And I use the word Xmas advisedly. I like many of the traditions associated with the Christmas holiday, mostly because of happy memories from my own childhood. What to me as a young boy was radiant and hopeful, however, has become for the adult me just another hurdle. For decades now, I have referred to the holiday as “The Dread Xmas”—and I make a point of pronouncing it as Ekksmas. Here is a partial list of my beefs about this time of year:
The Little Drummer Boy
There was no little drummer boy in the manger. The shepherds around Bethlehem would not have countenanced using a sheepskin to beat upon with a pair of sticks. And the song itself is sappy, sirupy, and soggily sentimental. Let us just leave this one out henceforth. To me, it is far worse than the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” song that is so lately controversial.
The Holiday “Spirit”
Let’s face it: This is a time of year when people are driven to perform endless errands—and in the worst possible spirit. In so doing, they clog the highways and especially the shopping center parking lots. Even with Amazon.Com and other Internet alternatives, you are likely to have some sour feelings about the holiday if you venture out of doors and onto the highway.
Charity Is Not Just for the Holidays
And yet, there is a positive onslaught of charitable requests from November until the end of the year. Giving some poor person a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is a nice idea, but people are hungry and needy all year round. Every year at this time, I get at least a hundred requests this time of year. I suppose the timing has more to do with people trying to up their tax exemptions before the New Years, but it does get a bit old.
As a newly retired person, I am now on a fixed income and frequently making raids on my IRA savings. There is no way that I can give Christmas gifts the way I used to, and I feel terrible about it. I have to make a special effort to tell my friends that I can’t be quite so generous as previously.
On the Other Hand
There are also some things about Christmas that I love: The old traditional songs, the classic movies such as the Alastair Sim version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, getting together with friends, and trying to make small things into mini-celebrations. At its best, Christmas is about love; at its worst, about mere driven spiritless compulsion.