Sunday, November 25, 2007

Holiday Joy

So it’s the holiday season again. On Thanksgiving morning, I watched the Macy’s parade. I’m not really sure why I still do this. I hate the Macy’s parade. I think I watch it for traditional reasons (i.e., I watched it as a kid), but the performances get more and more obnoxious every year. I am not fond of musicals, and the song performances make me cringe.

The next day I went for a long walk along the Delaware River, and had stopped in a café along Harrison Ave. They were playing Christmas music. This no longer shocks me. Lewis Black was correct—Thanksgiving has become Christmas, Part I. I don’t necessarily even mind all Christmas music. Some of it, especially the traditional English pieces (such as the Wexford Carol), are quite nice. But they didn’t play this kind of music. They played more modern Christmas songs, by singers who Dave Barry aptly classifies as the “you don’t love me anymore so I’m going to jump in the bathtub with an electrical appliance” variety. In short, they’re wusses. I don’t like ordinary wuss music, and I especially don’t like wuss holiday music. They sing about children and love and Jesus and hope and trust in such a way that you pray for a painful Armageddon.

What is it about them that I don’t like? I thought about this, and I realize that it’s Carrie Brownstein’s dealbreaker in music—preciousness. Unless you are referring to gemstones, I don’t consider the word “precious” to be particularly complimentary. I cringe if my own mother uses it to refer to me. There’s something about the “preciousness” of these songs that is like an Amanda Bradley greeting card—full of supposedly heartfelt sentiment that smacks of being entirely false.

A friend of mine went away to see our Guru over the Thanksgiving holiday, and I stayed with her 15 and 16-year old son and daughter. Unlike me, they are born and raised traditionally Hindu.

My friend’s son had helped out serving the homeless on Thanksgiving with one of his friends. When I spoke to him, he was totally disgusted. “There was so much food left over. I kid you not—an entire room full of pumpkin pies. Even the volunteers couldn’t take it home. So do you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to throw all that food OUT. I don’t know what it is with these idiot Christians—they cook way too much food, totally overdoing it on one holiday—and basically say ‘f*ck you’ to the poor the rest of the year.”

I thought about that, and realized that he hit upon the very thing I despise about the holiday season. Everyone suddenly wants to get warm and cozy with all of humanity by throwing lots of stuff at them. Once Christmas is over, you don’t see the same level of concern for the homeless, or for orphaned children, or whomever. Just like Christmas music, it is full of sentimentality, with nothing that truly moves you behind it.

Christmas is an entirely secular holiday. It is meant to line the pockets of retailers, and nothing else. I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as much as the next person, but Lucy is unfortunately correct. The “keep Christ in Christmas” signs are bulls**t. Christ was born in the spring, probably in April. This is not about the birth of Jesus. It’s an ancient pagan holiday taken over by Christians in order to assimilate pagans to the new religion. I’ve never really forgiven the missionaries for doing that. The St. Patricks of the world did not do us any favors. The point of the holiday is to celebrate the end of shorter days and look forward to the return of longer days. People have traditionally dealt with this by feasting and getting drunk. People still do that, but they’ve added layers of commercial manipulation and guilt to the festivities. Makes me long for simpler times.

My friend’s daughter now has a job in retail. I picked her up from work on Friday, and noted that she looked disgruntled. “My feet hurt” when I asked her about it, “and they played that goddamn CHRISTMAS music all day—that ‘jazzy’ variety—that just about drove me insane.” I felt bad for her. I remember going to a certain mall in Central New Jersey, where they had this 30-foot tall mechanical singing polar bear set up for the holidays. The voice of the bear was much like that of Barney the Dinosaur, a voice which I can tolerate for about ½ of a nanosecond. If this was designed to make me shop at the mall, then I had some bad news for the management. I had been looking at a piece of jewelry on one of the carts in the mall. I looked at the woman who was minding the cart, and realized that she had to listen to this ALL DAY. It’s even worse than being inside one of the stores, where you might be able to drown out the bear with some appalling holiday music of your own. I realized how blessed I was to work in a library, where noise is not allowed.

So—some holiday advice: leave the semi-automatic weapons home when you’re shopping or dining for the next month and wear earplugs (or bring the ol’ iPod with you) when entering any sort of shopping mall. Shopping may be the reason for the season, but don’t overdo it. Cheers.


Unknown said...

It's funny- I watch the Thanksgiving Parade also- mostly to see the Pillsbury Doughboy float-unfortunately he usually comes on towards the end and I've noticed for the past two years, the current American Idol is dancing on his float and singing their horrible trademark song. Poppy is not happy about this- as he 1)detests sharing his float with someone and 2)he hates the American Idol people and resents that he must dance to their horrible music!

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has any faith left in Humanity as a group should work retail over the christ-mass season.

I love your comment about sentimentality with nothing behind it. It's so and unfortunately true.

I have been a HUGE fan of Yule/Christmas for years. I have more boxes of decorations for one month out of the year than I do boxes of clothes. But the last two years, there have been events in my life that have just killed it for me. I am struggling to find what makes the season special for me. Or even if I care about it at all...

At the VERY least the jazzy variety or instrumental Christmas music doesn't drive the 'Jesus is the only god' crap into our head more... I have made different words to sing along with that don't piss me off.