This is my husband Jon, last year, after having just stuffed our 20′ U-cut Christmas tree into the back of our truck, to be schlepped home, heaved out, lugged over, stuffed into, and winched up into the middle of our living room. We promised ourselves that this year, 2018, we will most certainly purchase a smaller tree. And like every year since we have been married, we will likely break that promise. I will no doubt complain about it as I do every year. And yet….
I am profoundly grateful to him for this.
It’s not that I am exactly a Scrooge when it comes to Christmas; it’s just that with the work I do, and the limited time there is to do it in December, and the gloom of Western Washington at this time of year, when it’s often dark more hours than it is light, and the fifty-thousand versions of “Here Comes Santa Claus” that seem to follow me wherever I go, and the clock ticking off the seconds until it’s all supposed to be over and done, well, I get a little….. Scroogey. And God bless Jon, he does not.
When I hear Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” floating over the speakers at the local QFC and the local RiteAids have dancing Santa figurines next to the 75% off plastic Halloween jack o lanterns, I start to get a teeny bit cranky. When Hallmark starts running ads for its whole new generation of cheesy movies with country western singers in their first acting roles ever, I tend to roll my eyes. When I start seeing red Starbucks cups in the trash cans, I heave a sigh.
Ok, I admit it. Christmas is NOT my favorite holiday. Humbug.
I could go into the usual rant about over commercialization of the holiday, or how we should rethink the ‘reason for the season’. I could point out all the terrible things that are happening all over the world, and how trivial it is to celebrate Christmas when the Earth and everyone in it appears to be on the brink of self destruction. I could condemn the inequalities of our capitalist system. I could reflect upon the inaccuracies of celebrating Jesus’ birth in December when historical record would suggest it was actually in the spring. I could talk about the anthropological meaning of the Magi, and suggest that the whole story is just a metaphor for, I don’t know, puberty, or the existential crisis of the human soul. I could just pull the “things aren’t as good as they USED to be when I was young” card. But most of that would just be me flailing around for no good reason but the aerobic exercise of working up a good tantrum.
The simple fact is this: I resent Christmas’ tight-fisted hold on wonder. It’s so friggin cheap.
Let me explain.
If it’s Christmas, and you are over-decorating an evergreen, then you are in the spirit of things. If it’s March and you are doing the same thing, you are hopelessly weird. If it’s December and you are secretly leaving small presents on your coworkers desk, you are a secret Santa. If it’s June, you’ll probably hear from HR. If it’s Christmas and you are an adult catching snowflakes on your tongue, you’re being festive. If it’s January, someone is going to tell you to up your meds.
I get grumpy knowing that we seem collectively as a people to meter out our joy in such small doses and for such a short season of time. Is childlike delight only seasonal? Is a grateful heart only a winter thing? Is the spirit of generosity only supposed to overcome us once a year? Why only Christmas? Why only December? And I have to ask, what’s with the incredibly campy Hallmark movies, all of which are exactly the same plot and the same corny ending? Where are the homely people for God’s sake? Why is everyone in these movies 28 years old and gorgeous? I want to see the old ugly guy and the older ugly lady have a lovefest like you’ve never SEEN. (Ok, that’s just me being a film critic. I really do hate those movies. Sorry about that.)
Why not have a Christmas heart in October? Or June? On a Tuesday? At the dentist’s?
I’m not advocating year-round tree decimation. I’m not suggesting 12 months of overspending. I’m not recommending hot toddies on the 4th of July. It won’t be necessary to have garland on your banister on August 27th. I’m not even advocating twinkle lights 365 days a year, although if they’re LEDs then why the hell not?
I’m just wondering when we will give ourselves permission to be as ridiculously festive all our days as we are on Dec 25th?
I want reminders to be too generous of spirit all year round. I want to be encouraged to think the best of people every day of the year. I want to be free to cavort in the rain just as much as in the snow, or make grass angels in the 80 degree summer just as much as snow angels when it’s below 30. I want to donate more money than I should even when nobody is standing outside the grocery store with a bell and a red bucket. I want to sing songs on people’s porches for no good reason. I want to decorate a tree with lights; even better if it’s the neighbor’s tree and I did it when they didn’t see me. I want to smile at strangers and not worry about them getting nervous or crossing the street.
I want all those people who only come to church once a year to know that if they came on any other day they’d still be welcome. And I really really want that to be true.
I guess it’s the conundrum of the holidays; for such a short predetermined time we all give ourselves permission to be more open, more accepting, more generous, more vulnerable, more approachable, more willing to believe. For a moment, we care more about the poor, or those in prison, or the marginalized who have so little. We open our wallets and our hearts. We look beyond our own lives. We dream. For one day. Or two if we’re really trying. We seek beauty, and we give it away. We sing for each other. We hope. For a little while we can laugh and cry and be sentimental and ridiculous. For a short time we can be children again.
I’m tired of that being limited to Dec 25th. I’m sick of it. It’s not enough. I want more. We need to break that chain. We need to say “Dammit, it’s Monday and it’s 12:42pm and I’m going to be generous NOW and you can’t stop me.” We need a revolution of the heart.
I’m ready to revolt.
Who’s with me?