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So, it’s Christmas…

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 25, 2011

So, It’s charismas, Xmas or holiday eve. This is a difficult time of the year for me. I am, as our listeners probably know, both an atheist and extremely anti-consumerist. In so many ways I hate the ‘holiday’ season which either attempts to rub our noises in the ‘traditional’ “reason for the season” (debunked in “Reality check –Christmas”) or brainwash us into thinking that if we don’t spend every penny we have (now and will make in the next up-teen years via card-debt) we are somehow like Scrooge and uncaring.

Traditionally, the holidays tend to cause most people more grief than relief…not so much at Xmas but post-holidays. There are so many things that cause this discomfort. First we have the mania to buy everyone a gift…and not just A gift but the perfect most-modern and sought after gift to show those around us how important they are. Failure to find that perfect gift may result in both insulting and hurting the feelings of those we care about but also send a signal out to our social group that we are somehow inferior and incompetent.

There is the constant struggle of fighting off the throngs of other Xmas shoppers in stores to get that last available DO-DAD that IS the perfect gift for SO-AND-SO. There is the calculus of trying to figure when the price of the DO-DAD is optimal so we can afford to eat until Xmas. This smoke-and-mirrors trick performed by stores is masterful. Most people think Xmas sales are the best (and those just on Boxing Day even better) whereas (with the exception of one or two lost leaders) stores make huge profits during this time of year. Check out ‘when best to buy’ whatever.

Okay, while you brave and fight valiantly the hording crowds at the stores to get your gift; you must also negotiate the more precarious of annual traditions – the staff party. No matter how you approach this, the outcome is not fun. A few, a VERY few may actually have a ‘work family’ that is also your social group and thus may have fun at this event…for the rest of us we must negotiate that fine line between looking like we are having fun and not offending our ‘superiors’.

Now don’t get me wrong, all involved have the best intentions…it’s just the dynamic that can’t work. Your boss, who wants to create a fun environment must be constantly aware that they cannot sully the company name, cannot risk the respect/authority of their position and must ensure that any workplace tension does not erupt through ‘too much fun’.

For the employees stand point, it is no less stressful. One cannot risk offending the boss, must seem to get along with your co-workers and you always try to get as much free-stuff from your employer as you can (you’ve earned it) – be it party gifts if not at least a good (?) free meal. As if you don’t see your co-workers enough as it is at work, now you must spend your off time with them? Besides work, what do you talk about…politics? Religion? Jersey Shore? Again, for most work-places this is not a social group.

To add extra risk to this cacophony of misery, we insist that Holiday parties are wet…as in wet with alcohol. Mistakenly we may think that a little drink…just one or two…will help us get past this ordeal and maybe relax enough to ACTUALLY have fun. However, far too often 1 becomes 3 becomes 6 becomes “I did what last night? And said WHAT to the boss!!!!” This risk, at least, is bi-directional. Both bosses and employees risk losing ‘control’ and saying or doing things that will at best make the next year awkward for all including the witnesses and at worst calling for bail money as you explain to your partner how you got both fired and arrested. Bosses usually don’t get fired but run the added risk of being sued for sexual harassment (at least that’s what TV as taught me).

Okay…you’ve made it to Christmas Eve; time to relax – NO, now you have to prepare for the Xmas meal the next day when all your relatives (close, distance and fictional) show up to eat you out of house and home while complaining about your small TV or how snow is not as white as it used to be or how clothing sizes get smaller more each holiday season. Again, a few family gatherings work and this is not an ordeal and actually a time of joy…however for most families you don’t choose your relatives.

Of course you think each year you don’t HAVE to invite your racist Uncle Phil or your third cousin twice removed who still insists that the Lizards control the Fortune 500 companies in an attempt to prepare the planet (via global warming) for the invasion fleet to come. No, you DO have to invite them…every third show on TV shows you how wonderful family Xmases are…that if you leave anyone out it will not only drive them to suicide but will cost you your own life quality due to regret and grief.

Again, people fall into the misnomer that a little drink will help this torture go away…but again it leads to fights, threats arrests and the blackened dry husk that was the Xmas turkey. Unlike the office debacle, you can’t be fired from your family…you must relive this EVERY year until they finally put you into that ‘retirement’ home or a pine box.

Post boxing day…its over…you can now relax and breathe again…but just as you think life can return to normal you get them…first one, then three then the whole bunch – your credit card statements. First you stand there stunned! There is NO way one human could have spent that much money in less than a month. Alas, it is true. No food till April; with luck the Xmas left overs will last a month or so…there is the food bank and maybe you could pick up a second job.  According to a published study, post-Xmas sees a 40% increase in suicide attempts; fortunately the vast majority of these fail (rates of successful suicide are greatest post summer).

Okay…seems like I am not a Holiday season booster. Well, there is one aspect of the season I find good…no great, so much so I am willing to overlook ALL of the baggage that comes with the season. Regardless of the origin or how the holidays are perverted by consumerism; it is the one time of year that humanity cares about humanity just because. We give to those less off than ourselves because “it is the right thing to do”; we, for a brief moment, put aside our grievances and hatreds to extend the hand of brotherhood and unity to the world as a whole. The communal oneness that the people of earth (Xmas is one of the few events that are globally celebrated) hold for one brief moment the idea “I am my brother’s keeper”…that we are stronger in our common love for each other, than in our individual hates that consume us the rest of the year…That, for at least one brief moment, we all care about something other than ourselves. For this reason, and maybe this reason alone, I celebrate the holidays.


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