Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My annual post of Postmodernism Christmas confusion.

I don’t “get” Christmas.

Oh, I “understand” Christmas on about three different levels. There is the obvious Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, even though there is ample evidence that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25. Rather, the holiday was moved to the end of the calendar year to supplant the older, pagan holiday celebrations (such as Saturnalia) centered around the Winter solstice. And there is, of course, the orgy of consumerism, where everyone in the entire country is bombarded with advertisements about how you must buy gifts, of ever increasing value, for everyone you know, or else you will be branded as a bad and uncaring person. And then there is the end of the year aspect, where most people believe that, after working all year long, we all need a party, a break, something to celebrate, a reason to really cut loose and no one will look at you askance for doing it. Christmas (and its tag-along poorer cousins, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) serves all those purposes well.

But still, I don’t “get” Christmas. There are just too many contradictions for me to deal with comfortably, and I am not talking about the fact that I am not a Christian and do not for a minute believe that Jesus was the Son of God. No, I am talking about things like the fact that huge amounts of people put up Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday, when, in actual, people have no idea what that means. Why do it? Is putting sparkly things on a tree, real or artificial, somehow honoring the memory or ideal of Christ? On the contrary, the origins of Christmas trees rather murky, but seems to be derived from a pagan symbol of fertility. But that seems to matter to no one. It’s the Here-And-Now that matters. It’s the “done thing”, regardless of its origins.

I don’t get why people feel so pressured to go out shopping at 4 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to get a jump on their shopping. Of course, retailers know that this is a huge shopping day, so they are not going to be too inclined to give shoppers a break on the prices. No, they are going to charge the maximum the market will bear, as they know they have a motivated crowd of customers. I don’t get why people work themselves into a frenzy, just so they can keep with all the demands of the season; holiday cards, gifts, decorations, baking, visiting. A post-coital letdown in the middle of January is inevitable. Then everything is forgotten until October and the gradual buildup into another season of excess.

I don’t “get” Christmas. Thank God, however, I have all my cards mailed and gifts purchased. I just need to get a FEW more things for the Christmas stockings...

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