Yep, it's that time of year again. The commercials have been running since mid-October. Retailers are promising us the best prices of the year THIS WEEK ONLY for weeks on end. And the bloggers are choosing up sides and pronouncing their pro-Christmas/anti-Christmas stance to the world.
You've probably seen something-the interwebz is full of the Spirit of the Season. Christmas is too commercial. How to have a "green" Christmas. Don't say "Merry Christmas" because it's insensitive to those with non-Christian belief systems. If you don't say "Merry Christmas" you are part of the "War on Christmas". I have been reading all week about these things, and about each blogger's individual family crises that arise at this time of year for weeks now.
And I will admit, the stress of the Season was beginning to build in me, too. I was sulking about the fact that my family is scattered and we cannot spend significant dates together anymore. I was fretting perfect gifts and mailing dates. I was stewing over whether or not to decorate the dining room, for crying out loud. Hell, I was even worrying about the lack of snow in the region! I mean, how could I feel festive without snow?
Then the barrage began. I started getting about 25 emails a day from retailers, some of whom I don't even shop with, offering me discounts, free shipping, or a gift card for me if I spend X dollars on gifts. My Facebook and Twitter are littered with messages to "Keep Christ in Christmas", include non-Christians in my holiday wishes, and Shop Local (which is grammatically incorrect--they should be exhorting me to shop locally). I receive a dozen messages a day to boycott the same retailers who are emailing me to tell me to shop with them. My blogroll is littered with stories of Christmas catastrophes and angst.
So I turn on the TV to escape the negativity. Along with airings of "A Christmas Story", I find ads for seasonal air fresheners and special edition "holiday" oral care products. I find myself confronted with news stories of Christmas sales being up, which is good news for the economy. Or down, which is bad for the economy. I find ads telling me to give $2000 diamonds and big-screen TVs and cars for Christmas because those are the perfect gifts (financing available OAC). I find celebrity chefs informing me that if I haven't been raising my own turkey since April, I have ruined Christmas dinner. Or vegans telling me that if I eat turkey, I am a heathen and a monster. And doctors telling me that eating any holiday-related foods will make me fat.
And don't get me started on the radio. If I have to hear Justin Bieber singing that he wants to get his shorty under the mistletoe one more time, I may just go screaming fa-la-la-la-la all the way to the nearest mental health institution.
So I walk away from the media. I meet friends for coffee. Friends who tell me tales of family conflict over who will be hosting Christmas Eve and who gets Christmas dinner, or who are trying to figure out how they can afford to get both of their kids X-Boxes for their rooms. I go to the Post Office to mail a non-Christmas-gift package and stand in line for half-an-hour surrounded by people who are angry because they have to stand in line for half-an-hour to mail their gifts. I go to my local coffee dispensary for a latte and have to run a gauntlet of gifts and frantic shoppers fighting over the last mug with a reindeer on it.
And this was only the first week of December. I just wanted to crawl into a hole until January by last weekend. I really did.
Now, don't get me wrong. I really love the Festive Season. I like the warmth and coziness of my home on long, dark winter days. I love the reasons to see friends that I never seem to find time to visit the rest of the year. I have an excuse to indulge in day-long knitting sessions, and to shop for things I would never otherwise even look at. I love the lights, the music, the food, the smell of balsam and cedar. But it's hard to remember these little joys when you are being bombarded with what you are doing wrong. After all, what is a candle-lit evening spend sipping mulled wine compared to the "War on Christmas"? Clearly, there are much bigger things than my simple pleasures.
In spite of my misgivings, I bravely soldiered on. We ventured out and acquired a Christmas tree (the Boyd household is still a "real" tree establishment). I turned off the radio and TV and played Christmas carols instead. I planned baking, and, of course, I knit gifts. My heart wasn't really in it, though. I felt like I was just going through the motions. And that made me really sad.
Then things started to happen. With a rather deus ex machina-like development, my little quiet Christmas at home became a big family gathering. It snowed. I stumbled upon a favorite Christmas album on iTunes. I finished the Christmas knitting. I began the Christmas baking. I remembered the joy of these early winter celebrations.
I think too many of us have bought the Madison Avenue Christmas--the one where the most expensive gift buys us the most love. The one where we have to start decorating in October, and start shopping the day after. The one where everyone behaves perfectly and there is peace and love and joy. And shopping. Or we have been burned out by the things that go wrong at Christmas. The same things that go wrong at Easter and Mothers Day and on any given Tuesday, really. But when there is a family spat or a burnt meal at Christmas, it is apocalyptic. We lose perspective. Because we have been indoctrinated that this is the Biggest Day of the Year, and if you get this day wrong, you are the ultimate failure.
Because when you embrace life on your own terms, taking the good with the bad, you will find joy where ever you are. And whatever the date.
So, whatever celebration you observe at this turn of the seasons, ignore the advertisers, the spammers, the nay-sayers, and the Grinches and celebrate with all you've got! Or not. It's up to you.
(Personally, I'm gonna celebrate.)