That’s right, Ladies and Gentlefellas, it’s that time of year again: the season of competitive consumerism and mass hysteria. Break out the credit cards, lay-away rain checks and your copy of “Deck the Halls without Breaking the Chair!” – it’s the holidays.
The holiday season is essentially the ultimate challenge that the entire year leads up to; as kids, we worked to be good, or at least covertly bad, so we could get that pony we asked for every year, but never actually got EVEN THOUGH we’re 23 years old, totes responsible enough for it now, and have been above average in the nice-ness contest for at least 15 of those years. And as adults, we spend all year saving money in the “Christmas gift” fund, or as I like to call it ‘what I’ll buy myself because I worked all year for this money and do you realize how many times I had to say “how are you” without actually caring? Fund.’ Around September, we start unpacking the wool coats and scarves, and get reacquainted with the color combinations of red and green, blue and white, and…red, green and yellow? I don’t actually know what Kwanzaa colors are. Apparently in my mind it’s Kwanzaa: A very Rastafarian holiday.
Then it’s the madness and overzealous patriotism or disenfranchisement of Thanksgiving. In one corner you have the Happy Thanksgiving-ers who make the elementary hand-turkeys and actually own a weaved-wicker cornucopia for their dining table centerpiece. Cough, my mother, cough. In the other corner, you have the Chandler’s of the holiday, who are adamant about reminded everyone that it’s a holiday celebrating the massacre and eventual domination of the Native Americans by the evil pale faces. That Disney animated movie Pocahontas really put a damper on the pilgrim image. Then again, I’m French, and we celebrate Bastille Day. Tons of people died then, too. Bon Temps!
Yet, once the dust settles on the heated Facebook Status debates of patriotism versus genocide, and everyone revives from their self-inflicted turkey comas, it’s all hands on deck Christmas time. Black Friday, Mass Chaos Sunday, Cyber Monday – it’s all part of the festivities. Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald singing Silver Bells blaring dauntingly through tiny department store speakers. Gifts for Dad! Gifts for Mom! Gifts for your IRS Auditor! It’s inescapable. And as an adult, Christmas and the entire holiday season looks so different than I remember from my youth.
When you’re a kid, Christmas is nothing but bright, shiny paper, toys-r-us catalogs on Saturday mornings and advent calendar chocolates, what is this one, a bible verse? Bleh. This door sucks. Holidays are tailored for children. It’s the root of some of the most significant life lessons. Patience. Charity. Figuring out that you only have to be well behaved for the last three months leading up to December 25th because mom and dad don’t really remember much before then, save for a fist fight or minor arson conviction. And then just like that, just like magic, there’s stuff. Tons of stuff. Bright colored boxes with sticky tags that say your name on them; and all that matters is that the boxes are for you, and that you have more than either of your brothers, on account of how girls rule and boys drool.
Christmas is the way I learned the value of details. When I was six, I asked for “anything horses.” That year I got a book of every different breed of horse, and a Shetland pony-themed diary. The next year, I learned that to be more specific. Instead of “anything horses,” I wrote down, “actual horses.” That year, I got tiny plastic horse statues, and a wooden stable for 12, which is hilarious since I think I ended up with about 15 horses. This also taught me that in life, you have to choose favorites. The prettiest get shelter, and the defective Appaloosa gets to hang out in the bottom of the toy chest. While I was disappointed that my parents seemingly didn’t get the hint, I learned the power of specificity and detail. That’s why this year, I put links to horse adoption websites, as well as an amazon.com direct link to a feed bag. And I customized a saddle with the name Sequoia embroidered on the side.
But as a grown-up, Christmas is an opportunity to get someone else to buy you stuff you need, rather than just whatever you want. And while it does seem like a bit of the magic has left the season when the first thing on your Christmas list is a coffee maker, that’s part of holiday evolution. The same year you start asking for kitchen appliances as gifts is the year you realize that you won’t be benefitting at all from the annual cookie exchange because you’re not 8 anymore, and can’t eat 17 snicker doodles worth of dough while you’re making 2 dozen of them. Mainly because you spent all your money on the ingredients and packaging and therefore can’t afford new clothes when you consume your way into the next size of pants. So you try to live vicariously through the joyous smells of baking cookies and breads and those delicious, traitorous complex carbohydrates. And you smile while you watch children hoard your baked goods at parties and social gatherings, though the real reason you’re smiling is because you’re imagining getting a type of marshmallow gun and blasting macaroons at their stupid fast-metabolism faces. But that’s the nature of the holiday: kids get all the cookies, and you are old enough to get hammered at the Christmas party. It’s life’s way of compromising.
There are lots of things that suck about holidays for adults. You’re expected to hold actual conversations with relatives you only see once a year. As for that, I recommend coming up with a really realistic fake relationship if you don’t have a real one. Make him perfect enough to gush about for around the 45-minute mark, but give him some flaws so you have a reason to break up with him around mid-January. Don’t have him cheat on you, cause that makes you look sad, but something a little more significant than “he left his shoes in the middle of the floor.” I always go with “he really liked cats.” That works best in my family.
You have to bake. You have to clean. You have to share the wine you’ve been stockpiling all year because it’s rude to show up without anything, and everyone likes alcohol. It’s no longer cute to give hand-made cards as someone’s only gift, and if you send out ANY Christmas cards, you have to send them to everyone you’ve ever made eye contact with, or they’ll holiday spirit-sue you. You have to come up with something under budget and amazing for your office secret santa swap, and you’ll never know a freaking thing about the person you get. Again, I suggest booze. You have to offer to help cook/clean/organize at any party or family event you attend, and if you’re me, somehow you end up volunteering to organize their home office. Thanks a lot, southern manners. Now I’m a volunteer administrative assistant.
But even in spite of all those things I hate about the holidays, I really do love the holidays. Starbucks has seasonal drinks. Nights always smell like burning wood and charcoal. The excuse, “but it’s Christmas” is finally relevant again. Staying inside and watching copious amounts of television is perfectly acceptable. And then, there’s hope that maybe this year you really WILL get that pony.
Besides, fewer people can judge me for blaring “(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus” by Harry Connick Jr. on repeat.
And that, my friends in blogland, is what I call a win.
a writer with a 'one eyebrow raised' perspective on the world; a geek for computers, tech toys, and superheroes; a friend who lives to entertain; a girl who loves tennis shoes and tank tops; an avid facebook-er, twitterholic, and all-around social-networking ninja. And this is my blog.