As you’ve probably heard right now, I love Christmas. I love it in a totally unironic, unapologetic way. I love it so much that I’d help coordinate Dickens’s three spirits to new misers every year. I love it so much that I know not to wish for it to be Christmas every day, because I’ve seen enough cartoons where that happens to know that would be disastrous. And in fact, I suspect most people reading this love Christmas too. Even those who claim to hate Christmas secretly love it, because it gives them an excuse to complain loudly to anybody who will listen how much they hate Christmas. They’re like hipsters that way.
But that doesn’t mean I love everything about Christmas. So for the sake of you Scrooges out there, I thought today I would point you towards a few of the things about Christmas I could do without. None of these are particularly original suggestions, but they’re mine, consarn it. Some of the things I really hate are…
I love to give gifts. I love handing over a brightly-wrapped package to a loved one and seeing their face as they tear it open, and I love putting on my own most charming smile as I hand over the gift receipt so they can exchange it. But I hate the actual shopping process. I don’t really like crowds in the first place, so wandering an Old Navy packed with enough people to keep an NBA franchise in a small market city is horrifying to me. Because although I subscribe to the theory that people, at heart, are basically good, I also subscribe to the theory that most people immediately between myself and whatever my goal of the moment is are raging morons. I hate having to elbow my way past sixteen people to see if they’ve got the particular aroma of soap at Bath and Body Works that showed up on my sister-in-law’s Things I Want.com list. I hate those who block the aisles with huge shopping carts at awkward angles that clearly aren’t moving any time soon because they’ve just pulled out their cell phones and started a conversation about the LSU/Alabama rematch. I think people who get into the “10 Items or Less” line with 11 or more items should be shot. Out of a cannon. At a brick wall.
Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I’ll tell you this: if I was in charge of shopping, all express lane cash registers would automatically shut down after the allotted number of items have been scanned in, and the cashiers would be instructed to tally up the items scanned thus far and tell the perpetrator to take the rest of their crap to the end of the line.
And while shopping online has helped this situation considerably, there are still pitfalls — like figuring out what to get for everybody. My father is one of the hardest people in the world to shop for. If I get him books I think he’ll like, he never has time to read them. If I get him DVDs, he never has time to watch them. I have no idea which tools he already has or needs, and I don’t even know if he needs a left-handed or right-handed triple-ground flange escalator. I am lost.
As a corrollary to the shopping situation, I also hate…
You know how stupid people are in stores? Put them behind the wheel of a car and their IQ automatically drops another 37 points. There are special places reserved in Hell for those who cut off six cars to advance twelve feet in heavy, slowly-moving lanes of traffic. It’s catercorner to those who tailgate, next door to those who cut in-between cars just because they aren’t tailgating, and down the block from the spot for those who think turn signals are a quaint anachronism that aren’t really necessary because they’re so damn awesome everybody should just get out of their way on general principle.
I realize that none of these particular complains are specific to the Christmas season, but they are without a doubt multiplied this time of year. More people on the road translates to more stupid people on the road. The great Dave Barry once said that, in traffic, anybody who drives slower than you is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than you is a maniac. I would amend this slightly. I believe anybody who drives slower than me is an idiot and anybody who drives faster than me is a maniac.
The Christmas Shoes
You know this song. Adorable waif shows up in a store on Christmas Eve. He goes to the clerk with a pair of shoes and about eleven cents and a gum wrapper in his pocket, and asks if that’s enough to buy them for his sick mama, who’s about to go meet baby Jesus. People cry and we all learn a Very Important Lesson.
Look, I’m all for Christmas stories having a message. In fact, I think they should have a message beyond just, in the words of the immortal Animal from A Muppet Family Christmas, “Gimme Presents!” But no storyteller should resort to something so painstakingly manipulative as a chronically dying mother get his point across. The song is specifically and deliberately structured in order to make the listener feel like a pulsating burlap bag of horse crap in the hopes that they will call their mamas and tell them they love them and buy them copies of the CD.
And the worst part is that the damn song is now stuck in my head. Okay, I’m gonna have to blast “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while I write this next one just to get rid of it…
ABC Family’s Definition of “Christmas”
I respect the ABC Family network for loading December with Christmas programming, and for how heavily they promote it. I love the fact that they give us marathons of Rankin and Bass specials, original holiday movies, and so much other content.
