Christmas.  For those of a more pagan persuasion it will always have more of a lunar meaning.  For Jews it is a day to go to the movies.

For me it’s a day to simply be with family and to enjoy whatever abundance there is in our life.  It’s a day to spoil my kid if I can afford to.  It’s a day to celebrate how we get through the winter months with the help of friends and family as well as community.  It’s a day to recognize that we all need each other.  It’s a day to seek warmth and shelter wherever it can be found.  It’s a day to stop, to really STOP, and just be.

Our family rituals around holidays are few, this is likely because as a family of people with OCD we have to be careful how many extra rituals (burdens) we add to our lives.  We keep it simple.  While the rest of the world executes wildly elaborate family Christmas Eve dinners, we go out to eat.  (My jewish dad reminded me that Christmas Eve to Jews is a night to go out to get Chinese food- if only there were any good Chinese places here in our town!!).  This year we went driving around to see Christmas lights and marvel at the trouble others will go to to display their christmas spirit- also how willing people are to pay for amazingly inflated electric bills!

I’m thankful I don’t have to figure out how to fold up all those light displays- we had a pair of lighted reindeer one year and that nearly killed me with anxiety.

Christmas to me is also a celebration of winter.  I have a couple of friends who love winter as much as I do, but we are very few.  Winter is cleansing.  It’s a time of inward evaluation, of hibernation, of rest.  In a way it’s like the earth’s great gestational period, which sounds rather gross, but underneath the stripped landscape cells are dividing everywhere, life is quietly building, invisibly growing in the hush.

I love winter.  Christmas is the only real holiday that punctuates winter.  If Christ had never been born, if Christianity had never burst over the landscape, we’d still have Christmas.  People need it.  They need to remember, when the leaves have left the trees bare, when the icy rains are pelting them sideways, when the snows have buried their gardens, they need to remember that this is the time to meditate before spring comes to crush them with rainbows.  They need to be around people they love and do something festive to get through the dark.

I like Christmas.  I like the lights of Christmas because it is a happy and hopeful display in a landscape peculiarly appropriate for showing off lights.

The religious AND commercial pummeling during this holiday, the ridiculous sappy stories that most people delight in, the egregiously aggressively “happy” entertainment that beat at this holiday like it’s a sad small beast not good enough unless it can do something impossible like perform miracles- this I can do without.  These things pound at me mercilessly until I start sounding like Bukowski sitting through a live production of Dora the Explorer.  Pass the bottle and let’s rip that damn backpack off and see if she’s saved enough money to place a bet at the races!

That is all reaction.  That is all sour displeasure at people needing so much more all the time that it isn’t enough to just celebrate in whatever way is meaningful for each of us individually and quietly.  I guess people just need that.  They need there to always be more MORE MORE. It seems so greedy to need to have so MUCH meaning packed into one holiday.

I have to remind myself that I have no way to filter other people out.  My ability to shut other people out of my head is broken.  I have come to understand that part of being mentally ill in the way that I am means that I hear the world as though it’s constantly shouting through amplifiers.  It makes me extra sensitive to all the shouting out of JOY/DOGMA/MYTH/SORROW/HOMELESSNESS/ABUSE/POVERTY/HOPE/and EXPECTATION.  For most people you just filter out the parts you don’t like and you move on.  Who cares?

The psychic noise is insanely loud for the whole month of December.  So I gripe, I try to counterbalance it all with the other side, the other thoughts, the other possibilities, and in some way make it quiet or make it all shut up so I can just enjoy myself.

The truth is, I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s experience of the holiday.  If Christmas to you is a beautiful commemoration of your religious beliefs then I am happy for you to carry on with your personal way of celebrating that.  If Christmas to you is a time to celebrate the cycles of the earth and the moon then why would I want to spoil that for you?  I don’t.  If Christmas is simply a time to retell peculiar stories and myths about characters I find disturbing- I don’t really care- it’s part of what makes you all kind of weirder than me!

