It's almost as if the holidays snuck up on me this year. Pre-Genghis, that's all we were focussed on. Then, all of a sudden, it's two-thirds through December and we'd barely cracked the shopping. Every year, we vow to have a leaner Christmas and every year we end up spending more than we either meant to or actually have. Every year, I split the time between grimacing at the endlessly-repeating Phil Spector-style mall soundtrack of carols and making fun of them. ("Later we'll have some fucking pie/ and do some caroling..."; "You better not shout/I'm telling you why/Santa Claus is fucking a clown").
We have the usual argument of "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas", only this year it seems to be a federal issue (hot on the heels of a bizarre "Intelligent Design" argument that has William Jennings Bryan wishing he could be deader). While it usually doesn't bother me one way or the other, I was a little irked that the only stamps I could buy at the Post Office were the "Madonna and Child" (not Ciccone, you Philistines). I made a crack that my friends would be surprised to see these coming from us and the clerk roared with laughter. "Right, a Jewish household sending the Virgin Mary on cards!" To which I just smiled and stared at her, wondering how she got Jew out of "Watt". Of course, if I copped to being an Athiest married to a Wiccan, I'm sure we'd be run out of town, so I let it go. Fine, according to this clerk, I'm Jewish.
Adding to the stress of the season comes with the frustration of people taking two weeks off around the holidays, meaning that most of my (hopefully) upcoming business deals are on hold until January 5th. On top of that, lost packages, long lines, idiots at the stores, people trying to run you off the road because there might be snow sometime in the next few hours.
Having no affinity for wrapping presents, having no idea what to get people I've known for years, having no idea what I did to make me feel like my spine is jutting through my back while I wrap said presents, having a fit because something we'd just bought was sucked into the house minutes after we arrived home, having no time to decorate and then feeling guilty because we didn't...
And then, I take a minute and realize that I actually like the holidays. I was raised on Christmas, so that's what we celebrate, religious preferences aside. I like Christmas trees. I like the classic specials. I like 24 hours of A Christmas Story. I like creating ridiculously inappropriate Christmas cards. I like the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas and own it on CD. I like A Muppet Christmas Carol and am grateful that it's finally available in widescreen.
I love It's a Wonderful Life. I play the "George Bailey" game on a regular basis - it's thereputic. (For those who live on tropical islands and have never seen the Capra classic, the "George Bailey Game" is the mental exercise where you picture life if you had never been born. Figure out what things would be like for those around you if you'd never been there to touch their lives. It's a terrific way to feel good about yourself, if only to justify your own existence. If you're an unselfish kinda sucker, you'll also play the game wherein you remove a good friend from the equation and see how empty your life would be without them.)
I like the Chuck Jones version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. I have an affection for the cheesiness of the Rankin/Bass Rudolf. I even dig the cynical Christmas specials that crop up, like Dennis Leary's A Merry F*ckin' Christmas and MadTV's Raging Rudolf.
I like getting together with friends and family. I love the fact that we can stymie our family into giving us gift cards, so that Christmas seems to last a few weeks longer. I like coming home with Best Buy bags filled to the brim with all the DVDs I hadn't gotten around to picking up all the previous months.
Yes, it's too commercial. Yes, there's a lot of pressure. Yes, there's a lot of rushing around, spending too much money, blah blah blah.
I like giving gifts to those I love. I like having the excuse to do it. I like that it signals the end of what is usually a very long year. I like that cynicism and innocense can go hand-in-hand during the same season and neither feels out of place.
All in all, I like the Christmas Season. And I'll like it even more when it's over.