Saturday, December 16, 2006

chillin' and coolin' just like a snowman

It's probably a good thing that Christmas isn't actually Jesus' birthday. Because if it were, I would probably feel worse about being so ambivalent.

Yeah, I know: Bah, humbug.

I am not anti-Christmas. I am not harboring negative sentiment towards this Christian Homecoming game of a holiday. I'm just not feelin' Christmas. And even though it's that time of the year for Christians to make their obligatory rant about the commercialization of our sacred holiday - it's not even so much that.

Perhaps it's the weather. This is my second Christmas in Southern California, and I'm wondering how anyone can possibly get into the "Christmas Spirit" when it's a sunny 70 degrees every day. There is no Winter Wonderland, no Jack Frost nipping at my nose or any other exposed extremities, and ohhh the weather outside is far from frightful.

For my large demographic of Lubbock readers: Imagine you woke up one morning in early May to find people wearing red sweaters, drinking peppermint lattes, and arguing about which in-laws to visit. And that's how I've felt every day since Thanksgiving.

But perhaps it is this: When did Christmas gift-giving become nothing more than a resource exchange?

Growing up, I saw my parents pace the floors trying to think of the perfect gift to get each other. The thing that my Mom would never think of, or that my Dad would never buy for himself. Something special, unique and individual - and above all - thoughtful. I'm proud to say that the Hoovs are maintaining our gift-giving ethic.

But the rest of the world: Gift cards.

You give me a $50 Best Buy card. I give you a $50 Barnes & Noble card. What is the point? You don't know whether I want Season 1 of Twin Peaks or a Carpenter's Boxed Set. And you don't care. I don't know whether you want The Collected Essays of Ken Kesey or The DaVinci Code on tape. And I don't care.

We might as well have just kept our money and bought what we wanted. No sentiment has been expressed - just the mutual fulfillment of obligation.

But perhaps it's the cognitive dissonance our culture has towards Christmas. By that I mean this: it is completely acceptable for non-Christians to celebrate Christmas. Is that a bad thing? Well, no. I suppose not. But it is illogical. Why? What if I wanted to celebrate Chanukah?

I would be derided, mocked, and accused of Antisemitism.

So let me get this straight: Anyone can celebrate the most sacred of Christian holy days, but no one else gets to celebrate the second-most sacred of Jewish holy days?? That is illogical.

And as a holiday, Chanukah makes way more sense. First, it is celebrated at the same point in the calendar as the events by which the holiday was inspired. Christmas? Far from it. Second, the symbols associated with Chanukah actually have a connection to the hisorical basis of the holiday. Santas, Christmas trees, snowflakes, snowmen? Not so much.

The opposing counsel in one of my cases is Jewish, and quite orthodox. I envy him, because he gets to celebrate his holiday as sacred, as unique to his faith, as a representation of how his God protected his people. And his holiday can be mocked and diminished by the culture, but it will still be sacred to his faith and his faith alone.

But not Christmas. Here in a blue state, if you suggest that Christmas is a "Christian holiday", you would be promptly dismissed as a narrow-minded, fundamentalist Bible-thumper, and you should run along back to Jerry Falwell.

Joe Blow on the street can say, "I'm post-modern. I think that all truth is relative, existence is dualistic, and therefore an all-powerful and absolute deity is necessarily excluded. But I'm down with presents, and time off of work, and good will towards men and yada yada - all that stuff. So I have a right to celebrate Christmas. And no Christian is going to tell me I can't."

I feel like our holiday, and by proxy, our God, is getting used. And it ruins it for me.

Dear Christians,

We don't like your morals. We don't like your standards. We don't like you, and we don't like your "God" intruding into our social systems, trying to prescribe antiquated notions of "right" and "wrong". We are doing just fine on our own, thank you very much.

But we do love presents. You got the right idea on that.

So we've enclosed some Starbucks cards.

All the best,


Happy Holidays, everyone.