As the city gears up for the holidays (- who are we kidding? it's been the holidays since Halloween ended), I find myself often feeling disenchanted. I realize you, dear reader, probably pegged me as someone who adores everything-Christmas, everything-holidays. Not so. In fact, if you ARE someone who loves the holiday season, you may want to mosey on over to another entry of mine, because a lot of what I'm about to say might upset you...
I hate 90% of Christmas music. Those radio channels that play Christmas music? They super annoy me. I change them quicker than I would a Christian Rock station (and no, I do not listen to Christian Rock.) Know what else I don't like? Christmas parades. Dumb. Malls with Santas and Christmas decorations everywhere? Dumb. A lot of Christmas cookies aren't great - I'll tell you that, too. I don't like egg nog. Hell, while we're at it - I do not like pumpkin pie. I don't like a LOT of pies. All those traditional Christmas-time movies people like? Most of them do nothing for me. I don't like most Christmas decorations... and - are you ready? - I'm not going to put up a Christmas tree.
Please don't tell my Grandma. Last year, someone [read: my mother] told her that I wasn't going to put up a Christmas tree, and it made her SO SAD that she decided to [through my mother] express her sadness and concern to the point that I actually felt like I was letting the world down by not having one up in my apartment.
Sure, that sounds like just a funny Grandma/Mother story to you - but to my surprise, I had a similar experience just last week when dining out with some friends. [Friends, you know who you are - and you know I love you dearly]. At dinner, one of the friends asked me if I was putting up a tree this year, and I casually responded, "No, I don't think so." I felt like the music in the bar stopped like a country western movie, as all four dining companions turned to look at me. "You're not?" "No," I said, surprised enough at their reaction to start speaking more slowly. "It's just me and my cat - what's the point? I mean, I won't have any presents under there." A friend responded, "I'm just so surprised that YOU of all people won't have a tree!" Things didn't get any better when I mentioned that I already own a tree - a fake tree in my attic (from my Grandma, I might note) - and just don't feel like getting it down and assembling it. Many blank looks. Finally I had to outburst, "I mean, I like Christmas trees! I have nothing against them! And I'll certainly enjoy the one at my mother's house when I go there on Christmas day!" At this point I got teased for only seeing Christmas trees as vehicles to deliver presents. Which was in jest, but I of course felt the need to keep explaining myself that honestly it's not about presents (well, I mean it is - obviously I like them, but also I like giving them) - but to me, a tree's for a gathering, I mean, isn't it? I have no kids running around (thank goodness), and lord knows I'm not wrapping up any gifts for my cat and putting them under a tree. (Don't tell my cat.) I dunno, it's just kinda like, why bother with all that?
I promise - if you're wondering right now if you ever knew me at all - you do :) There ARE actually many things I love about the holidays - they're just the things that have authenticity and meaning to them. They're the things we're NOT getting hit over the head with this time of year.
In fact, I think it's commercialism that's spoiled so much of the holiday magic for me. Things that don't ring true to me, that don't feel authentic/genuine/from the heart? I can't get excited about them. Overly marketed-ness is what does that to me. For example, it's why I don't like Tinkerbell. Everyone thinks that since I like fairies, I must love Tinkerbell. I DON'T. Please don't give me any Tinkerbell figurines next time there is a Holly-gift-giving occasion... I don't want them. (Actually, on that note - and realizing that I will now remind you of the girl in Dodgeball, I have an apartment full of fairy figurines in general. Probably don't need any more. Pretty jewelry, though? THAT I don't have enough of :) ). But I digress - my example here is that Tinkerbell sold out. She's this Disney product that has been marketed and commercialized up the wazoo (where on EARTH did that expression come from, by the way?) - and as a result, doesn't represent magic to me.
So the traditional Christmas music you all love so much? Most of it annoys me... Because you hear those songs every store you go in! And they're ONLY playing it because creating a magical, holiday atmosphere that reminds you of your childhood Christmases is going to get you to stay in their store longer and buy more of their merchandise!! Disgusting.
Incidentally, if you are feelin' me right now like whoa - I've got something for you. Not why I wrote this piece, but since it's on topic - a guy I know from high school is working on a graphic novel called XMas on TV that takes this all to the next level. It's about a town enslaved by Christmas - and is truly a statement on what marketing and commercialism has done to the holiday season - and to our society. (Double plus bonus - he shared with me his original inspiration for the project, and it comes from quite a place of authenticity.) That, and he's bliss-following... So worth a plug from me :)
I will be rising out of this negativity in a matter of paragraphs, but a final point: Black Friday. No need for me to draw the obvious parallels of evil to the title of this day... I literally shudder at the thought of this day. To be clear, I do not judge anyone who participates in the day - but I'll tell you: it's not for me. I shake my head at the paradox of it next to a day of giving thanks and appreciating what you have. And the fact that each year it seems to start earlier, to the point where it literally almost overshadows Thanksgiving? Crazy. If we weren't a country with such obesity issues that we are INTO Thanksgiving for food purposes, I almost wonder if Turkey Day would have been completely dwarfed by now.
I have to assume I'm losing my typical reader with all this cynicism, so let me quickly move to what I DO love about the holidays. Holly-Endorsed Christmas Movies? Love Actually. One of my favorite movies on the planet. A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. Oh, and Elf. I like Elf. That might be it. Holly-Endorsed Christmas Music? Shawn Colvin's "Love Came Down at Christmas." Effing gorgeous. And just last year I discovered Kate Rusby - her Christmas music is just plain lovely. I downloaded her "Sweet Bells" album last year and adore it. (Specifically her "The Holly & The Ivy" is divine.) Holly-Endorsed Christmas decorations? Tiny Christmas lights, tinsel, and pretty ornaments. Oh also, I like Christmas dresses a lot :) Had some DOOZIES as a girl.
I like the tradition of Christmas stockings - and I love wrapping gifts up pretty. I like old-fashioned Christmas candies. I like the yummy homemade meals at Christmas-time. I like that Christmas means that the fireplace at my mother is going non-stop. I TOTALLY do Christmas cards (- usually, I hand-make them). I like a good glass of wine in front of that fireplace. I like that, as adults, our Christmas brunches can include mimosas. I like going to church on Christmas. (And on Easter, yes I'm that kind of Catholic - but it goes deeper than face value.) I like certain church Christmas songs - and I like how my family's church does Midnight Mass, as a whole. I adore ice skating - which happens adjacent to the holiday season. I like Christmas stories that were read to me as a girl. The story of Holly and her doll, Ivy. "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Stories of families on the prairie being excited about new socks and a candy cane as their entire haul of gifts. The Gift of the Magi. That kind of jazz... And okay fine, I may not like all the overly-marketed crapola happening on Michigan Avenue, but when I leave work each day, even this somewhat-of-a-scrooge has to admit: the pitch black of this time of year isn't so bad when I see the pretty lights lining the street.
See? So, of course I believe in holiday magic. It's just harder to find: the real magic - and it's personal. Whatever you're celebrating, my only wish is that you're truly celebrating it, with all your heart.