I keep catching myself turning into an old man. To be more specific, I keep catching myself doing and (most often) thinking things that a short time ago I would have attributed only to the mindset of a geezer. It’s worse than just being conscious of it, too. Each time I catch myself, I discover I don’t really seem to mind.
Despite spending an excessively rebellious period in my late teens and early twenties hating – or at least feigning hate for – the holidays, and despite the fact that I at least could relate to the feeling for quite some time after that, I am no longer able to understand anyone who hates the entire holiday season. Like, at all.
I get it that some people hate their families or don’t have them. I’m not unsympathetic to that. I just don’t think it’s a sufficient reason to decline all of it. There’s more to it than that.
I understand those who are not Christian feeling left out of a holiday with obvious Christian roots, but most other religions either observe a similar holiday in parallel or at least don’t prohibit participation in it. As for the secular out there – a much larger group – come on, don’t be a curmudgeon. The holiday itself, as we all know, is very secularized. If that’s not enough for you, there’s always the Solstice. It’s not just for pagans, you know. It’s an astrological event, and one with real significance in terms of how we measure time, in years.
I know, too, that “commercialization” sucks and empty consumerism is a bummer and all that, but you know what? That’s just not a real palpable part of my experience, including what I see from friends and peers. We do buy gifts, we give and receive them and stuff, but to suggest this is some kind of empty exercise for people to exchanging junk they don’t need out of obligation and occasionally nefarious competition is almost insulting. If that’s how it is for you, I’m…sorry? It doesn’t have to be. I like giving people that we like things that they will like and find useful, not because I have to but out of an expression of thoughtfulness and celebration and reciprocal gratitude. The exchange is always modest and very nice, and everyone can choose to participate in this or not to whatever extent they are inclined or able; having a bad experience with it doesn’t mean it’s intrinsically bad, much less somehow indicative of societal doom.
We’ve all heard this year, surely, that some study found Christmas music to be harmful to your mental health. Okay, I mean, let’s talk about this. To be sure, I give my mother a very hard time about her Christmas music, which she begins listening to each September. Like, on September the First, it’s opening day for the carols. My father at one time approached this custom as a very tolerant husband but has now evolved to become a very willing participant. It’s bizarre and I give them shit, but it’s cute and fine despite being very extreme. As someone who’s spent many years in retail, I do want to say that being trapped in a store for eight hours playing the same 80 minutes of Christmas songs on loop is definitely a form of mild torture. Short of that? Christmas songs are great. If you think we collectively overdo it with the songs, try to avoid intentionally listening to them until right before Christmas Eve – it’s possible you may even like them in that kind of dose.
What I’m getting at here beyond a point-by-point takedown of the haters is that we find ourselves presently in the midst of a season so deep and so broad and with so many facets and interpretations and foci and so much stylistic breathing room that I simply find no reason why anyone can’t take what they find meaningful and beautiful and fun and leave the rest alone. If you don’t think that’s an option, this is me giving you permission to take a whack at it. We all have that freedom.