I have to admit that in the past few years, I’ve become less interested in Christmas and holiday festivities. I’d say it began two years ago, the first Christmas I spent alone in Hollywood, but really I think it started before that. Thing is, it’s happened, in a way, to all holidays, at least for me; I’ve always been the sort of person who gets totally excited about doing things right up until the very moment you tell me I have to do them, at which point I get all stubborn like the Taurus I am and dig in my heels and refuse to budge. Thanksgiving, anymore, only makes me wonder why more people aren’t grateful every day of the year, for example, and Christmas? Christmas, just lately, only reminds me I live in a society where people shoot people in a Toys ‘R Us and frenzied shoppers trample employees at Walmart.
This particular Christmas seems particularly turbulent, in fact, mainly because of the economy. I read the comics page of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, and no less than three of the comics contained “jokes” about the current “financial crisis.” The headlines are all over the place today; jobless claims are way up, while consumer spending is way down, and most analysts say we’re just in for tougher times ahead.
Still, I can’t help but feel some hope in that.
Because I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason I’ve disliked holidays is their focus on conspicuous over-consumption. Halloween has become a candy orgy, Thanksgiving a turkey orgy, Christmas an orgy of over-consumption of everything. Hell, even the Fourth of July and Memorial Day seem to have lost their original meanings, giving up celebrations of independence and those who have served in favor of an orgy of patriotism.
I feel hope, mainly because it seems like the current “financial crisis” might finally signal an end to all that. I hear the cries that consumer spending is down and think maybe people finally gave up their seven dollar cafe lattes. Yes, it’s sad that jobless claims are up, but how many people do you know who legitimately care about their jobs and love the companies for whom they are employed? Maybe this will give both our neighbors and ourselves an opportunity to find work we really care about. I’ve been lucky, over the years; yeah, I’m mostly just a broke-ass grad student, but yet I’ve with rare exception found myself in jobs I cared about (the singular exception being substitute teaching, which was still fun but never seemed to mean a whole lot)–advertising and personal training and editing, and now actually teaching. I’m struggling to pay my bills, just like everyone else (and yes, partly because I, too, indulged in over-consumption; part of the reason I think I’m aware of it is because I’m aware I did it myself), but this semester, I had students give me cards telling me what a great job I had done, and even still get e-mails to the same effect. I’m thrilled when people ask me for letters of recommendation, because more than anything I’ve ever owned, people are asking for my word, and I don’t know what’s more important than that.
This year, I’m not giving gifts to my family and friends, unfortunately, because I blew all the money I would have spent on them when I lost my tire somewhere outside Goodland, Kansas, on route 70. Then again, this year, I won’t receive many gifts, but already got the only one I wanted; this morning, I walked upstairs to sit with my father for a few minutes before he started the Christmas Eve preparations (to which I’ll contribute after I publish this), and he told me how glad he was to have me home. Understand my dad is often a stoic dude, and even if he can’t restrain his emotions, sometimes, still tries to hide the fact that he’s got them.
This year I don’t have to leave anytime soon.
Growing up, today was always the real day of Christmas; tomorrow morning, we opened presents and then went to my grandmother’s for brunch, but Christmas Eve was the magic day. The longest night of the year, and always the most colorful, with the greens and the reds and the golds combining like holiday neon. Tonight’s the night my godmother always visits, and our two families will sit together. We’ll exchange gifts, but mostly we’ll just laugh and talk and drink and eat and be a family. Tonight, we’ll put on John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, because that’s what we listen to every year, and this year we’ll have some Sinatra and Tony Bennett and Amy Grant, too.
They say memory is most tied to scent, but Christmas for me is always tied to one song, always performed by Rowlff the dog:
That video comes from the 1979 Christmas special, parts of which (including parts I’d never seen save the once, when I was a year old) are available (obviously) on YouTube.
Here’s their “Peace Carol (the Peace of Christmas Day)”:
Unfortunately, the footage for my favorite Christmas song, “A Christmas Wish,” as performed by Kermit D. Frog, is unavailable. What is available, however, is a sorta fan-made video, with some pretty pictures and the song, and since I just want to share the song with you, that will do for our purposes:
My wish this year? Well, I’m home, so I’ve got everything I wanted (well. I didn’t actually get in to NYU yet, but I’m happy enough with the application, so that’s okay), so my wish is for you: for a healthy and happy holiday season. That you spend time with loved ones even if they are at a distance. That anyone affected by the financial crisis remembers that in Japan (or is it China? I can’t remember), the symbol for “crisis” cannot be found without the symbol for “opportunity” (the two are, together, the word for “failure”, because all failure comes with crisis but contains opportunity).
I want to give you two more Muppets videos, the first of John Denver reciting the story of the first Christmas, which I’d never seen before, nor even heard:
And I’m feeling enough Christmas spirit that I won’t even point out all the historical inaccuracies in that video except to note that, no, Jesus was not born with blond hair, nor even go off on a rant about Christianity.
What I’ll do instead is post one last video, of the Muppets performing “Silent Night.”
Merry Christmas, you guys.
- Neil Gaiman: Hanukkah with bells on
- My Christmas Eve, 2008