Okay. I've been around here for a few years, commented probably more than I should have, but just never felt moved to write a diary.
This morning, I came upon this excellent diary by Angie in WA State and for some reason it got me thinking about Xmas...in July. I always call it Xmas because I think, In the United States anyway, it has transcended any nominal association with actual Christian doctrine, much as many Xians have. To me, this holiday has evolved into a secular celebration of crass consumerism. And once I accepted it in my heart for what it really is, I kind of like it. I like buying stuff for people that they probably don't need or want. I like how kids get excited about Santa Claus. And I really like the feasts and parties. This diary isn't really political, more just a collection of ruminations on the subject. A trifle.
So anyway, here goes. Follow me beyond Santa's orange beard as I leave my diary writin' cherry behind...
I actually like the crass commercialism of Xmas. It's maybe my favorite part of the holiday...well, besides the drinking. I'm pretty fond of that too. But the manner in which we celebrate Xmas, the slow but steady buildup, from those first little hints: the appearance of bits of Xmas paraphernalia on the end caps at the grocery store sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The overnight changeover of the mini Reese’s cups and Hershey Kisses from autumn golds and oranges to Xmas reds and greens. It’s the same shit…just repackaged, but I still think the green ones taste the best. Then comes the gradual infestation of Xmas decorations, from the simple holly wreath on a neighbor’s front door to the guy down the road who goes full Griswold. Then, before you can say “Good King Wenceslas,” you are surrounded wherever you go by an aural onslaught of seasonal music…or more often, Muzak. In the small town where I live, you literally can’t walk down Main Street without being subjected to Johnny Mathis bleating about babies in mangers or Bing Crosby’s meteorological musings. (BTW, my favorite Xmas carol has become "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," by Twisted Sister.) But the subliminal message behind all of it is as consistent as the drum beat on a Roman Galley: “Get off your ass and go buy shit. LOTS OF SHIT!”
And we do, by God. Every year, my wife and I have the same conversation. “Let’s not go hog wild this year,” we say and we agree to scale back. But we never stick to it. We just can’t. The true Xmas spirit of reckless spending, of buying shit for other people that they probably don’t want or need is irresistible to us. And it’s not just presents. We set candy dishes and cookie plates around our home. I stock up on Hacker-Pschorr Octoberfest and LaTrappe Quads to share with kith and kin. Wine and cheese…it’s like the stuff just spontaneously appears.
Something I always look forward to is the annual batch of seasonal TeeVee commercials. I like to see what progress the producers have made over the last year in finding new and inventive ways to shamelessly exploit iconic Xmas symbols to manipulate the behavior of the national herd. What nutrient deficient brand of fast food will Santa be hawking this year? Will he be washing it down with Coke or 7up? Or Budweiser? And it doesn’t really feel like Xmas until DeBeers tells me what kind of setting I’m supposed to blow a month’s salary on this year so I can hang some diamonds around the wife’s neck. But that’s just the warm up. The best is yet to come.
Whenever I see the TeeVee commercial in which some 1 percenter is surprised on Xmas morning with a sparkling new Lexus with a big red bow on it, I'm reminded that if there is a god, he must be pretty selective about the company he keeps. Which is okay with me as I subscribe to the Groucho Marx philosophy about not joining any club that would have someone like me as a member. Now, I may be in the minority on this, but I can’t even imagine dropping upwards of fifty grand on an Xmas present. I don’t think I even know anyone with the wherewithal to pull that off. Maybe I could manage one of those DeBeers diamonds…the real small one. But a freaking Lexus is setting the bar kind of high. I always wonder just how many Lexi they actually sell with those big red bows on them.
Of course, the commercialization of Xmas is not a recent phenomenon. I go back far enough to remember when it just wasn't Xmas without a Pet Rock, or a mood ring. I have worn both English Leather and nothing at all. And besides convicts, who ever bought themselves a soap on a rope? I remember the Cabbage Patch Kids wars and the bloody battles over Tickle Me Elmo. I even remember the commercial where the little elves from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer would ride a Norelco electric shaver around in the snow. Even as a kid I found that pretty bizarre. Probably why I’m a blade man to this day. When our sons were little, my wife and I used to fortify ourselves with a few drinks and go for a midnight shopping binge at Toys R Us. I would always buy the boys at least one toy that I remembered having as a kid. Rock-em Sock-em Robots was a big hit, but I still can’t believe that they would rather play Madden Football than Battling Tops. I remember one time when my wife was admonishing the kids for thinking that Xmas was just about getting presents and stuff. She asked our middle son who was about six or seven, to tell her the meaning of Xmas. He said he knew all about it.
“We celebrate Jesus being the first kid to get Xmas presents from the three wise guys.”
I couldn’t have said it any better.
We have kind of a tradition of hosting Xmas Eve dinner at our home, the preparation of which can be daunting, depending on the menu. The party starts in the afternoon with family sitting down for a nice meal, then morphs into an open house for friends until we all end up around the bar downstairs. At times, there has been four generations of family together spreading Xmas cheer. As the evening draws on, the music gets a little louder and the drinks get a little stronger and the dogs are barking and we are all shouting toasts to each other’s health while simultaneously trying to ruin it. It’s as though all the tension leading up to that moment, all the stress that has built up through the year, is released in a single, collective, drunken pagan climax. It’s actually pretty therapeutic. It can be exhausting and I usually end up feeling like hell for the next couple of days, but I could never not do it. It's too important to a lot of people.
I guess for me, the best time is late on Xmas Eve, after the guests have all left and the dishes are done. The ash trays are emptied and the leftover prime rib has been wrapped and placed in the refrigerator to silently await the expiration of its shelf life. The children are nestled, all snug in their beds...or someone's beds as they are all grown men now. I’ll put on a cheesy Kenny G Xmas record, pour some Crown Royal over a few ice cubes, sit in front of a fire with my wonderful wife of 28 years and quietly contemplate our annual contribution to the insatiable engine of commerce. At that moment, when I'm completely immersed in the true Xmas spirit, when I can just feel the spent consumerism oozing from every pore, I’ll inevitably turn to her and say, "God bless us, every one...Fuckin' A."