I am not a big fan of Christmas, as is well known to the people nearest and dearest to me. I wrote an op-ed when I was in junior high about the crass consumerism of the holiday, and that was thirty years ago. The start to the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier, and in a few years, I expect it’ll be Christmas 24/7. If there’s a War on Christmas, we’re losing it, damn it. I saw my first Christmas commercial the day after Halloween, which is actually later than I’ve seen it in past years, and that started my decent into grumpiness.
Look, I was raised Christian, and we did the whole hang your stockings by the fireplace with care bullshit. We had a tree and Santa and all the secular trappings of a religious holiday* that went with it, so it’s not like I’ve been deprived in that area, thus leading me to resentment. I liked Christmas as a child, but who wouldn’t if they knew they were getting a ton of presents on one day? “Remember, kids. (Kids are eating the chocolate eggs.) Jesus died for your sins.” “Yeah, I know. It’s great!” “No, it’s bad. It’s bad!” “It’s bad! It’s very bad. It’s terrible. Whatever you want. I mean, just keep giving me these eggs.”
I love Eddie Izzard and will use any excuse to quote him. This was the perfect situation because his bit about Christmas and Easter is, well, hilarious first of all, but relevant to this discussion as well. Some rabid Christians get so upset when they’re wished a happy holiday as they’re shopping for their Christmas gifts, which is fucking weird to me. You’re doing a completely secular activity, one that Jesus probably wouldn’t have indulged in if he were still alive, and you’re pissy because someone didn’t say ‘Merry Christmas’. Someone please tell me why this is a thing because I just don’t get it.
Well, I do, actually. There are several things at play here. One is the persecution/martyr complex of some American Christians. Even though they are in the overwhelming majority in America (70.6% in 2014, which has actually dropped sharply from 78.4% in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center), they still act as if they’re not. Part of that is because no one wants to think they are part of the oppressive majority, and while it’s not fun being in the oppressed minority, it’s certainly morally preferable.
Another reason is because when your beliefs are the norm, it’s difficult to see how pervasive they are. The fact that we get time off for Christmas is a bias towards Christians. The fact that every fucking presidential speech ends with “God bless America”, also, too. Our pledge of allegiance is biased, as is our money. Christianity is everywhere, but again, it’s taken for granted. So, being forced to hear Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas seems like a big loss. It’s a loss of some sort, but given all the other ways Christianity is reinforced in our culture, it’s but a drop in the bucket. Incidentally, that’s the thing with privilege in general–you don’t often know when you have it, but you feel the loss of it keenly. You still can’t see your other privilege, though, which is why i t feels like you’re being oppressed.
Again, I can’t stress how silly it seems to me to be freaking out over vendors not saying Merry Christmas. If that’s your biggest problem in life, then you have it pretty good.
The third is that if you live in a bubble (FOX “News”, cough cough) that is persistently and aggressively telling you that you’re being oppressed, you’re going to be constantly aggrieved at every little damn thing.If all you’re hearing is how there’s a War on Christmas and everyone you talk with agrees that those damn heathens are trying to take away your Christmas trees, you’re getting your paranoid fantasies reinforced to the point where you’re picking fights over Starbucks not putting snowflakes on their goddamn coffee cups. Here’s Ellen to help out the people who are outraged that they can’t get Christmas with their overpriced Venti lattes.
Again, these people are just looking to be offended, and it’s probably best not to give them any attention, but it’s mind-boggling to me that people actually get worked up over this shit. Yes, I know I just gave several reasons why they have this mentality, but it’s still difficult for me to fathom going in a raving lather over something as asinine as Starbucks making their holiday cups plain red. In addition, everything that businesses do is with an eye towards the bottom line. So, while Starbucks talked about diversity in their statement over this ‘controversy’, I take that with a grain of salt. They must have some metrics that tell them it’s more monetarily beneficial to not have the winter scene than it is to have it. It’s the same with all those queer-friendly products now–it’s not because companies are suddenly the anti-Christ, but because they recognize that we queers are here to stay, and we have a lot of spending power.
The aggrieved Christians say ‘War on Christmas’; I say welcome to the 21st century. As I noted above, thirty percent of Americans are not Christians, so it’s nice for us to be included during the holiday season. Personally, I don’t care if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, but that’s because I’m inured to it, I think. But, I’m also fine with Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or the more generic Happy Holidays. To me, if it’s a sincere greeting, I don’t much care about the actual words. Maybe it’s because I’m a filthy nonbeliever, but it’s all pretty much the same to me. Besides (and this is getting me back to the main point of this post), everything else during this holiday season is centered around Christmas, so why not be gracious on this small point?
The thing I dislike the most about this season, well, there are two, but they are related. The first is the plethora of Christmas commercials exhorting us to buy our friends’ and families’ love. Sure, it’s disguised as, “Doesn’t the person you love deserve the very best?”, but what it comes down to is, “If you want this person to love you, you better buy him/her this car/house/diamond ring.” I remember one car commercial that has a man giving his excited wife a new car, and then someone drives by in a nicer new car with a bow on it and a smug grin on her face, and the original recipient is upset with her new car. Needless to say, the commercial is for the second car, but think about the message it’s sending. It’s not enough to get your loved one a brand new fucking car–it has to be this more expensive car or you’re a piece of shit.
