Christmas. If there was ever an opportunity for bitching that surpasses Valentine’s Day, Christmas is it. Religious fanatics wrapped up in red wool, trying their level best to sell me every damn thing in the store…at RETAIL! Family obligations and the pressure, guilt and recriminations that come along with them. It’s enough to make you wish Festivus (the holiday for the rest of us) wasn’t merely a set up for a punchline on Seinfeld: “I got a lot of problems with you people!”
Perhaps I’m a wee bit biased. After all, my earliest Christmas memories are of my maternal grandfather setting a leghold bear trap in the fireplace, swearing up and down that the Fat Bastard was gonna get it this year, for sure. I always thought he meant my father, who was 5’8″ and went a little better than 250 pounds.
After a few years of crying every time we made the holiday visit to the grandparents, I figured out that Pop wasn’t the target. I should have felt relieved, but the realization that Zeda didn’t wan’t to kill Daddy was accompanied by the understanding that he did want to kill Santa Claus. This was very upsetting. I already knew that we had been framed for killing Jesus – I’d had a few scraps in elementary school over that. I figured adding Santa to the rap sheet was not likely to improve the situation.
So, at a very early age, my classroom-drafted letters to Santa included a warning about bullet-proof vests and a pleading suggestion that perhaps he might prefer to leave my presents with a neighbour. I never heard back, nor did I ever get any presents. I assumed the Goyim didn’t let Claus read the letters from little Jewish kids – good intentions notwithstanding.
There are many problems with Christmas. Crass commercialism is definitely in the top five. It’s not so bad in Taiwan (which is an odd place for crass commercialism NOT to be a problem), despite the fact that the 7-11 clerks have been wearing those stupid Santa hats since the middle of November. It’s worse back home. The television commercials, radio breaks, flyers, billboards, placemats in restaurants…everywhere you turn there’s another onslaught of glossy modelled perfection goading you into digging yourself further into debt in a vain effort to create that perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas, which experience SHOULD have taught you is impossible, no matter how much you spend. Visions of sugarplums, indeed.
The Norman Rockwell Christmas – the idea of it – is another problem. I’d like to dig old Norm up so I can give him the good, solid slap he so richly deserves. Damn rosy cheeked kids grinning at the feet of their cursed pipe-smoking father, all pleased as punch with the wonderful gifts so recently unwrapped. What about the scene you can’t see: Mommy, drunk in the kitchen, pissed that she has to cook Christmas dinner for the hateful inlaws and counting the minutes until she can return the stupid fucking thing her idiot husband bought her.
My dear, sainted Mother is a firm believer in the Norman Rockwell Christmas. Perhaps an odd thing for a Jewish mother, but if you simply take Jesus out of the equation and leave all the guilt, expectations and disappointment, you’re in the neighbourhood. We decorated a Channukah bush.
Mom is convinced, despite the bitter lessons of experience, that she can cram an entire year’s worth of love and motherly concern for her children into the four days we spend together over the holidays. Damned if she’ll let the Christians have all the holiday misery. The stress of these heightened expectations, not to mention the crushing reality of it all, drives my brother and I deep inside a bottle. We have learned to keep Mom’s bottle in the kitchen…for solace as she marinates yet another turkey with her tears.
There are good reasons why Christmas always brings a spike in suicides. All those dashed expectations, family and financial stresses seem a few orders of magnitude heavier at the holidays. As some Russian once wrote, “Happy families are all the same, but dysfunctional families are unhappy in their own unique way.” At any other time of the year, people suck it up and carry on, perhaps convinced that their miserable lives are not that much worse than everyone else’s. And that’s probably true. But come Christmas, every freakin’ commercial on TV (not to mention the plethora of Peanuts and Dr. Suess specials) serves to reinforce the cold reality that your life AIN’T no Norman Fucking Rockwell Christmas. Just once I’d like to see that goddamn Grinch mangle the presents and crush a few caroling Whos under the runners…feed ’em to the dog. That spindly Christmas tree Charlie Brown and Linus Van Pelt rescue from the tree lot? This year Lucy torches it and beats Charlie senseless with the charred stump.
Another problem with Christmas is the religious element. Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Jesus, and I think marking His birthday is a fine idea. I just wish all those people who claim to follow J.C.’s word would start walking with Him and stop hiding behind Him. It makes it tough for the many pagans around the world to get into the spirit when idiots like Dubya keep making thinly veiled references to the Son of God telling him where to bomb next.
Christ, whether you consider Him a myth, a rabbi, or the messiah, stands for something more than getting your nose out of joint because Madame Tussaud’s depicted David Beckham and Posh Spice as a wax Joseph and Mary. To all those hyper-sensitive sorts who demand a traditional manger scene, please note the mistletoe hanging from my belt.
Fact is, Jesus was a pretty cool guy. Too many folks let their horrible experience with organized religion prevent them from learning about the alleged son of God. The actual story of Christ is contained in only four books of the New Testament – Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. It’s a good story. And given the weight He carries; the influence He wields in the affairs of our planet; the blasphemous means and evil ends for which His name is frequently invoked, I suggest you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the source (short of learning ancient Aramaic).
Nevertheless, bitching momentarily aside, Christmas does have one good thing going for it – the Christmas spirit. Good will toward men and all that (what the hell…it is Christmas, after all…good will toward women, too). It’s not easily defined, but you know what I mean. There’s something about the holiday that does bring out the best in folks. Despite the almost certain knowledge that, at some point in the immediate future, a crushing depression will descend upon you, everyone seems to make an effort to be a little more polite, a wee bit kinder, and just a touch more considerate of their fellow citizens. Unless, of course, there’s only one X-Box left in stock and it’s been promised to four different kids. In that case, all bets are off and you can stick your Jesus up your gameboy.
Now all you stocking stuffing bastards fuck off. I’m busy.