I spent most of my Christmas day in bed, napping, but my morning was wonderful.  I just hung out with my small family and we enjoyed our own version of generosity, good will, and fun.  I got to hear my kid say “Sweet!  Books!” when he opened a present full of books from his Aunt.  He seems to appreciate home made gifts  just as much as he appreciates getting video games and Legos.  He had the grace to even be excited to get pencil sharpeners in his stocking which was mama’s little joke (I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for things like pencil sharpeners).

We got a set of hot water bottles with hand knitted cozies from my good friend Taj which she insisted we open as soon as we got them a few weeks ago and Max LOVES them.  A ten year old stoked to get AND USE hot water bottles?  My kid cup is over flowing.

Max made me a set of comics for Christmas.  All very violent, of course, but his stick figure art gets more detailed and expressive every day and his pride and joy and seriousness in making comics for me for Christmas, his intense desire to make me something “good” for Christmas without once wondering or wishing he had enough money to buy me something- this is like the best Christmas present ever.  My kid is so far from perfect, he’s such a tough kid to parent at times, and yet nothing on this earth could make me wish to have a different kid than I do.  He is absolutely perfect for us.

Max, like most kids, is insanely excited about Christmas.  For the gifts.  He loves the presents.  As long as I have money to buy him some of the things he loves best I don’t see anything wrong with loving gifts.  It doesn’t sully Christmas to me that Max wants Legos and video games.  Not as long as he continues to get excited by hot water bottles with hand-knit cozies.  Not as long as he can get just as excited about new books to read.  In our family it’s okay to go minimal, to do what you can afford, to re-gift things, to make things to your personal level of ability.  No gift is scorned.

I had a marvelous Christmas.  I felt like total crap and even as we speak I’ve moved into the head cold portion of the sickness, with the chest cold to follow I’m sure.  But I’m happy.  I don’t know where we’ll be living next year.  I don’t know what our situation will be.  I can’t predict if we’ll both still have jobs next year.  All I can do is enjoy that right now we have heat on in our house when we want it, we had a very provident Christmas considering that we’re a bit low budget (even Max knew he would only get presents within a certain budget), and each other.

I hope all of you had a great Christmas too, no matter what that means to you!

*Well, I most closely resemble an Atheist I suppose.  I figure I must be because I 100% agree with the weirdly controversial essay written by Ricky Gervais on why he’s an atheist.  Why it should be controversial to explain your atheist views but not be controversial to explain your religious views completely mystifies me.  What’s refreshing to me is that few public figures make any statements about their atheism while many public figures make statements about their faiths.  Nice to hear from an atheist for once!  Perhaps it’s ridiculous of me to waffle between Atheism and Agnosticism.  Perhaps I should just pick a lane and drive.  Something to think about while I sniffle and cough my way through the last week of the year.

If Ricky Gervais had written an essay all about his Jewish beliefs I’m pretty sure he would not have gotten any shit.  People would have just been kind of surprised to discover he’s Jewish.  When Christians come proselytizing at your door if you tell them you’re not interested because you’re Jewish they politely offer you a booklet on their faith and disappear.  If you tell them you are an atheist they don’t accept this as a legitimate belief and consider you meat for the saving.  I know because I’ve tried both tacks.  Not having any belief in God seems to be the most threatening thing of all to people of every faith, it is worse than believing in a different god or several gods.  Atheists are worse, it seems, and more evil than Satanists.  It’s fascinating.  Why should anyone’s lack of religious belief shake your own?  Furthermore, if you want respect from an atheist or an agnostic for your faith you might start by respecting their own beliefs.

Santa: if he was real you’d be prosecuting

I thought it fitting to punctuate a post about Santa with the universal invitation to debauchery.

When Max was three years old he decided that Santa Clause was a creepy old bastard to be watching everything kids do. Since I’ve always thought this myself it was hard to keep up the pretense that the man in the stupid suit and fake facial hair wasn’t a pedophile getting lap dances from children for fucking free.

I said none of this to Max, obviously.  His real concern was that Santa could watch him even when he’s pooping. Which, at three, is about as humiliating as anything gets.  He had this thought after listening to some carol at preschool in which kids were warned that Santa knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice.  Max wanted to know how can he tell?  Can he see EVERYTHING we do?

