, This is a "Blast from the Past." Last December 5th, to be exact, and it's my take on the "season to be jolly" --- and worth a second look while I try to compile a years-plus worth of Blasts into a workable book form and finding an agent/publisher (any help in that area is appreciated!). Hope you enjoy this reprise.
Keeping the “X”
Friends and family alike will tell you that I am no fun to be around during the “holiday” season (which now runs from mid-October through New Year’s). The onslaught of advertising, ubiquitous piped-in (brain-numbing) music, impossible traffic snarls, and frothing shoppers everywhere turn me into Scrooge Squared. And it’s not my atheism --- far from it, in fact. I would have no problem whatsoever if the Holiday/Christmas season was truly about spending time with loved ones, sharing some great meals with family and friends, a couple of parties with colleagues & neighbors, and exchanging a gift or two with those you are closest to and care about most. However, through my entire adult life (since the 1970s) The Season has become more and more insane, with ugly Consumerism holding Christmas hostage, a pearl-handled luxury Swiss Army Knife at its throat. There has been a hostile takeover of what was once a lovely time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of things about the holiday season that drive me (irrationally?) crazy. I don’t like bringing a dead tree into the house to decorate for a few weeks and then have to recycle it while those pine needles haunt our abode for months! The carols and hymns would be fine if we only had to hear them once or twice and not day-in, day-out, over and over again. It doesn’t take long before I want to shoot that Little Drummer Boy (even with Bowie & Crosby singing it) and turn Rudolph into venison stew! But that’s me and I might be more understanding or patient about it if I weren’t surrounded by people who have been driven to the point of wild-eyed hysteria by the Advertising Council of America and the constant bombardment from their television and internet outlets telling them they have to get this or that for this Holiday Season.
I do like the whole Christmas story, even if I’m a cynic and don’t buy into it as a matter of faith (as with believing in Santa, the Holiday, for me, is a season that abounds with fantasy). My senior thesis in college was about mythology and collective consciousness (and U.S. literature --- a lot of Joseph Campbell & Carl Jung) and I believe that humans need things to believe in --- and need to have common beliefs to knit a society together. Given that, I honestly like the whole story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, the visit from the Wise Men, the star in the heavens --- it’s a great story and it’s about someone who became a critical figure in Western cultural history by preaching about peace and love! My early religious education made a strong impression on my young mind and the stories about Jesus, particularly, helped shape my values and view of the world as I grew older. Despite my problems with formal, organized religion --- and a basic scientific rationality that denies “faith” in a deity --- the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have had a lasting impact on my worldview.
Given that, the following Gospel passages are what strike me as being in direct contrast to what we have to deal with at this time of year.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade. John 2:13-16
And, if we read Matthew 21: 12-13 we get this version of the story:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
So, call me old-fashioned but I would really like to drive Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com out of our lives, making the primary focus of the season the connection of people to each other, promoting compassion, empathy, sympathy and caring. I know, that’s schmaltzy. But it’s at the heart of what drives me crazy about each holiday season. If a news clip from any Black Friday doesn’t make you recoil in horror then you probably don’t agree with what I’m saying here.
I know I’m making a losing argument --- the horse is out of the barn, that ship has sailed, we’ve crossed the Consumer Rubicon and the 2017 Xmas advertising will probably start right after Labor Day Weekend. Nonetheless, I would simply like to put the “X” back in “Xmas.” Driving the merchants and moneychangers out of our lives, even to some small extent, might be a first step in that direction. We are trying to move that way this year --- all the adults in our extended family have agreed to forego exchanging gifts, as a trade-off for spending more time (that would have been spent shopping for grown-ups) with our respective families. Less time spent out with the manic, madding crowd and more with those who are nearest and dearest to us seems more in the true spirit of the season. (And maybe we can market the whole thing as a Reality Show!)