Friday, December 21, 2007

Side benefits of Christmas

I have often pontificated on my views of Christmas and have advocated the moving of Christmas to the last week in January or perhaps the middle of February. So far, my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. So I will move on to some of my favorite things that happen during the holidays.

1. Goofy Email ECards for Christmas. Man oh man this must be the coolest thing because you don't get them personally, you get them as a result of being on some cousins gigantic email list. If you're lucky, you'll get a virus too.

2. The Database of addresses. Christmas is a lot like weddings. The thought doesn't count if it didn't cause you trouble. This is why e-mail Christmas cards don't work. They are no trouble. We want you to put yourself out. The best way for that is to take a picture of your family and have it printed on good photographic paper. Then write a long drawn out missive about how well your family is doing. Possibly how blessed they are if you are religious. But now that we have the database of addresses, we can at least mail merge your stupid Christmas card. Problem is, we have to verify it EVERY YEAR and invariably we end up sending the same 3 people cards that won't ever get them.

3. The obligatory office gift. Weather this is an actual gift, or a box of bagels for everyone, it's all the same, free treats! That's why Christmas is so fattening. Everyone is giving food away and you are really going to offend them by not partaking.

4. White Elephants. This has really started to take off apparently. It's even more popular than the standard gift and you get to clean up some crap out of your house at the same time. I'm still using the combination toilet paper dispenser/Alarm/AM-FM Radio. Love it, Love it!

5. Politicians talking about the 'REAL' meaning of Christmas. This makes me all shades of warm and fuzzy. What great leaders we have.

6. Telling your kids that they don't know how good they've got it. That's right, they don't, and what's more, they don't care. These poor cretins only have success and plenty to compare to, so telling them that things used to be really bad for grandma and grandpa falls on deaf ears, but if they are clever, they will look like they understand in order to minimize the holiday preaching.

7. Re-telling of Christmas Stories. Sure, this started with Rankin Bass et al, but even today, we have people trying to tell the definitive story of The Grinch, or The little drummer boy, or even the Christmas story itself. Apparently we were doing it wrong, thank you for showing us how wrong we really are Hollywood.

8. Newscasts about the poor. Need has no season. Boy is that ever true, that's why the salvation army is out there 365/24/7 trying to collect money for the indigent. Then we get the heartfelt story about people that are in need. I understand the news' need to be topical, but please, we probably gave at the office, school, and church already.

9. Talk amongst the elderly about how fast the time flies. This one really does speak for itself.

I'm gonna end it before 10 even though I could go on and on and on (and ramble like I usually do). Have a merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday season in any and every way you know how. If you're reading this, you know I think you're aces and am lucky to count you as my friend.

Merry Christmas etc.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Merry Everything. and a Happy Everything else

I could go into this by going on about how commercialized Christmas is. Blarf. Yes, X-max is commercialized. It's one of the holidays that pits us in a friendly competition against all of our other fellow earthlings. We compete by having an excuse to buy more crap than we afford. First the Pagans had the Winter solstice. The dead of winter. They didn't buy much, they made a few sacrifices here and there and called it good. Nobody was rushing off to Black Friday sales in order to spend more. Well, we needed to convert those pesky pagans over to the unification that Christianity had to offer so lets make Christmas celebrate the birthday of Jesus and give the pagans something to celebrate. Sweet. Sure Jesus wasn't born then, but since when did that matter? Lets fast forward to the discovery and settlement of the US of A and the eventual advent of the Victorian era. This is when Christmas really started to take a bigger shape for everyone financially.

Meanwhile, the Jews are celebrating a pretty second rate holiday in the festival of lights. It's kind of a you don't get a day off for this holiday, but it's something to do when it's cold. Of course their holiday is 8 days and kids started out just getting money. Cutting out the middle man. They ramp it up a bit in order to take part of the spend-fest while their Christian counterparts are draining the family coffers for misplaced celebration of Jesus' birthday.

This goes on in the Judeo-Christian tradition for a while until 1965. Then another group of people that didn't quite feel like co-opting their white masters holiday anymore broke out with Kwanza the Holiday of the Harvest. Kwanzaa season sprung up purely as an anti-holiday to Christmas. It's not been around for a long time in fact, in the 1960's when Ron Karenga came up with it, he decided that African Americans (only the Black ones, not the Dutch origined South Africans) should not celebrate the holiday of their former owners. It has the makings of a fine holiday, it just isn't very widely followed. only 13% of African Americans currently celebrate it. Not a whole bunch, but hey, this isn't about the holiday itself, it's about a reason to spend money. They started out not wanting to look in any way like Christmas, but it seems like many families that observe Kwanzaa do it in conjunction with observing Christmas.

So now we have 3 different holidays filling up space between Thanksgiving and New years. It all amounts to one thing. Black Friday. Sure we can say that it's about Jesus, or some miraculous oil that lasted for 8 days, or some introspection and self improvement, but the fact is, Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving that is the largest shopping day of the year) represents the point in time when retailers finally find themselves in a profitable position known as the black. This is the time of year that makes them able to continue on offering goods and services out to the next end of year. Without the free availability of those goods and services, we cease to be America. The current configuration of Christmas makes it firmly an American holiday. It's a holiday of consumption on a grandiose scale. We usually pay 1-3 hours on Christmas day talking about a baby in a manger and maybe singing some songs. We may offer up some money to a charity not out of our need or even want, but usually out of the fat of our earnings. Very few of us actually will go to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter and put in a few hours of feel good charity work. It's not that it goes unappreciated, but rather it's like having Dinner all month with no desert and then have one day at the end of the month when you only have desert all day.

While I think the Holiday season is losing it's balance, it is still a holiday that I look forward to most. The holidays have become the high watermark for competition for the most innovative and value packed gifts. We should probably replace any reference to Jesus with an American Flag and move Jesus all the way over to Easter where the only people that smile on a monetary level are the chocolatiers.

Merry $-mas