The commercials I hate the most, however, are Christmas-related jewelry commercials. Every time I see one, I want to throw something at my TV. It reinforces every heteronormative stereotype out there. Women are gold-diggers who are only interested in the rocks they can get from men. If you want to get the nookie, you better be ready to put a ring on it. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but only the expensive ones. The ones that children in South Africa died to obtain. Yeah, those. Every Kiss Begins with Kay? Kay’s a fucking ho! That’s where my mind goes when I see these infuriating commercials. Yes, they’re just commercials, but the message is constant–you have to buy my love with rocks, and the bigger, the better.
Hm. I feel I can understand the ‘War on Christmas’ folks a little better. I get incensed over things other people would find trivial as well, and it’s because of what I think is behind said triviality. So, while I may think their outrage at the ‘War on Christmas’ is stupid (and it is), they also think that they have sound reasons for it. The difference is that I’m right and they’re wrong, of course.
It’s the steady diet of the commercials, too, I only watch TV once a week–on Sundays. Gotta get my weekly intake of football, even though I’m less and less comfortable watching it.** Every other commercial is extolling the virtues of family and friends while pushing you to buy, buy, buy.*** Yes, I know that’s the purpose of commercials, but somehow, it’s more grating when what they are selling is love. There is enough pressure on us to have the perfect holiday without commercials adding the insult of implying that unless we purchase their products, we’re bad children/parents/friends/other relatives.
The general emphasis on doing kind things for your fellow human beings is irritating, too. i think we should treat each other with respect and kindness all-year round. Why cram it into a month at the end of the year? It’s a set-up for failure as well as letting you off the hook for the rest of the year. I know the flip side of the argument is that it doesn’t hurt to urge people to be nicer to each other, even if it’s season-specific, I can understand that, but I just chafe at the artificiality of it, and, it also makes the pressure to have a perfect holiday even worse. Many people have an unrealistic expectation as to how their holiday is going to go. Part of that is based on memories, either idealized ones of their childhood Christmases, making them wanting to replicate said experiences, or terrible ones that makes them want to have the perfect Christmas to erase the negative memories. People tie themselves up in knots thinking that if only they can get everything right for Christmas, life will be wonderful. It’s magical thinking at its most pathetic, and it’s one reason that so many people snap during the holiday season.****
Now. despite all my griping about Christmas and how much I hate the consumerism and false positive messages that are being propagated during the season, I am not dreading the day itself this year. In the past, i hated Christmas almost as much as I hated my birthday. I didn’t have terrible memories of Christmas from my childhood, but somewhere down the line, it started symbolizing everything I hate about our culture. I have listed several of those reasons, and I’ve had a few life experiences that only added to my dislike. A boyfriend broke up with me on a Christmas past, and I made matters worse by watching an Alan Rickman***** ‘comedy’ that in true British fashion, was as much tragedy as it was comedy. It’s called Truly, Deeply, Madly, and I loved it, but it made me sob my face off. On a more recent Christmas, I was in Taiwan on a family vacation that I very much didn’t want to take for several reasons I’m not going to get into right now. I remember standing on the edge of the Taroko Gorge and fighting the urge to jump off. I didn’t, obviously, but it was one more Christmas season memory to add to the negative pile.
Now, however, I don’t have the same struggles I’ve had with my family in the past. I also know myself well enough to have declined another trip to Taiwan this Christmas because I didn’t want a repeat of the last trip. I’m not jumping for joy that Christmas is coming, but I’m not cringing in anticipation, either. I am not celebrating it by choice as I haven’t for years, but for the first time, it doesn’t feel like a lesser position. I am not going to decorate my house or sing Christmas carols****** or give gifts to many people, and I don’t feel defensive about it. I’m not resentful of people who are celebrating, and I sincerely hope that everyone who does has a wonderful time. Me, I’m going to be doing what I do most days–sitting on my ass with my boys (my cats, Raven and Shadow) by my side, writing, surfing, maybe watching some sports, and not getting caught up in the frenzy. I know it doesn’t seem glitzy or glamorous, but it sure sounds good to me.
*Which was grafted over a pagan holiday, but why get into that?
**It reminds me too much of the gladiators with the football players brutalizing each other for our amusement. The concussion issue alone is enough to make me pause, but not quite enough to make me stop watching, unfortunately.
***The other commercials are so pro-NFL, it’s ridiculous. Pro-tip to the NFL: We’re already watching the damn game. You don’t need to give us the hard sell.
****I wrote holiday system first, which fits as well.
*****Because Alan Rickman makes everything better.
******I hate them. They are mostly treacly, gooey messes. There is one exception, and I’ve written a post about it many times over the past several years. I’ll probably do another post on it this year, so I’m not going to tell you what it is right now.