I was rummaging through some old papers and documents the other day when I ran across this little gem from an English Composition class. This was an argumentative paper that reflected just the opposite of a topic that the writer strongly believed in; I chose Christmas. Now here comes the disclaimer; I love everything about Christmas! As you read through this narrative, you may notice that there are distinctive undertones of cynicism, yet between the recesses of the lines and words, there are significant truth bombs more relevant now than ever. I hope you enjoy reading, “All I Want For Christmas is Some Peace and Quiet”!
Here it comes again. I can see it in the stress-etched faces of passers-by, eyes fixated in terror. Soon there will be no turning back for anyone; no credit card will be left untouched. As Thanksgiving approaches, one has a sense of urgency and uneasiness, of unjustified dread. Unjustified that is, until you are stretched out on your favorite sofa, channel surging one evening and you come across a commercial just bursting with holiday cheer. It is only then that panic permeates your entire body, leaving you numb and listless. Santa Claus is coming to town again, corrupting your children and robbing you blind in the process.
Not that there is anything wrong with the holiday season. Peace, good will toward men is a very noble reason to celebrate Christmas, not to mention the Christ child’s birthday. But given today’s emphasis on sensationalism and commercialism, the three wise men would do well to present gifts of Prozac, Valium, and Ritalin. The distorted, commercialized ritual of Christmas begins with shopping for the unappreciative, followed by the search for the elusive perfect tree, and finally climaxes with the distribution of gifts to family members, immediately followed by the requests for the receipts of such sought after gifts. So why DO we do this to ourselves?
Shopping has always been a fun, leisurely sport, enjoyed typically by those who actually have money to spend. But when the Christmas season hits, it is every man, woman and shoplifter for him or her self. Mothers and wives exchange their aprons and pot holders for pepper spray and baseball bats, anything that will give them an advantage over the other toy hoarding citizens that no doubt have already given one of their kidneys for the newest gizmo on the market. One week before Christmas, everyone is so dazed and confused, they continue to buy that something special for individuals not even on their Christmas list. All that matters now is that we have sufficient gifts for whomever may drop by; the mailman, the minister, the local orphanage—it is of no consequence; just be prepared. As the shopping comes to an end, there is a slight pain in the pit of the stomach as you realize, “Man, I have to wrap up all of this crap!” After all the gifts are beautifully wrapped, we try to stuff the mini mall of merchandise under a tree that only has a floor to tree clearance capable of accommodating a comic book.
Finding that special tree has always been an exercise in tolerance and ambition. Some folks like to travel the hillsides, scanning the horizon for anything that still looks green, spruce like and big enough to withstand the weight of five tinsel laden boxes of holiday cheer. Others prefer to wander through the fire retardant forests of Walmart, torn between the permanently snow laden pine or the ever famous, one piece, sit and trim. Finding the right tree is the easy part; trimming the tree can be suicidal. There is an unwritten rule that a string of Christmas lights will work as long as they are not attached to the tree. Once applied, the Christmas tree lights have a mind of their own. Rule number two deals with the application of decorative bulbs and garland. No matter how many boxes of tinsel you have, it is just not quite enough. The last rule applies to the tree itself. There are always five times as many gifts as there is room under the tree to place them. But why worry; the gifts will soon be given to family and friends anyway, right?
Family gatherings have always been the mainstay of the holidays. One can almost feel the anxiety and irritation rising from the depths in anticipation of another “encounter”. The location may vary, even the time frame may hover within two weeks of Christmas but the “encounter” remains a constant. The gathering begins with the initial greeting at the door. While still clinging to a favorite relative, you begin to scan the interior of the house for a “safe place”, a little bit of territory to call your own. Next comes a little chitchat, a review of deaths from the previous year and a little catch up on the families’ aches and pains. Any potential discussions relating to recent surgeries are reserved for the holiday meal. While the adults are wasting away the hours bemusing themselves with nonsense, the children are circling around the gifts, perfecting their scotch tap removing skills, and preparing for the impending gift opening frenzy. When the time arrives to open the gifts, the kids are oblivious to anything around them except for the shiny new toys unwrapped by other kids. Their sense of greed overwhelms their sense of excitement and a squabble is sure to ensue.
The parents, on the other hand, have a more succinct sense of dread as everyone sits around in the circle of judgment and waits their turn. One by one, the adults open their gifts as everyone else waits for the recipient’s reaction. It is wise at this time to “psych out” the spectators with a broad smile and approving nod; sharing your real impressions of the gift can wait until the interesting drive home.
Again, that nagging thought crosses the mind, why DO we do this to ourselves. It is time to start shopping for compliments for one another, not for the material trash we bestow upon our friends and family. Wouldn’t it be better to embellish someone’s self-esteem than to spend hundreds of dollars prettying up a dead tree? When it comes to family gatherings, I think that all of us would enjoy the Christmas holiday just a little more if we could just drop the dramatics and be ourselves. Christmas is all about the Christ child, childlike fun and tradition, not unwarranted guilt and obligation. So go ahead and deck the halls with boughs of holly; I’ll be the contented one in the corner, having a very merry Christmas of my very own.