Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Xmas 04 wrap blog.

It’s warming up here, nearly 40 F. today, after temps reaching near zero in recent days. In fact, this year marked the coldest Christmas I can remember, even in Chicago, where I’ve spent a good number of them now.

Cold, but only a dusting of snow. The large winter storm that blanketed a lot of the Midwest and even parts of the South in the days ahead of Christmas bypassed Chicago. Just as well, as far as I’m concerned. There’ll be enough powder and ice in January and February.

Here’s a novel thought: I like Christmas. In some quarters, you’d be marked as slightly childish or hopelessly sentimental for expressing such a thing openly, but here I am publishing it to anyone who cares to read it. Moreover, I am an adult, and not an especially sentimental one either. I happen to think it’s fully possible to enjoy Christmas without being a child, or accepting a lot of the nonsense that goes with the season (and what human activity doesn’t come with a measure of nonsense in its train, or sometimes in the driver’s seat?).

Part of it is that I like all holidays, and if I had the power to create more, I would. And longer ones: the de facto down-time between December 25 and January 1 ought to be openly acknowledged as a national week off.

More than that, Christmas is special. It's a full-blown modern cultural experience with pagan tap roots, Christian meaning, and secular frenzy. It obliges you to give presents, strictly as a matter of custom--and custom should have some authority. It has songs, some deeply moving, some absurd. It has lights and ornaments of endless variety. It’s deeply encrusted with lore, offering a wide cast of such instantly recognizable characters as baby Jesus, Santa Claus, and Ebenezer Scrooge, just to name a few major ones. It’s the backdrop of countless stories, books, stage plays, pantomimes, and movies, from It's a Wonderful Life to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s a family holiday whether you like your family or not (a touch of social obligation again). It's a fusion of tradition and the distinctly new. You had it as a child, your children have it, and their children are going to have it.

Some effort is involved in Christmas, but so what? This year, for example, I put up outdoor lights and a decorated indoor tree, sent a number of cards (plus e-mails), obtained and wrapped some presents, took my family to Christmas Eve services at St. Nicholas, and did some of the food preparation—by which I mean breakfast on Christmas morning, not making elaborate special confections or a break-the-table feast, which we did without.

All that comes on top of assorted everyday living and its tasks. Still, Christmas wasn’t a burden this year, and never has been. Of course, people invariably complain that’s it involves too much to do. I suspect that it’s the perfectionists of the world complaining the loudest about Christmas, as they do about everything else. It has to be perfect, or it won’t be Christmas!

That’s an extreme characterization, but it seems to fit a lot of people. To that I can say, Bah, humbug.


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