War on Christmas: Lock ‘n’ Load

A few years ago I stopped doing Christmas. No cards, no decorations, no cookie baking, just a few presents bought mostly online, so no mall shopping. It was liberating.

If you really enjoy doing those things that’s fine, but I had come to think of the Christmas season as an ordeal. I remember one Christmas day I was so exhausted I spent most of the day napping while the kids played with their new presents. Once the chicks had flown the nest, I just stopped doing it. Maybe someday I’ll take Christmas-ing up again, but now I’m happier blowing it off.

Still, there’s no escaping it. Even the neighborhood nail salon run by cheerful Vietnamese ladies has swapped its usual piped-in romantic oldies for really awful Christmas pop music, including endless variations of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Little Drummer Boy.” It is painful.

Again, if you actually like the tinsel and the shopping and listening to Jimmy Boyd sing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” while you stand in line to get a present wrapped, I’m happy for you. Enjoy. Just leave me out of it.

Christmas season is now officially upon us. The best thing I can say so far is that nobody was trampled to death on so-called Black Friday. The worst thing that’s happened so far is that a man dressed as a clown had a heart attack and died during the Macy’s Parade, which I never watch.

(An onlooker said “I saw that, he was acting a little funny before he died.”)

Still, it’s depressing to read about people acting like swarms of rabid rats to snag Christmas presents.

Yet amid these protests, people still talked about feeling powerless beneath the moment — as if they had no choice but to shop.

“You have to have these things to enjoy your children and your family,” said Jackson’s friend Ebony Jones, who had secured two laptops ($187.99 each) for her 7 and 11 year olds.

Why must we buy? To demonstrate our love for others? To add a few more inches to our televisions? To help America recover from a vicious recession that itself was born of the desire for more?

Such questions make Jones wince. “It shouldn’t be that way, but in a sense there’s no way around it,” said Jones, a nurse. “Everything ends up with a dollar amount. Even your happiness.”

The black, rotting heart of American consumerism, indeed.

That said, I do not consider myself to be anti-Christmas. I contribute in my own way. I have sung in more Christmas Handel’s Messiahs than I can count. This year the chorale is doing a Bach advent cantata (the great “Wachet Auf”) plus the exquisite Christmas Oratorio by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. Yes, I am actually conspiring to lure people into a church to listen to sacred music of the season, when they could be using that time to shop. Shoot me.

But by Fox News standards, I’m the enemy. To them, the meaning of Christmas is forcing everyone to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,” even if they aren’t Christian, or merry. I think of them as the Noel Nazis.

Christmas has become a monstrous beast made of avarice covered in cheap glitter. And every year the beast eats December, and much of November, and I don’t see it making many people over the age of 12 or so very happy. Mostly it just makes them greedy and frantic. If it could be chopped down to a reasonable size it would be so much nicer.

And if the piped-in music would at least include some traditional carols and not the pop-muzak crap, I’d be happier, too. I might even sing along with them. I love the old, traditional Christmas carols, and I hardly ever hear them any more, much less get to sing them.

If there are any devout Christians out there who would like to start a war to take Christmas back from Walmart, please do so. I’ll contribute to the cause.

25 thoughts on “War on Christmas: Lock ‘n’ Load

  1. “But by Fox News standards, I’m the enemy. To them, the meaning of Christmas is forcing everyone to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays,””

    Fox despises anything that might smack of tolerance for other people.

    Holiday lights can be cheery a dark season when the days are short, but the least appropriation of the solstice by the Christianists, the better. We don’t need mangers and Wise Mean in front of our public buildings. Let EVERYBODY have some hot cider, a warm fire, and good fellowship.

  2. maha: And every year the beast eats December, and much of November, and I don’t see it making many people over the age of 12 or so very happy.

    Then you’re not doing it right.

    • Zachriel: Then you aren’t paying attention. People fake happiness. They think they are supposed to be happy, so they say they are happy. Most people who claim to be happy are repressing a whole lot of misery. Live long enough, and you see this for yourself.

      I do think some people manage to be genuinely happy during the holidays, but that’s generally in spite of the Christmas Monster, not because of it.

