The much anticipated result of the million dollar question is in: 4 out of 4 people that I asked did not know who King Wenceslas was. Out of the 4, 3 were raised Catholic and 1 was raised in a colony of North American Beavers. Coincidentally, the one from the beaver colony seemed more ready with an answer than the Catholics (she actually took a stab, unlike the others, and guessed that Wenceslas was the high alpha-beaver of yore who ruled over teh great dam of Batchawana Bay). Quite the imagination, I say.
So that settles it entirely right? I mean, nuts to all that statistics mumbo jumbo and let’s just go ahead and say that no one really knows what Christmas is about. Except for Linus, of course.
This is the time of year where, as if in an infinite loop, millions of Americans do and say exactly what they did and said last year only with less money and more stress. The givers give, the takers take, the lovers love and the haters hate. It’s a time when our flaws and fine points shine in tandem like two sparkling gems; in this regard, it is a season like no other.
There are two questions I hear too much this time of year:
1. What does Christmas (X-mas) mean to you?
2 What are you thankful for?
My official response to these questions will be included in the following paragraphs, so that I shall not ever have to answer them again (unless of course I undergo some radical transformation/lobotomy).
For the longest time, Christmas meant gifts. I was a spoiled kid, gifts aplenty. I’m not proud of this, and admitting it is something I’m hard-pressed towards, but I think it’s important to lay that out right away. Christmas for me, and many other American children was about reward. I would wait for it, wait for it, and bam! Christmas morning brought a whole array of plastic things, video games, chocolates, etc. Family bonding was secondary to the rush of receiving, not at the helm of the proceedings.
But if I think back now, I can’t remember the gifts I received. I certainly remember the atmosphere in which I got them. Our house was the biggest in the family, and so everyone would flock to it on Christmas afternoon and bring presents for the person whose name they drew. The presents filled up half of our living room and buried the tree. At the age of 10, that is quite a sight let me tell you. But they’re all gone, all those presents. Even the memories of them are mainly extracted. What’s left is a warm feeling that at least one day out of the year, our whole family was in the same place, not fighting but laughing.
Of course that was the positive side of Christmas. Unfortunately the negative is even more overwhelming. All the business leading up to the day. My mother screaming at us to help her clean, me getting further away from religion, gorging myself on food, feeling isolated at school. Christmas was kind of a yearly culmination of my progress as a human being, and most years I didn’t pan out.
Cut to now, what is Christmas? Well it’s “CHRIST” mas, there are no variables. I see it as largely a Christian holiday that is completely trampled on by capitalism. It was actually Bill Waterson, the author of Calvin and Hobbes, who first planted the seed when I was much younger. There was a strip where you see Calvin watching a Christmas special on TV, and Calvin’s dad says,” Ah, another Christmas special extolling love and compassion, interupted every 8 minutes by commercials extolling greed and waste.”
And it was as if the christmas tree had fallen on me, crushed me. There was something manufactured about the event that I hadn’t detected before – something artificial.. like our christmas tree.
Now I see Christmas as two competing vehicles, one is the idea of family togetherness (which by the way should not only manifest once in a year), the other is blitzkrieg of merchandising, advertising and bastardising. The latter seems to win out, and I’m forced to confront my past, accept that I was getting excited for the wrong reasons.
In sum, I believe Christmas is something in need of reinvention. Perhaps this year in lieu of Christmas, I will celebrate Humanlight instead!
This entry is outrageously long-winded, and so I will save the answer to the second question for next time.