If you’re trying your hardest not to destroy the whole Santa fantasy for your kid it’s a very difficult question to answer.  If I were to say “No, because Santa isn’t real” – POOF! – there goes all things magical.  But if I maintain that Santa is all magical and shit then I could only answer that yes he can see everything.

So Max decided, at three, not to believe in Santa and I was relieved not to have to make a big deal about letters to creepy fictional characters or pretending to believe in elves and other twinkly things that make my skin itch.

Then when he was eight years old he sprung a shocking 360 on me and announced that he really did believe in Santa and wanted to know if I did too.


What do you say after years of not having to discuss this magical creep?  I have been unguarded for years about this and suddenly my kid is looking longingly at me to resurrect the Christmas dream for him?  I have no memory of how I handled that crisis but I do recall that there were a couple of presents under the tree purportedly from the big red suited guy up north.   I believe the same ruse was attempted last year though I don’t recall any specific discussions about the uneasy subject, possibly due to the proper amount of beer being consumed throughout “the season”.

Last week Max announced that he officially doesn’t believe in Santa Clause.

For most kids they blithely believe in the fantasy until their childhood innocence is destroyed by the discovery that Santa isn’t real and that’s the moment they become wizened deflated hopeless children who will immediately turn their magic-less hearts to sex, drugs, and crime.

My kid just waffles back and forth.  What I love about this is that he has taken complete charge of what he will and won’t believe in.  Didn’t believe in Santa last year?  No problem, life doesn’t end, people believe and then don’t believe in God all the time, right?  You can change your mind about it any time you like if you are in control of your own head, heart, and mind.

What I don’t love is the Santa whiplash.

I will always cherish the fact that my three year old thought it was creepy for any being to be able to watch him go to the bathroom without his express permission.

What I don’t get is how hard some parents work to keep their kids’ belief in Santa alive.  What’s the big deal?  So what if a kid stops believing in the agoraphobic man in the north pole?   (c’mon!  He leaves the North Pole ONCE A YEAR, and at night so no one can see him also watching children sleeping which you’d totally send your neighbor to prison for doing)

It’s almost as though parents are trying to reinvent their childhood through their children, to resurrect all their crushed dreams, and to make a life for their kids that they never had or that was taken from them or that no one has but that everyone wants… like a Rockwellian ideal of childhood gleaned from magazine spreads.

Wait, that’s the whole reason why parents have babies in the first place!*

I have to say that I haven’t tried to do any of these things with my kid.  Sure, I don’t abuse him because that would be modeling my parenting off of my personal demons, but I wouldn’t abuse him anyway  because it’s wrong to abuse anyone.  Period.  As far as recreating the childhood I wish I’d had?  I don’t wish for a childhood I didn’t have.  Yeah, it would have been nice if it was more stable, less frightening, but how can I get nostalgic over something I never had?  What bloody use would it be to pine for simpler times that never were?  Why would I waste time trying to give my son something that will set him up for disappointment as soon as he realizes it’s all just pretend anyway?

Finding magic in Christmas without fictional stories, whether biblical or pagan in nature, is not that hard.  Magic doesn’t have to be a fake world.  Why can’t it be enough for people to celebrate making it through the winter?  Why can’t it be enough to gather with friends and family simply in the spirit of love and helping each other through this nightmare of an economy that Bush’s regime gifted us all with?  Share food, drink, laughs, blankets, heaters, socks, and lots and lots of alcohol- these things are binding.

If you don’t think it’s magical to have a home to go to at the end of the day then give your home up cause I guarantee you that you will see how magical food, water, shelter, and a tribe really are if you don’t have them.  No Santa required. Complete magic!

Decorating is fun and never has to be expensive and even I, a curmudgeon of the first water, love to see all the holiday decorations.  This is what I enjoy with my family.  We walk around and notice people’s decorations and we decorate our own living room and tree too.  It’s simple inexpensive enjoyment.  And some people can’t even afford that.  So I feel it, I feel it keenly that I get to be inside under the Christmas lights for another year.

*Aside from enjoying having unprotected sex and appeasing their hormones.