  3. What I always loved about Thanksgiving and Christmas, were the family get-togethers – before relatives started dying off. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
    Sure, the toys and other gifts at Christmas were great! But when I was growing-up we got one, maybe two nice toys – and the rest was clothing, and stuff for school. I remember one Christmas, when I was about 6 or 7, when I woke up, one of my presents was happily choo-chooing around the tree, whistling and blowing smoke. I couldn’t believe it! I never thought my family could afford that – only the richer kids had one in my Queens neighborhood. But they scrimped and saved, and got that for me.
    But the best Christmas gift I ever got, was Model Motoring – little electronic cars that you could race on a track which was powered by electricity (I didn’t even DREAM that my family could afford so extravagant a gift). I got that when I was 10, and that toy, which I could add to by getting more cars, and track, and little buildings and plastic people, with my allowance money, kept me occupied until puberty hit me in JHS like a semi with no brakes plummeting down a highway in The Rockies. And that same Christmas, I got “The US Navy in WWII,” a 1,200+ page book which I read and re-read, at least twice a year, until I wore that paperbook out – right at about that same time. But those two gifts kept me occupied for 3-4 years.
    Ten years ago, when I was still living in NC, I wanted to buy something for my Godson and his two brothers – my best friend’s sons. I told her I didn’t know what to get them – they had EVERY toy known to man! Ah, but I realized, they DON’T have the same electronic race cars and track that I had! Well, that gift cost me a small fortune. And when I gave it to them, they were overjoyed – and I was happy. But when I visited them a few weeks later, I saw that they weren’t playing with it. My friend said that they were bored with it.
    Bored with it?!?!
    Nowadays, we spoil the kids so much, and they’re such little engines of advertising-driven consumption, that no gift entertains them for long. There’s always a new video or computer game the want that they saw on TV. And new way to listen to music. A new set of glowing and beeping cars that turn into superhero’s and villains, then planes and helicopters, then back into people – until the batteries die out. And then, if you don’t have spares lying around, by the time you go and get them, they’ve already weaned themselves off of that, and onto something else. In other words, those batteries you bought for their toy, now go to the hand-held controller for some new toy, or your TV remote.
    To sum up this long point – we have evolved into a consumption-driven culture, that seems to think that gifts equal love. And that if we don’t spoil our children silly, that they’ll think we don’t love them. But, then, it was ever so… Ever since the first marketer decided to tie Christmas, the baby Jesus, and gifts, and love, together.
    No one wants the children in their family calling them “Scrooge” behind their backs.

    And so, I still like Christmas, I just wish it was less consumer oriented. My family, what’s left of it, now celebrates it on January 7th. My neice and nephew are 25 and 18, so, if we can, we give them cash instead of gifts. Still, it was much nicer shopping in early January, than from November until Christmas Eve.

    But if you love shopping at this time of year – have at it!
    I’ll be watching those who do on the news, where the same channel that advertises its sponsors crap all day and night, then has it’s news crews show video of people acting like sharks at a feeding-frenzy when they go to buy it – ‘tut-tutting’ at people’s behaviour and greed the whole time. Until it’s time for the next commercial, which, of course, is advertising it’s crap, and how no one, NO ONE, should deprive a love one of that particular item at Christmas time.

    Have a Merry Consumer-mess Season, all!

  4. I’ve come to think Christmas should be held every four years, like the Olympics or the World Cup. I do remember being a kid, and it seemed like Christmas would never come, but now it seems like it’s always freaking Christmas.

    I do like the Charlie Brown Christmas special, though.

  5. “[I]ndividuals have riches just as we say that we ‘have a fever,’ when really the fever has us. Conversely, we are accustomed to say: ‘A fever grips him.’ And in the same way we should say: ‘Riches grip him.'” ~ Seneca

    The ‘War of Christmas’ was lost decades ago by Christians, who, in the U.S., conflate Christianity with capitalism. There are some good things to be found and the Bible (and many terrible things too) but one thing that CANNOT be found is any support for something resembling capitalism.

    In the U.S., Christians want to have their god and mammon too–they apparently can no longer make a distinction between the two. They are their own worst enemy and they don’t even see it.

  6. I mostly don’t do presents anymore, just a few cards. Have often wanted to move to another country to escape “the holiday season”, and am very happy when Consumer Madness is over.

    Am with you on the mostly grotesque, childish, ubiquitous holiday muzak we’re now subjected to, on what seems like an endless loop. The higher, more subtle feelings about the holiday, as often represented by the more traditional tunes (but not only them), have been coarsened out. If you think about it, this simplified music for the masses and Fox News are all part of the dumbing down, infantilization of this country. Shooting each other over parking spaces at Wal-Mart is the natural outcome.

  7. Think of it as the Solstice Season; the bottom of the year, an astronomical event, hence transcultural. The Pagans lit lights, threw a wild party, and called it Saturnalia; the Christians kept the lights but substituted their own god, and called it Christmas; the Capitalists kept the lights and the name but changed the god to Santa. Gods come and go, but winter is ever-new.

    Santa’s not bad, as gods go; he does demand that you shop for him, but he doesn’t demand belief in him. In fact his mythic collapse is an enduring and useful lesson to the young. Santa is a kind of initiation into skepticism; a personal mini-Enlightenment that a scientific civilization gives to its children.

