Seems to be fashionable these days to have a hate on for Christmas, to sneer about the commercialization of the season, and lack of meaning, and the “crass mess” that it’s become.
And there’s no doubt that the lights seem to go up earlier every year, that the mall music turns to carols before the Hallowe’en spirit has left the building, and that endless throngs of shoppers dance to the relentless beat of marketing masterminds who prey on children—wait a second. Commercials of old did seem to target children, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s true anymore. In an age of indulgent parenting and the “me” generation I’m beginning to suspect that those parents who knock themselves and each other out in a game of one-upsmanship with their children are the target market, the pressure to produce peerless prodigy is both overwhelming and largely self inflicted.
But is that the fault of Christmas? No, it isn’t, any more than the placards and DayGlo sign boards proclaiming “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” will induce a sudden onset of spirituality in non-believers. For one thing, Christmas is not a season—winter is a season. Jesus is not the reason for winter, climate is. But reason and season do rhyme, and those pesky marketers serve good and evil masters.
I long ago stopped having any spiritual connection to Christmas; although I was raised Catholic and therefore attended mass and had a manger and sang the hymns and so on. Going to Catholic school, I asked two questions before Grade 2 that got me into such trouble I remain to this day an introvert. First one was to Sister Eileen: “Sister, were dinosaurs around the same time Adam and Eve lived?” and the second, even if reindeer were magic, how do they get around the whole world in one night? Apparently, the reindeer business caused a crisis of Santa faith among my classmates, leaving their Christmas dreams in shreds and parents facing tough questions when kids got home from school.
For reasons not quite ready for print, I’ve never felt the warm glow of family, togetherness, excitement, or any of the so-called “Christmas magic” that storytellers and filmmakers and songwriters capture so well. I came close, in the few Christmases that I spent with my husband’s family before my mother-in-law passed away (an embodiment of Mrs. Claus if ever there was one).
But yet, I don’t need to have experienced that myself to know that there is a magic of Christmas, a palpable nugget of joy and optimism—somewhere.
A former neighbor dropped by with some cookies on Christmas Eve. His little girl sat in my lap and chatted about Santa, and her grandparents visiting, and watching Rudolph lead the other reindeer (thanks to NORAD), and how she knew it was him because his nose was twinkling red. How can the innocence and trust of a child not be considered magic? There are signs everywhere; if you look they’re yours for the seeing.
I realized this year that Christmas was never going to be what I wished it had been, because I was no longer a child and well past recreating what I wanted from the past. But it could be what I wanted for the future. And what I didn’t want was to be some too-cool-for-Santa hipster who eschews the holidays with obnoxious, pretentious jackass-ery.
All I wanted for Christmas was to somehow shake the shroud of sadness that settles around me this time of year. That seemed unlikely, so I also asked for snow—also not likely in a coastal city. And because my husband believes firmly in the magic of Christmas, and in me, we’ve packed up ourselves, two dogs and a cat to make the trek inland to a cabin in the valley, where the snow usually comes for the holidays.
And on this Christmas night, the last of the plum pudding has been eaten. The dogs are sprawled on the floor like area rugs, and the cat is curled in the crook of my husband’s arm. I’m looking out over the lake, there are lights twinkling across the water, and a lovely dusting of pristine snow on the ground.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

Advertisements