Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bah Humbug?

"Bah, humbug!"

It's already starting. Every Christmas season, we hear the same complaints.

"They start the advertising earlier and earlier!"

"They're just trying to get us to spend more money!"

"Christmas has become about commerce and not about family and love!"

This is new to you? People act as though there was some magic Santa dust that floated around coating everything in happiness and joy as far back as whenever their childhood took place that has somehow disappeared into a cloud of greed and Grinchy mock-cheer.

You remember how Christmas "used to be" in the "good old days." You remember watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer every year as your house got greener and redder every day and the neighborhood began to glow in yuletide electric light. The one neighbor that you all complained took it "too far" created a pulsing tribute to holiday happiness that although you disapproved outwardly, you couldn't wait to see. The tree went up the day after Thanksgiving, you picked it out yourselves, and you merrily watched "the Grinch's heart grow three times that day" more religiously than The Ten Commandments on Easter.

News flash! Rudolph is still aired each year, as is the Grinch--in fact you now have a movie version to choose from--and neighborhoods seem to be just as brightly lit as ever before. The bulbs are just a bit more energy-efficient and actually better for the earth.

And if you think those violent Walmart rushes 'twas the night before Black Friday are a sign that commercialization has ruined the holiday since you were a child, replacing Santa with Mattel and elves with those stupid Walmart smiley faces, I have three words for you. Cabbage. Patch. Kids. Have you forgotten the violent commotion during those Christmas shopping seasons back in the 80s as the last of those little ugly bastards were sold off the shelves?

You sit back and watch A Christmas Story pine-treeing for a better time, a more innocent time, a time when love and family came first and commercial greed was tucked away under the tree skirt or in a stocking somewhere. You forget that the movie was set in the 1940s on the verge of WWII and on the heels of The Great Depression. So much for innocence and lack of commercial greed. Wasn't it the greed of the 1920s that brought about all that we see in that movie? America was already long gone. And the whole story revolves around a kid who thinks all is lost if he doesn't get the exact one perfect gift that he's been hoping for. The story could easily be set today with much the same results. In fact, many think the movie is set in the 1980s when the film was released. Bah humbug?

The commercialization of Christmas and loss of spirit we whine about today was actually alive and well over 100 years ago. It could be heard as the gentle subtext in the words "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" way back in 1897. In 1947 we needed a Miracle, with an address no less--34th Street in Manhattan--to renew our faith in a holiday corrupted by the commercial tyranny of Macy's. The cynic should not forget that Santa and shopping were synonymous even as far back as then. And that Grinch we watch every year to renew our spirit was necessary because of the greed and lack of charity Dr. Seuss saw ruining Christmas way back in 1957.

I want to let you in a little secret, haters. Christmas hasn't changed. You've changed.

I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but you're not kids anymore. It's as simple as that. Christmas "just ain't what it used to be" because you don't believe in Santa, you now have to supply the gifts while paying the bills, and when you wake up on December 25th, all your problems and issues that plague you all year long don't magically disappear. Ask your parents and their parents and their parents if they're still alive. Ask every generation that's ever celebrated Christmas. Of course it's not the same. You're not the same. But you now have the power to make it not just the same, but better.

Don't be selfish. Don't wallow in no Santa bringing you magic gifts and the whole world not turning to snowflakes and stars on tops of trees. Create that experience for your children. Do you want it to be like it was when you were child? Do it. Was there one part of Christmas you think could have been better? Fix it. Tradition and spirit don't just magically happen, people create them. Make it mean something. If you don't like the commercialization of the holiday, why the hell are you in that line at midnight Thanksgiving night with mace in your purse? Slow down, appreciate the special moments you create with your family, and give the bah humbug a rest.

If you think you can't afford a "proper" Christmas because of "today's prices" and "today's economy," just think back to that family in A Christmas Story. On the tail end of a depression, on one income, with a furnace acting up, they pulled it off. None of the gifts under that tree were very expensive, but they meant something to those kids.

So enjoy your family, enjoy the gifts you do have, not the ones from Mattel or Sony but the ones you create yourself in the hearts and memories of your children.

Oh yeah, and don't shoot your eye out!

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