I wonder as I wander: how does one qualify a love for Christmas?
When you’re not religious, I mean. And when you hate the season’s plastic excesses to your angry little core.
For people like that---like me---Christmas makes no sense.
When Jesus ain’t the reason for your season and having to go to the mall during December makes you want to sit down on a curb and stomp on your own fingers, how do you rationalize your holiday-elevated joie de vivre?
It just doesn’t add up.
Me? I’ve never been a churchgoer. By my count that should make me indifferent to the season. And I abhor the commercialism of Christmas---the glut of gifts, the plastic trees, the screaming parents storming around Toys“R”Us.
Indifference plus revulsion shouldn’t add up to a spring in my step and exhilaration over my 115th time hearing the A Charlie Brown Christmas
soundtrack. And yet...and yet...
Hark! The herald angels do friggin’ sing!
You could argue, I guess, that none of this matters. If I’m in high spirits and so are scads of jolly well-wishers all around, who cares whether it’s because we’re all jazzed on the birth of the saviour or on Boxing Day sales. And maybe it’s irrelevant that some of us---who can’t put a finger on the wellspring of our Christmas passion---are living it up in a neither-
here-nor-there holiday happyland.
Maybe wondering where my affection for Christmas lies, when it so clearly sleeps neither on the religious or secular side of the cradle, is just venturing into “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” territory. Maybe I should stop analyzing and just smile like those pleasant hairy wee meerkats in the Telus ads. (Oh, no no no no. Wish I hadn’t written that).
But wait, listen. There’s a reason I’m trying to justify my love.
I had planned to make this column a list: Ten Reasons Christmas is Officially the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
But I only got to number four.
(In case you’re interested: 1) Stollen---the better-looking, better-tasting cousin of fruitcake and raisin toast. 2) Will Ferrell in Elf
---“You smell like beef and cheese, you don’t smell like Santa.” 3) Two statutory holidays in a row---this makes no impact on me as a freelance writer, but it sure does seem to make other people cheery. 4) Barbra Streisand’s kicky version of “Jingle Bells.”)
I thought I’d get further. Really, I did. Because I consider myself an all-out Christmas-o-phile. But the list started getting repetitive. I had to delete several of my top-10, because five were different kinds of Christmas sweets I like to scarf. Then I deleted non-Christmas-specific activities, such as wrapping gifts.
I considered adding that people are kinder to each other at Christmas---that folks just seem to take more time to talk to each other and focus on each other around the holidays. But here’s what made me stop typing that.
A friend I was having lunch with the other day said that’s his number one reason for hating the holiday season---the false compassion. He says people actually aren’t any more kindhearted over the holidays, they just replace “see ya later” with “merry Christmas” for parting send-offs. Otherwise, he says, the sentiment is unchanged: It’s that same-old same-old habit of barely registering the people around us.
I’m not sure he’s right (and I had a brief terrifying realization that maybe he’s wrong and people do spend a couple of weeks a year being kind to one another only to turn around and be Grinchy again post-New Year’s---and maybe that’s even worse than the idea that people aren’t ever caring at all. That was too depressing so I just conjured up the image of stollen again). But I thought it was important to consider my friend’s holiday umbrage. Because, in fact, he started this whole analysis off, asking me why the hell I liked Christmas so much.
For every reason I had to love, he had a simple, subtle counter-offensive. For every reason he had to hate, I had to admit, he had a point.
It was a short-lived crisis of faith. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the Christmas pudding is in how I feel.
It must be, I think, that Christmas---or at least its spirit---is ineffable. We can’t put it into words. So just shut up and smile.