Ugh, I really get annoyed by this time of year. I’m referring to the time after Thanksgiving and right up until the New Year’s celebrations. You know, the last month of Fall, when winter descends upon us, the days get shortest, and for some reason people do a lot of shopping? You know…Christmas time. Oh, do I mean the holidays? Yeah, whatever.
I get annoyed by the consumerism, the obligatory gift-giving that commences at the culmination of the season, and the false expectation of joy that permeates it all. Yeah, I know, hum bug or someshit.
And now on top of it is the ideas of a war on Christmas. You know, the cultural conversation about “holidays” rather than “Christmas.” The privileged status of the Christian/secular Christmas becomes annoying to those of us who don’t like the tattered remains of the religious holiday (which is ultimately pagan anyway) nor the secular outgrowth of that tradition. Many people, like myself (and my acquaintance Tom Flynn), just feel that the day or so holiday should not be stretched into a month.
But, then there are the parties. Parties where people drink more eggnog than they should. Parties where you get to sometimes see another side of your co-workers than you do the rest of the year. Parties where friends and family who live far away some times come around. Parties with cookies, candy, warm drinks and various levels of tacky holiday decorations which are both colorful, lively, and (at least to me) hideous. It’s like the best and worst aspects of our culture become magnified.
No, I think that is precisely it. Our culture begins to express itself more loudly and the imperfections and relative awesomeness becomes pronounced. It’s like all the things that bubble under the surface become overt, taking life and becoming part of the common conversation. Where differences and intimacies are usually subdued in the name of pragmatism and rote behavior, something about this time of year trips up the conventionality of every day life and both exposes our differences via the culture wars and allows us to act more warmly towards each other. Perhaps its the opening up to each other which exposes those differences. Either way, it is what happens.
Of course, there are still people who quietly endure under the threat of this exposure. Men and women, boys and girls, who sit at dinner with family and quietly disbelieve in the grace or sermon being recited. Polite smiles despite sitting a few feet from a family member, co-worker, or religious leader who is hated, feared, or perhaps merely tolerated. There are emotions of desperation which come closer to the surface, felt more severely due to the presence of people and rituals which cause false intimacy and bring together the people who you usually do not associate with.
But for many others it becomes a time to enumerate, elucidate, and explore the differences, disagreements, and values which either adhere or rip apart our society. It becomes a time to expose the privilege of religious majority, to become closer to those with whom we share values and history, and to quite literally gather for warmth created by both said intimacy and the friction of those differences.
It is a powderkeg of our culture, bring closer to the surface all of our various interactions with each other. It exposes the cracks in our culture or, for some, heals some of those cracks. It is a strange brew on inauthentic pretending and rubbing together of wounds and scabs which leads to a meta-level authenticity which is so rare in our culture.
It is a thing worth more study.
I sort of like this time of year.