Thursday, December 06, 2012
Aside from the obvious fact that Iím Jewish. But donít mistake that for saying that Iím a good Jew. Iím not. I just identify with it because thatís how I was raised. I celebrated Christmas with the best of them for many years. But I walked away from it a good 15 or more years ago and never looked back.
A friend made the whole point for me: it isn't about its traditional meaning anymore. It's about excess and commercialism and I utterly despise that part of it. And since I was not raised Christian, the traditional meaning Ė the birth of Christ Ė has no meaning to me anyway.
I used to be pretty rabid about it. Anything Christmas was anathema to me. Keep it away from me, shut off that awful music, donít wish me a merry Christmas, donít even discuss inviting me to your Christmas gathering. But over the years I've calmed down about it and in my usual self-analytic way, I have figured out why I feel as I do, I can keep it personal, and I can let everybody else do their Christmas thing without getting all up in arms about it.
Iím no longer a person who gets offended when someone says ďMerry ChristmasĒ to me, unless I know they are saying it just to push my buttons. I know most people mean it with the best of intentions; they really do wish for everyone to be happy at the holiday season. And thereís nothing wrong with that. You donít need to be PC and change the phrase to ďHappy HolidaysĒ because youíre worried about offending either. In fact, thatís worse, because itís phony.
But I still donít like it. The endless music and ridiculous advertising are choke-worthy (kind of like political season, no?) And I choose to ignore the whole thing, as much as being part of a Christmas-crazy society will allow. There are a lot of things about Christmas that just make no sense to me.
Here is something I find funny: When the folks who celebrate Christmas decided their Jewish friends were being left out of all the fun, they elevated Hanukkah to a major big deal just because it falls at roughly the same time as Christmas. (Whose bright idea was that anyway?) Most devout Jews laugh at that, because Hanukkah is a nothing little holiday, no more than a blip on the Jewish calendar. Sure, Hanukkah is fun, and it should be recognized, but itís just not that important. In fact, if you look at the calendars of exclusively Jewish schools, they donít close down for Christmas or Hanukkah. They take their holiday breaks in September, at the so-called High Holy Days, and in late March or early April for Passover, which are far more important holidays. And yet somehow, many "worldly" Jews have been sucked into the same excessive, commercial crap for Hanukkah that has become the modern celebration of Christmas.
Here is what I donít understand: Why do people feel obligated to jump through hoops to please people who have no appreciation when it is a burden and no fun? Decorating? Baking? Shopping? Spending more than you should? If you truly enjoy doing this, then go for it. But the more people I talk to, the more I am convinced that most people donít do it because they enjoy it. They do it because itís expected, and because they are trying to please others.
Someone please tell me, if you donít enjoy it, if it causes you stress and puts you in debt, then why do you do it? Are you trying to please others? Why would you allow another person that much power over you?
Decorating to me is make-work. It makes more cleaning, more effort, more clutter. And itís *stuff* for my dogs to get into and ruin. Or hurt themselves on.
Baking? Well, that just means more calories, which I definitely donít need. And more make-work.
Shopping? Bite your tongue. Shopping on Black Friday or Christmas Eve? You wouldn't catch me dead.
And why, oh why, do people feel obligated to go into debt and spend more money than they have on gifts? Especially when 90% of those gifts aren't wanted, aren't appropriate, and aren't worth their price tag?
Itís the thought that counts? Bullsh*t. Nobody wants another silly tie, another bottle of cologne, fuzzy slippers, or some random t-shirt. The fact is, no thought at all goes into gifts like that.
Gift giving in general doesn't make a lot of sense to me, at least not for the current societal compulsion that is modern Christmas. I give gifts to people I love because I want to and because I can. I don't need a holiday for that; I can and do give gifts whenever the fancy strikes me. Itís one thing to give Christmas gifts because it symbolizes the gifts brought for that baby in the manger. Itís quite another to give Christmas gifts out of some obligation created by the retail industry.
As far as receiving gifts, Iíd rather buy my own. Iím picky. I donít do cologne, jewelry, or accessories. I prefer to buy my own clothes, so they fit right and are of styles that I can actually wear. Definitely donít buy me a pet; pets are highly personalized. Electronics? How do you know what bells and whistles I need? Household appliances? Are you saying I need to do housework? Thank you. Music or movies? Do you know my tastes? No, anything I need or want, I can get Ė prefer to get Ė on my own. Donít spend your money on me. Spend it on someone who truly needs it, better yet, spend it on yourself.
Are you going to say that Iím taking away the pleasure you get out of giving? Sorry. I've heard that argument before and it doesn't wash. Give to charity, give to a panhandler, give to a worthy cause. But your right to give me a gift does not take precedence over my right to refuse one.
When I was married, we used to overdo Christmas just like everyone else. We spent too much money, made the rounds to all the family gatherings, gained weight by eating too many obligatory Christmas cookies, and made our house into a safety hazard with tinsel and breakable ornaments. It was exhausting, stressful, and not the least bit fun. I finally put my foot down and said "no more Christmas for me" when my (now ex) husband insisted on buying gifts for every sibling, niece and nephew, and under-the-rock relative he could think of, many of them people we hardly even knew and who most certainly didn't need another toy or poorly fitted sweater. I said no, we had a huge fight, and I said if he wanted to do it, he could do the shopping, wrapping, decorating, and baking alone and it damn well better not come out of my paycheck. And that was the end of that. I havenít gone gift-shopping, decorated my house, or baked another Christmas treat since then, and I don't miss it one little bit.
Some readers are sure to be offended by this blog. If youíre one of them, Iím surprised you've read this far. But please donít post a comment saying I'm spoiling your holiday, or that I need to find faith. This holiday no longer has anything to do with faith. Please remember, to each his own.
Call me ďHumbug,Ē call me ďScrooge,Ē call me anything you want. Call me a student of sociology, because I prefer to watch from the sidelines and try to figure out what makes ordinary, reasonable people behave like fanatics at Christmas. Participate? Thanks, not for me.