    Don’t blame the seasonal affective disorder on the parties or the commercialism; they’re merely ineffective, not causal; and besides, you’d feel worse without something to blame. But do light plenty of lights, taking care about open flames of course.

  8. I do not celebrate commercial Christmas.I don’t do the tree or gifts.This war on Christmas that the right speaks of , it’s a war against people like me who refuse to be a part of the entire circus.

    Here black fri has become a cage match challenge. I saw several people on the local news who said they went out hoping for a fight and some even brought what they called”back up”. It is like a giant mosh pit. Nothing says “peace on earth” like shoving around other members of your community for a discounted ipad.

    The right is so fake. Even their problems are manufactured.The “war on Christmas” is as stupid as DOMA is. You really want to preserve Christmas? Throw out the tree and stop the gifts. It is suppose to be Jesus’s birthday, not yours. And santa claus? More like satan claus. How did we take up the tradition of lying to our kids on what is suppose to be a sacred day?(no big deal, just the birth of the Lord and savior)

    Just like DOMA, if they really wanted to preserve marriage, they would out law divorce.(it is the number one killer of marriage). Imagine how many people would be for a DOMA if it outlawed divorce(my guess about 3 people).

    And just one more thing from the “War on Christmas”. Here Christmas items have been on the shelf since oct. I swear this is true: the time to buy holiday crap is longer than the time you can buy live plants and trees for landscaping. The “garden center” is Christmas hell more of the year than it is a garden center. If you need a watering can in aug your screwed because while you sweat with the AC on high the garden center is already being transformed into holiday hell. If Jesus were here they would have him strung in lights and covered with garland and they would make him wear santa slippers if he argued they would accuse him of waging a war on Christmas.UGH!

  9. I just conducted a household survey and found out I’m in the minority. My wife, daughter, and our house guest ALL like Christmas music to begin airing the day after Thanksgiving. They say it makes them happy. I find it annoying. I enjoy the music and other trappings, but a week (or two at best) is quite enough for me.

    I have no problems with manger scenes, Christmas trees, or Christmas songs, but I do find the grumps complaining that there’s a war on their holiday annoying.
    My wife informed that our house guest wants to get me a gift, and wants some suggestions; I said an hour or two helping me in the garden would be more appreciated than any gift, I pretty much have all the crap I need or want.

    As for gifts, I’ve found that friends and family ( over 15 anyway) really like things I make and gifts from the garden. I’m REALLY glad that my daughter is older and no longer into stuff like Bratz dolls and Barbie; plus she actually likes spending time with us now.

  10. It is like a giant mosh pit.

    Now that you mention it, Black Friday could easily be the name of a punk band. Although to me it sounds more like either the anniversary of a terrorist attack or something that you celebrate by sacrificing a goat to Lucifer. Where did they get that name, anyway?

  11. With the exception of Zachriel, everything written here is just the way I feel about the Christmas season. Zachriel must be very young yet, not to have discovered these things. And Christmas was once my favorite holiday, and now that I no longer shop till I drop, it is becoming so again.

  12. Stephen Stralka — from reading things at a number of other blogs, it was a name the Philadelphia police began to give the traffic levels on the day after Thanksgiving. There were so many people driving into Philadelphia and they had to have extra cops on hand to manage it. The cops first said something like Black traffic day and it morphed into Black Friday. This started in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that retailers began claiming it came from the sales of that day taking them into the black ink of profit.

  13. Christmas is still my favorite time of year; but, like Maha, I don’t do much about it any more. I drag out my Elvis Christmas album because no one can sing Blue Christmas like Elvis. But, then, I am known for playing Blue Christmas in July or any time of the year I feel like listening to it. I like the traditional carols, too. I found a CD that is called Christmas Goes Baroque and it is all the tradiitional carols including Jingle Bells played as though written by Bach. It is great. I do a few presents; but, mostly had narrowed them down to these great socks I got at Macy’s every year. This year, though, I haven’t found them yet. I think the buyer at my local Macy’s didn’t buy them this year. My friends who received these great socks (all soft and furry and colorful) actually had started putting in requests for different or specific colors. Not sure what to do, now. I miss my Mom’s fudge, divinity, and mincemeat pies; but, I don’t do them. I mostly enjoy Christmas in my own way–staying away from Christmas crowds and creating the atmosphere I want for the season, which depends on my health. Since the invention of the DVD player, I now watch all my favorite Christmas movies on Christmas Day when I want to watch them; e.g., not getting up until noon or two p.m. I have a crazy (bipolar) twin sister; and, she does her best to ruin my Christmas. Still, I have even learned to ignore her and still enjoy Christmas. And, that is what I recommend to other people: do Christmas on your own terms not other people’s.

