Where Are You Christmas? (aka: Rants of a Holiday Cynic)

I hate LED Christmas lights Oh Christmas, how you have failed me! How you have drained my pockets of every spare cent, so that my family can have the latest, shiniest toys wrapped in glittery premium wrapping paper. How you have crowded the stores with piles of cake pop makers and mini sno-cone machines and other useless Thneeds, which nobody, nobody, nobody needs. You have ruined my eyesight by surrounding me with ultra-bright LED Christmas light displays. (Why on earth does anyone think that LED lights are pleasant to look at?).

Then there was that Black Friday incident in the high-scale shopping mall near my home, in which some men got into a fist fight in the Victoria’s Secret. In Victoria’s Secret! Over a pair of lacy panties! (I was just in that same Victoria’s Secret hours before the fight, and believe me, there was nothing worth fighting over). Oh Christmas, with your empty promises of goodwill and peace…well there is NOTHING peaceful about listening to Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree five times per hour on the radio (please, somebody kill that song), not to mention the plethora of songs worshipping the snow. Um, hello? Some of us live in California, where snow is practically a myth, unless you count the artificial spray-on snow we use for decorations.The Grinch

Okay I know, I know…I am Scrooge, looking with scorn at the meaningless trappings and festivities that seem to make everyone else happy. I am also The Grinch. My heart has become three sizes too small, while my cynical mind has grown three sizes too big. And I am Charlie Brown, throwing my hands in the air with frustration and yelling, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”

And suddenly, a song begins to play in my memory. No, it isn’t a bunch of villagers singing Fah-who Foraze. It is Faith Hill, singing Where Are You Christmas? When that song ends, another begins. It is Aislin Debison, singing The Gift. And just like like the Grinch, my cynicism begins to fade. Because Christmas is here…Christmas has always been right here, waiting for me. It has not failed me. It is I, with my critical eye and self-absorption, who has failed Christmas. It is not that Christmas owes me peace, love, and goodwill, but it is I who owes the world my peace, love, and goodwill.

The realization is so simple, and so stunningly beautiful, like Disney magic or a surprise snowfall in California. And suddenly I feel like whistling Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree while hanging up decorations…not for me, but for other people to enjoy. And I feel like walking through the crowded shopping mall while wearing a Santa hat…not to buy a bunch of stuff, but to smile at people, and drop my spare change in a charity bucket, and spread the Christmas spirit. Because the good in Christmas, the wonder in Christmas, is in the ability to do good for a fellow human being. It is in the joy of giving back to the world, whether it is through charity, or homemade cookies, or raking leaves for a neighbor (okay, well, shoveling snow if you live anywhere but California).

Christmastime is here, and so I will swallow my cynicism, wrap gifts for my kids in shiny, glittery paper, and call my relatives to remind them that I care. I will drink (low-calorie) peppermint cocoa and sing along with the radio, and maybe get so carried away that I go out to look at all of your LED Christmas light displays. Look for me. I’ll be the one wearing the Santa hat and the sunglasses.

Just Another All-American Christmas

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about the presents. On Christmas morning, my brother, sister and I, like millions of other American kids, would race into the living room and stare in awe at the magical scene before our eyes: a table heaped with candy and nuts, fat red stockings, and piles and piles of gifts piled beneath the Christmas tree. My parents would eventually stumble, bleary-eyed, into the room, and we all spent the morning ripping open packages of Barbies and Star Wars playsets and Cabbage Patch Kids while Nat King Cole crooned from the record player (yes, I said record player).

But when my husband and I had kids, we swore that we would celebrate differently. No piles of presents. No Santa Claus stories. No focus on the materialistic glut that Christmas has become. No…our kids would grow up with solemn Christmas Eve candle-lighting services at church, and stories about the baby Jesus in the manger, and one…maybe two small gifts beneath the tree. Simple. Quiet. Full of meaning.

But as our children grew, I learned something. As our children awoke on Christmas morning and raced into the living room, their eyes shone with that same eager, awe-filled, Christmas-y expression that my siblings and I had worn each year. And that look filled me with a new, even more wonderful feeling of magic. I wanted them to have that feeling, if only once a year. And so, the piles of gifts began to grow. The stockings grew fatter. And stories about good old St. Nicholas began to compete with Baby Jesus in the manger. Twas the Night Before Christmas

This year, we have spent a frightening amount of money on materialistic stuff. Our boys are getting shiny new bicycles. Our daughter will get an iPod touch. We have given in to the All-American Christmas Dream of contributing to the growth of the economy. I am excited, as always, to see that Christmas morning expression on the faces of my children. But the idealist buried deep within me still wishes there was some way to change the way we celebrate the season, to restore a greater sense of meaning to the most celebrated holiday of the year.