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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ignoring the Hype and Enjoying the Christmas Season

          It’s that time of year when everyone wants to show how witty they are by criticizing Christmas. Over the weekend I saw a blurb on the front page of the Inquirer teasing an article by suggesting that the holiday specials everyone is tired of seeing are back. I’ve already heard from people on Facebook announcing that their decorations will be down on December 26th as if it would be absurd to do anything else.

          Any day now someone will be complaining about a public display of a manger scene. Schools will be staging “holiday” plays to avoid some parent whining about a “Christmas” play.

          The latest annual ritual is almost as annoying as the over hyping of the holiday people are complaining about.

          We’ve had two or three months of constant media attention for slackers camping out in major cities across the country costing taxpayers millions because they’re absolutely clueless as to how to bring meaning to their lives. Yet, somehow people are already complaining that we celebrate Christmas.

          Of course the holiday is over hyped, ridiculously commercialized, and drags on way too long because TV programming makes it feel like it begins way too soon. I could do without three radio stations pumping out Christmas music 24 hours a day weeks before December 1. The only good thing about Thanksgiving being over is that we don’t have to watch that skinny, over-the-edge blond training for Target’s Black Friday sale. Sadly, she’s been retained for other commercials.

          The Thanksgiving Day Parade is nothing more than a marathon commercial for NBC. It was probably always that way, and I just never noticed as a kid. NBC is the same network that has virtually hijacked It’s a Wonderful Life, which is unwatchable when they actually do air it because of the obscene amount of commercials that they shove into it.

          Once again Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired before December on CBS, and it wasn’t even the first Christmas special on TV this year. Thanksgiving night had at least two Christmas specials for kids, and The Grinch that Stole Christmas was on one of the Turner networks before that.

          But I refuse to give in. I won’t rebel against one hype machine that over does Christmas by giving into the one that feels the need to badmouth everything about it.

          I hate to use the phrase “when I was growing up” but . . . when I was growing up, there was a ramp-up to Christmas. Thanksgiving was an actual holiday all by itself instead of the day before Black Friday. Radio stations could actually play a Christmas carol followed by a rock song. And they waited at least until December to start doing it. Maybe by the middle of the month one or two stations were playing mostly Christmas music, but never for an entire month. Even more shocking, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” and the like might be heard once in a while during the week leading up to New Year’s Day. The day after December 25th it was actually possible to find an old Christmas movie on cable.

          Now every media outlet is too busy pumping the next excuse to take money out of our pockets by the 26th. Some stations pull the plug on holiday music on the 25th! The message couldn’t be clearer – nothing left to get out of Christmas, so bag it.

          The worst part is that we seem to be buying into it. Like drones, we go along with the noise being pumped into our heads as if making Black Friday some extreme sport in shopping is perfectly normal, even if it means pepper spraying our fellow man to get the item we damn well must have . . . for a perfectly lovely Christmas, of course.

          It’s probably impossible to stop the tide of what will someday probably suck all the joy from this time of year, and I’m not really trying to.

          But I refuse to surrender Christmas.

          I’ll continue to enjoy watching the Jimmy Stewart classic on Blu-ray once a year, a habit I just recently picked up. It’s not quite as good as stumbling on to it one uneventful night when flipping through the channels, or I guess it’s “scrolling” through the channels now. But it’s becoming a tradition. I hope to add it to my tradition of watching the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, which is something I started doing after I read the Charles Dickens’ novel in sophomore year of high school.

          I plan to head to a mall or two, and enjoy the atmosphere. Hopefully, I’ll even get to meet a few friends for dinner, a meal that won’t include rushing off to do something more important. I’ll take Christmas music in small doses to start, and enjoy more of it as I see fit. I might even drive around our old neighborhood, the way my dad used to go back to where he grew up around the holidays.

          There’s something reassuring to me in the traditions I’ve been able to carve out for myself. There’s something reassuring that Christmas has rolled around again, and some things haven’t changed.

          And, despite society’s best efforts to make it unfashionable to like Christmas, I still do.