On the other hand, certain things just don’t fit their definition. Sure, there’s a December scene in most of the movies, but Harry Potter? NOT a Christmas film. No matter how many of the movies you show in a row. The same goes for the marathons of Pixar movies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody who loves The Incredibles more than me, but it’s still not what I’m going to put on if I’m in the mood for some holiday cheer.
I’m not saying that ABC Family should avoid showing these things during the month of December. Let’s face it, if we didn’t allow them to show Harry Potter movies they’d lose their entire weekend lineup twice a month. But if you’re going to do that, don’t bill it as a “Christmas” marathon.
People Afraid to Say “Christmas”
I’m not talking about the whole “Happy Holidays” thing here, guys. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me in and of itself. I recognize that there are many celebrations, both religious and secular, that take place this time of year, and I fully support everybody’s right to celebrate whatever they happen to believe in or hold traditional. What bothers me, though, is when I feel like somebody is going deliberately out of their way to avoid saying the word “Christmas” or allude to anything even remotely connected to the holiday, as though it were some horrible, verboten topic that everybody knows about but doesn’t actually want to mention, like the real reason Uncle Walter keeps ordering little sailor outfits from those Japanese websites.
To fully demonstrate my point, I’d like to point out last year’s chief offender from my primary nerddom of comic books: the DC Universe Holiday Special. Comic companies have done holiday specials for years, of course, most of them featuring several stories with multiple characters and, most of the time, showcasing various holidays. Again, that’s cool. I don’t mind a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa story, I don’t mind seeing the Justice League ring in the New Year or the Avengers sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. But if the idea is to be inclusive, Christmas is traditionally included as well, right? That’s… that’s what “inclusive” means, it means that nobody gets left out. I know, I gave it to my 11th graders in a vocabulary quiz.
The six stories in this comic book included a winter solstice story set in caveman times, a western Hanakkah story, a Superman Thanksgiving story, a story about the Shi’a Day of Ashra and Easter (combined), a story of the Vernal Equinox, and a far-future story where all holidays have been mashed together into one generic “Holiday.” Seriously. That’s it. The word “Christmas” never appears in the book, nor “Yuletide,” or even “X-Mas.” No image of Santa Claus, not a tree, not a trace of Christmas lights, not a bloody snowman. Even the Easter mention was in passing. Christmas was so conspicuous by its absence that it couldn’t have been a more deliberate snub if they’d had Sarah Silverman urinate on a Nativity scene. It’s a damn far cry from the classic 70s story where Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes actually took a spaceship to look for the Star of Bethlehem.
(In all fairness to DC Comics, they did also publish the Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special last year, which starred an alien driven by greed who comes to Earth and suffers a horrendous and hysterical misunderstanding of Santa Claus. And speaking of Santa Claus…)
The Santa Clause
With all due respect to Tim Allen, this makes me want to crack people over the head with a yule log. I know the problem didn’t originate with his movie, but it certainly seems to have gotten worse since then, so let’s get something straight, people:
The Santa Clause is either: A) A series of Christmas films starring Tim Allen as Santa Claus or B) The specific clause featured in said series of movies that leaves someone beholden to become the new Santa Claus if they put on the suit of the previous Santa Claus should they meet with an untimely end.
The name of the person himself? SANTA. CLAUS. With NO “E.”
It’s the English teacher in me, guys, but it drives me bonkers. It’s a spelling error and I keep seeing it again and again and again and — argh! There’s a spot in the Special Hell for people who do this too. If Santa CLAUSE was coming to town, I’m imagining a lawyer driving in with a briefcase full of legal papers that are going to indemnify you in the case of Nicholas Vs. Guy With a Slippery Roof. If you see Mommy kissing Santa CLAUSE, that means she’s got her lips caught in a DVD case and you need to call 911 again.
Get. It. Right.
Okay, that should be enough evidence that not EVERYTHING about Christmas fills me with joy and revelry. Just most of it. And if you’re missing out on any revelry yourself, here’s an inexpensive way to get a little…
My eBook, A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas, is now available in the Amazon.com Kindle Store, the Barnes & Noble Nook Store, on your iPad bookstore, or for every other eBook format at Smashwords.com! This eBook contains the entire short novel A Long November, PLUS eight additional short stories of the holidays, including the short story “Lonely Miracle,” set in the world of my novel Other People’s Heroes. That’s nine stories for just $2.99, friends. Check it out, tell your friends, and Merry Christmas!