Christmas is a fraud. Let me be clear about my feelings concerning this cash-grab of a holiday right now. From my understanding of the olden days, the Christian church needed to offset Pagan rituals that occurred at this time of year and came up with a date that featured a lovely, squeaky-clean hero baby that didn’t drink, smoke or spit on public sidewalks.
Over the years, national and local retailers have been screaming like banshees about the need to buy early and often, and Black Friday – a day which used to be a sad commemoration of the total collapse of the American stock market and the ruined businessmen who took swan dives out of skyscraper windows – is now a day held in holy reverence as a holiday tradition, to the point where underpaid employees are forced at gunpoint by their employers to leave their homes on Thanksgiving so that thousands of shoppers in too-tight stretch pants can trample other humans in their quest to buy shitty door-buster specials. The same shoddy merchandise that will overflow this country’s landfills in less than a year.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that Jesus was a decent carpenter and a hell of a nice guy who basically told the phony Pharisees to get lost while he sought out the companionship of the cast-offs of society. I could do a lot worse than to follow his teachings. As John said (not the apostle, the Beatle): “All you need is love.” But I’d like to know what the idea of the Virgin Mary giving birth in a stable – “Hey dad, swear to God, I never even thought about having sex. Some angel visited me and well, I seem to be preggers.” – has to do with television ads for diamonds and sports cars with red bows attached to them in perfect upper middle-class driveways on December 25th, along with thousands of dollars worth of presents under expensive holiday trees. And don’t even get me started about the idea of some fat guy in a red suit hanging out with red-nosed reindeers and wee folk, driving a big red sleigh like a maniac around the world and breaking into houses.
But at my advanced age, just today as a matter of fact, I’ve found my happy thought that will keep the season alive for me.
Remember the nightmarish days immediately following the tragedy of 9/11/01, when we were all together, on the same page? Someone drove past with an American flag attached to their car. Hell we all had flags hanging from our houses. We nodded to total strangers. We were all in this shitty thing together. Despite the horror of the attacks, we forgot our differences and became closer. People in Kansas were sporting “I Love New York” bumper stickers on their car. Let me know what other time in this country’s history that you’d see something like that.
I realize now that we’re getting the same chance each year. The holidays are the opportunity, without all the tragedy of a terrorist attack. It’s OK to nod pleasantly at folks and let someone ahead of you in a busy store line. With folks in a giving mood, food pantries fill up their shelves and fundraisers for the needy do pretty well, too. In the words of Bill Murray in one of my fave movies, “Scrooged,” you can make someone a sandwich and say, “Here. I made this for you.” As I walked my dog today, I saw that somebody has a cardboard pallet as a makeshift bed on a bridge underpass. We’re not doing great here in Buntworld, but I bet I can find a couple of blankets to bring there.
So I’ll trim my Charlie Brown tree that I’ve appropriated from the middle of the woods, ’cause it was free, put up those cheap velvet ribbons in the windows, and turn on dopey Christmas movies that make me cry, which will make my daughters point at me and laugh. That’s OK. They’ll be here at Buntington Manor for the holidays. That’s good enough reason for me to keep Christmas each year.