Five reasons why I boycott Christmas and you should, too
I don't love anything/ no, not even Christmas/ especially not that -- Belle & Sebastian
It's not so much that I hate Christmas. I like what Dickens was about in A Christmas Carol, putting forth the idea that charity, celebration and sincere human connection are more important than wealth and ritual. But while we've (bizarrely) kept the aesthetics and catch-phrases from this nineteenth-century novel alive today, most of those who celebrate Christmas have ironically come to embody the Scrooge character, clinging to tradition and existential security without any thought for their neighbors (unless it's to show off the expense of their toys -- both adult and child -- over another's).
Christmas became a drag for me a long time ago, and every year I spend December 25 working at my desk in protest. I am no Scrooge, though; I am not a traditionalist and certainly am not hoarding any money away. No doubt there are plenty of people who will disagree with me on this -- but before you dismiss me as a cold-hearted grinch, reserve judgment for a few minutes while you scroll through my five reasons to boycott Christmas.
5) The War on Christmas
Every year we all sift through a mountain of click-bait stories on how conservatives hate the term "happy holidays" and liberals want a constitutional amendment banning manger scenes. Both sides are equally guilty of manufacturing outrage, using the same cable-news tactics of pitting one group against another -- the ominous subtext being "which side are you on?"
Where does this fit with the "good will toward men" or "peace on earth" taglines of the season? Here's a hypothetical to test the Christmas spirit of your heart: Would you rather have your local courthouse decorated with a theme you find offensive (Christian, humanist, radical Muslim Nazi death metal, whatever) while seeing your community come together under a spirit of love and charity; or would you prefer to have your baby Jesus or Festivus pole on display while families are barricaded in their homes, filled with hatred and suspicion of others? Actually, that's not even a hypothetical -- just the reality of our time.
4) Capitalism I am not an Occupy revolutionary or a beret-wearing socialist -- most of the time, I think capitalism is a preferable economic model for our country. Except on Christmas. In addition to the War on Christmas stories, we are also overwhelmed each year with economists and pundits practically shoving a rifle up our noses, demanding that we spend-spend-spend for the good of the nation. Our entire financial system is dependent on the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we fight like rabid badgers over toys, video games and appliances we're convinced our loved ones need.
As with wedding presents, Christmas gifts are an excellent way to show love and appreciation -- but we've turned the holidays into a speedball of stress that constantly demands more of us than we have to give. Parents beat themselves up about not being able to afford the latest gadget (yet slip it on the Visa card to deal with in January, anyway) and children are pressured to flip out YouTube-style over each gift, lest their parents see themselves as failures.
3) Family I love all my family members individually. But when it comes to spending time with them collectively, I'd rather be beaten with wet reeds by trolls in a Viet Cong POW camp. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this, and yet every year we have to pretend as though Christmas dinner with a bunch of people we see once a year is a fucking Disneyland fantasy cruise on Ecstasy.
No one wants to talk politics, except the drunk uncle or the fire-breathing Fox News grandma, who can spin every conversation this way. Everyone wants to watch football, except for the goth nephew or closeted lesbian daughter (who actually does like football, but is frightened of the implications). Mom works herself stupid cooking dinner, Dad gets angry (literally) over spilled milk, and I just count the minutes until it's over and can go back to watching Homeland.
2) Christmas Carols As a pop-music fanatic, I do love a few holiday jingles, like The Pogues's "Fairytale of New York" or John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," but for the most part I cover my ears and shout satanic gibberish whenever I'm forced to encounter "Jinglebell Rock," "Oh Holy Night," or fucking Christ help me, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
I once walked out on a Bruce Springsteen concert when he launched into "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and immediately quit my job at the Gap after hearing "Santa Baby" for the 700th time.
It's how antiquated these songs are that gets to me. Nobody rides in a "one-horse open sleigh" anymore, or, after building a snowman in the meadow, pretends "that he is Parson Brown." Can any of you tell me who the fuck Parson Brown is, anyway? And why is no one baffled over the rudeness of this "Little Drummer Boy"? If you just gave birth inside a horse stable in the middle of winter and some little boy came by insisting on banging his snare drum when you finally got the baby to sleep, would you want the scenario romanticized in song?
1) The outrageous cruelty of Santa Claus I don't agree with every decision my parents made when raising me, but they get ten fucking gold stars in my book for never putting me through the theatrics of Santa Claus. Their logic was that they didn't want us to go through what they endured as kids: That humiliating moment when you realize everyone has lied to you for their own entertainment. As a kid, I used to hear other children talk about hearing Santa on their roof, or getting the present they wanted after the US Postal Service carried their request to the North Pole. I'd look at them quizzically and think, "You poor son of a bitch, one day you'll know the truth, and you'll never fully trust anyone again."
More than just the lies, it's the attempt at controlling children through lies that irks me. Telling them that there's this magic man in the sky, watching their every move, observing the morality of their behavior to either award them with gifts or punishment on a certain judgment day . . . oh, wait . . . that's just religion, isn't it? Maybe Santa Claus does teach children about the disappointments awaiting them later in life. I get it now. Ho, ho, ho, that's fucking hilarious!
Follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.