Remove yourself from it for a few years (or work retail) and it begins to look very absurd, indeed.
Full of odd tropes, so many that it seems every single thing in the world has a Christmas version, every television show, series of toys, comics, characters, discography, magazine, aesthetic changes for a few months in service of tradition careening out of control more and more each year.
For Christ’s sake, ham becomes ‘Christmas ham.’
These themes pervade such as; ‘this is going to be the best Christmas ever,’ ‘this is a very special Christmas,’ ‘the last Christmas, the very last Christmas,’ ‘Christmas is in danger!’, ‘we need to save Christmas!’ ‘the Miracle of Christmas!’ And not merely in fiction, but IRL as well.
Religious fundamentalists and fanatics decry the commercialism of the holiday, even going back nearly a hundred years. It is not merely the Grinch, Scrooge, or any other of a countless nefarious foe out to eradicate the holiday with a push of a button, but marketing departments, conglomerates, thieves, cheats, secularists and competing religious/philosophical worldviews.
For some such as myself, the holiday has no real meaning, nothing that the warmth of family, friends, and community cannot provide on other holidays or year round. A pleasant nostalgia that could also be served by watching TMNT or playing NES. Part of the absurdity I find in the fanaticism of Christmas stems from the seemingly arbitrariness of choosing this particular holiday. Why not St. Patrick’s Day? Or Easter? The madness associated with Halloween is fun and outrageous (and now exported to every part of the globe), but on no such scale as the industrious and brobdignagian Christmas.
Even allowing the synthesis of a long-running Christian dominance over Western society (and later the world) with strong pagan roots, I’m amazed at the incredible surge of ‘meaning’ that appears to have historically manifested in the last couple centuries. Almost as if Christmas is quickening towards some kind of ‘holiday singularity’. The corporatization aside, even the larger celebrated secular Christmas tradition looms large over society, literally enveloping a quarter of the year. Fair-weather Christians attend church on this day, and people who profess no kinship to friends and families may buy gifts or cards out of misplaced obligation. Children and indeed adults pretend to be ‘extra special good’ in the weeks leading up to Santa and also Christ’s arrival. Acts of madness ensue in mall parking lots. A mini-apocalypse, since Christians known not the time of his return, but do know his birthday.
Every musical artist ‘worth their salt’ has to release multiple Christmas tracks, sometimes part of a compilation with others, often an entire album or two of their own. The majority are covers of what are now considered ‘holiday standards,’ enough to fill entire radio stations for months. Others compose their own holiday ballads, in the hopes of making it their own repulsive standard, and in fact may later be covered themselves.
If you stop to consider, there is an entire genre of music that is only popularly played during one time of the year, and you probably know most of the lyrics.
And when I think of the number of Christmas songs performed by Frank Sinatra, I can also mull over the many years of Christmas experiences the Chairman may have himself had, filled with joy, sorrow, loss, togetherness, loneliness, prosperity, charity, or bitterness. His experiences, both good and bad, are like all of ours, and more or less contribute to the shared cultural phenomenon doomed to repeat each and every year.
For you see, you can’t really remove yourself from the season at all. It is in you.
Christmas for many is religious, or nonsecular, or secular, or commercial, or a state of deep depression. I don’t mind the fetishism of the day and its symbols and themes, even if it has been fully taken over by mass consumerism and capitalist scheming. I don’t even necessarily mind that it is overtaking Thanksgiving and Halloween, though many do, and those days should certainly be observed for their own intrinsic kickass nature. Christmas itself, for a period of each year at least, becomes a religion unto itself. We worship with our pocketbooks. By our consumption of holiday treats and the same old movie classics.
There are those who, regardless of their spiritual nature, idolize and glorify Christmas, despite the number of atrocities that occur during the month. There are those that get depressed, as suicide rates rise (myth) and crimes increase. More break-ups occur in November through January, attesting perhaps to our inner cheapness. So why give in to it at all? Why bother being so upset and lonely, simply because society is emphasizing the special romantic togetherness that others have? Just boycott and ignore it.
In posing this question to others, I received several theories. The evolution of Christmas, from romantic prose and Germanic saintly gift-giving, the search for a proper holiday mascot, and the formulaic standardization of Santa Claus by Coca-Cola and Norman Rockwell, has been one long growing culture of capitalizing on such heavy heartstrings. Others have suggested that we are more susceptible due to our winter blues, cabin fever, the wistful changing of the seasons and yes, the end of our very calendar system. The need to share warm food and family unity, much like Thanksgiving, harkening back to our harsh harvesting days. Another pointed out that the advertising and sales push is driven by the year-end audit, the taxable stock, and need for final quarterly revenues in the black.
Capitalism has certainly latched onto this endless cycle of tropes and dogma, ignoring that Santa himself doesn’t make or spend money, we all remember that the very first Christmas gifts were very expensive indeed; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the message of Rudolph is clear: your peers will have no respect or value for you unless your uniqueness provides some basic utility to the employer. This year, Best Buy actually looks to actually out-do Santa Claus.
Which begs another question, of not just why Christmas, or why not some other holiday, or why anything at all, but why not all year-round? The parallel dimension of all-year Christmas may look frantic, insane with shoppers and muggers, and surprise military attacks and shady legislation, wars still fought and the rich getting richer, but would also be a world with consistently impressive tips, donations, charity, the ostracizing of Scroogely misers, kindness to children, brotherhood and understanding to people around the world, and that most lovable absurdity of all; gift-giving.
And what of the universe with no Christmas at all? Would they miss it? Would some other institution inevitable take its place around some other holiday, or destined to be near the cold, wintry end of the year regardless? So necessary and ingrained in us that no Twilight Zone trickery could remove it?
Christmas permeates every thing, there is no escape, easily 1/12th to 1/4 of our lives is Christmas. And if one wished to, one could use decorations and sites of the internet (because why bother taking any of them down?) to celebrate all year.
I guess it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate in whatever way you want, even if that means deliberate boycott, solitary solemn worship, family reunion, or all-out spending spree. You can have no regard at all for the day but still relish the excuse to give gifts. It means many different things to many different people, and that even includes complete apathy.
As with everything, I advise not wasting any of your vitriol on the holiday season. Christmas hatred is perhaps the worst absurdity of all.
“I will stop taking Christ out of Christmas is you stop taking Thor out of Thursday.”