  14. maha: I do think some people manage to be genuinely happy during the holidays, but that’s generally in spite of the Christmas Monster, not because of it.

    Yes, that’s right. The others aren’t doing it right. You may have to reinvent Christmas. It should be a time for generosity of spirit and joy.

  15. I don’t think WalMart would let you return Christmas — too much damage to the packaging. If you take it back, they’ll probably just offer store credit.

    If you want a truly happy Christmas, let me suggest going to the shelter and getting one of the adult dogs or cats. You’ll give them a life, and they’ll return the favor.

    God, do I hate puppies! They hog all the attention, use their temporary cuteness to conceal their lack of manners, and will grow up to be who knows what. Of course, they often end up with idiot owners who want them to have “just one litter for the kids to enjoy” before they bring the pups (and sometimes the mother) to the shelter because they are just too much trouble and the friends who wanted them changed their minds. OK, venting completed.

    There is a dog or cat waiting in the back corner of a cage. Let me know if I need to add a little guilt, because I am not above it.

  16. “Christmas has become a monstrous beast made of avarice covered in cheap glitter. And every year the beast eats December, and much of November, and I don’t see it making many people over the age of 12 or so very happy. Mostly it just makes them greedy and frantic. If it could be chopped down to a reasonable size it would be so much nicer.”

    That’s about the best description I’ve ever read of it. I also really identify with nearly all the comments here.

    We have an unusual situation. We live in a neighborhood that was founded as a kind of semi-communal project by a fundamentalist church. They DON’T celebrate Christmas. After many years here, I am not sure why, but, I really don’t care either. We have to keep a very low profile about our Buddhist beliefs. That’s easy for me because I (obviously) haven’t studied it as assiduously as my wife. But, we do celebrate Christmas, mostly, because of fond memories from my wife’s childhood. So, we are the only non-Christians if our neighborhood and the only ones who celebrate Christmas.

    We’re typical liberals about it. Once in a while I want something enough to go out and buy it. But, somehow, quite a few years ago, I just lost the urge to accumulate things. So, we give to heifer Project and there are charities that will provide midwifery training or cataract surgery at modest cost. (I have had cataract surgery in both eyes and thinking that someone’s sight can be saved or improved makes me feel truly happy.)

    When I first got interested in Buddhism in high school, it used to make me angry when people opined that Christians more or less had to approach Buddhism through their experience of Christianity. Nowadays, my religious beliefs have become all mixed up. I read more about the history and thought of Christianity than I do about Buddhism. But, I approach Christian history and thought from a perspective closer to Buddhism. I don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God. I just believe that he was a great teacher who found his Buddha nature and tried to share it. Sorry, I didn’t mean to digress into personal details.

    My conservative friends who have been bitten by the “War on Christmas” bug have less of the Christmas spirit than anyone I know. Many of them send out or post belligerent photos with threatening captions but not a single allusion to anything Jesus said or did, or asked us to do. They are the ones waging a war on Christmas and they don’t know it.

  17. I suspect that, after men and women can’t play their favorite sports anymore, due to age, and/or physical health, or, for the ones who didn’t play any sports, it’s after their kids start beating them at checkers, chess, Monopoly, etc., and they’ve slammed shut their last game-board, enraged at their own defeat, that they look at holiday shopping as competative sports, and/or cut-throat gamesmanship.
    It’s, who can win at bumper-cars in the parking lot? Like NASCAR.
    Who can run through the crowd like Bronco Nagurski? Like the NFL.
    Who can pull their gun faster at the digital doodad’s display? Like the OK Corral.
    Who can tackle the person who got the last desired digital doodad, and wrestle it away?
    Like the NFL meets the WWF.
    And it’s who can stratefically place their spouse and children in the right spots to get the most sh*t possible. Like Risk meets Monopoly.

  18. Yeah, as long as they’re making money calling it “Christmas” rather than “Xmas” we should get the traditional carols rather than “Merry little Christmas” (not the Judy Garland version) 2-3 times an hour. That’ a nice song but it’s been destroyed from overuse. No doubt people have personal choice.but the limited number specials contribute to the frenzy. Corprate chains should act responsibly.given that they know what can happen.

  19. Going to be a big job wresting Xmas from the Walton family – which, together, have an income equal to one/half of all the rest of us Americans put together.

  20. if the piped-in music would at least include some traditional carols and not the pop-muzak crap, I’d be happier, too

    Amen, sister! Came back from the Turkey Break and the workplace Muzak’s all-Xmas-all-the-time. Gah.

    I use Christmas as an excuse to organize my finances for one last round of charitable giving before end of year. And to watch Charlie Brown and hum along to the music. Otherwise, Halloween is more fun for me. Guess I’m just a pagan.

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