I used to love you. From the choosing of the tree when I was little to the precise way my grandmother wanted it decorated when I was in my 20s. Snowball fights and snow angels in Forest Falls. Plastic bags over socks, frozen shoelaces on wafflestompers, ice-caked mittens. Ginger ale, homemade hot cocoa, soup with walnuts. Family visiting from afar.
The only present I remember from my childhood Christmases is a huge red Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary given to me when I was eight years old.
There were other gifts–I’ve seen the photos–but they didn’t stay with me the way that dictionary did. (Over 30 years. It fell apart a few years ago.)
Christmas now? Garlands drooping over Main Street, snakey lines in department stores, Salvation Army bell-ringers, crammed parking lots, once-a-year toy and food drives, “special” sales offers flooding my inbox, Black Friday violence over toasters and TVs, surprise visits from my ex-husband’s family (after 7 years of silence. Because we’re ‘family’.) Incongruous snow scenes on store windows (we’re in the desert. We don’t know what snow is.) None of it embodies the spirit of anything good.
Where did the magic go? Isn’t this time supposed to be a time of celebration? Whether it’s the celebration of Jesus’ birth, or the Day of Enlightenment, or Yule, or Diwali, Hanukkah , Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, it’s not showing. The only thing in evidence is shopping.
I don’t see the sense in providing for the poor once a year. I don’t see the sense in obligatory Christmas cards or gifts. I don’t see the sense in waiting till December to connect with people. And I don’t care if you say ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Merry Christmas’–both are empty phrases, just like “hi, how are you?” in passing. The furor over this is ridiculous.
In an effort to recapture some magic–not just for the season, but on an ongoing basis–I’ve adopted a tribe of kids across the border. An acquaintance told me that he has often raided his closet (and his brother’s!) and given away clothes and shoes to the children of his old neighborhood, and I wanted to help. For $20 I got 20 items from the local thrift store–sturdy jeans, good quality shirts—and he delivered them on his regular trip to Mexicali. It’s the best twenty bucks I’ve spent in a long time., and it inspires me to find other ways to make a difference.
As far as Christmas goes–meh. Seems like a lost cause.