Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bah! Humbug!

I don't know when it happened exactly, but at some point in my early life, I soured on Christmas. Given the deeply cynical streak that runs through me, it probably had to happen eventually, but I can't remember the last time I truly thought of Christmas as "magical."

I know this is supposed to be the best time of year -- peace on earth, goodwill to men, etc., etc., but it doesn't feel like that to me. Mostly, I view the thirty-odd days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a period of rampant noise, busy-ness, materialism, stress, and unending, grinding work (as if I really need twelve dozen cookies lying around my house). Maybe if I could just focus on a beautiful baby in a manger, I might feel better. But I can't because, in the words of the immortal Homer J. Simpson, "Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Santa."

To tell the truth, Santa is another problem for me. I'm not talking about the historical St. Nick, who from all accounts was a really good man that saved destitute children from slavery, but the modern Claus. I'm sorry if I offend, but to me, he's just creepy. To demonstrate what I mean, here is a chart comparing Santa (who dominates the contemporary holiday) and Jesus, (who, I've been told, is the reason for season).

Santa Jesus
Even if Santa is supposed to be bringing gifts, I can't get over the felon-like quality of his breaking and entering. Let's say that I was sleeping in the middle of the night and awoke to the noises of someone in disguise with a great big bag prowling about my house, my first instinct would be to shoot first and ask questions later. Jesus is a gentleman. He doesn't push or barge his way in. He doesn't look for sneaky ways in when one is least suspecting. Instead, He knocks on the door of one's heart and waits for an answer. In my opinion, this shows superior breeding and good manners.
There is something Orwellian about the way Santa's always watching and making lists. And now he has little elves-on-shelves spying on and reporting everybody. It feels a lot like Big Brother to me.Actually, Jesus watches and makes lists, too, but somehow I don't feel as threatened. Maybe because He's looking for fallen sparrows and broken hearts. 
Speaking of Big Brother, if you're on Santa's good side, you reap rewards. Otherwise, look out. It's lumps of coal for you.

The problem, though, is that one never knows how good is good enough? I actually have a friend whose children play this online game where Santa tells them whether they've been good enough to get presents. There is a little arrow that swings back and forth between "Naughty" and "Nice," and her kids sit in sheer anticipatory terror praying it lands on "Nice." If you ask me, this game was designed by a shrink looking to drum up business.
Unlike Santa, God doesn't play those kinds of head games. Naughty or nice, it doesn't matter. You get the gift of a baby, of a savior. Actually, this gift is especially for the naughty.

So maybe, if Christmas were about the birth of Jesus, it would be more meaningful to me because I like Jesus, but Satan Santa leaves me nonplussed. I have other issues with Santa, too, like his perpetually red face (which makes me think he's imbibing more than just milk with his cookies), but I'll quit now before I really step over the line.

So anyway, I'm a Grinch, and this year, I'm feeling more Grinchy than usual. To make it worse, my middle child has requested an Elf-on-a-Shelf (ugh) and has professed a deep-seated belief in Santa Claus. This actually shocked me since I've always been very upfront on the topic -- There is NO Santa! (Interestingly enough, he also asked why we don't celebrate Chanukah. So that was another long conversation -- to summarize, I told him it was a lovely holiday for which I am eternally grateful because without it, there would be no Jesus and no Christmas. However, although I would like to help him celebrate that, I have enough dealing with just one day. I don't want to add 8 more on top of it. I know -- I've reached a new humbugging low.)

So I guess, here is the point of today's ramblings... I don't know if it's hormones (yes, I'm going to play that card) or because I've been unwell lately or the new house or unseasonably warm weather or what, but I'm having a harder time than usual getting into Christmas. In fact, I have three naked gingerbread houses that have been sitting for a week -- no frosting, no candy canes, not even a gumdrop in sight. At the moment, even ordinary tasks like laundry and dinner are taxing me. Forget decorating, baking, and shopping. Mostly, I just want to lie in bed with a book and not get up until January. It's quite possible that I'm the worst mom in the world, but this is the honest truth right now. Still, I have little ones, and it's not fair to Scrooge all over their excitement. For their sakes, I'm trying to put on a good face.

So mom to mom -- what do you do? Are you the kind of person that starts the Christmas countdown on Dec. 26th or do you flounder and flail through the holidays like me? How do you keep Christmas meaningful and exciting and fresh?


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