Thursday, December 22, 2011

In the Spirit

"There are some upon this earth of yours," returned the Spirit, "who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us." - Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol."

Someone asked today if Christmas was cancelled. I'm not sure the impetus behind the question, only that it echoed a fair amount of anti-Christmas sentiment I've seen bandied about in the past week or so. Now, while I understand some of that, and sympathize and even agree - seeing as when I was in Walmart the week after Halloween, when they had already started playing Christmas music, I made the comment to myself that it was way too early, and made the comment out loud, no less - it's never struck me as a legitimate reason to get down on the holiday.

I'm not sure there is a legitimate reason to dislike Christmas, unless you have one of those Phoebe Cates in Gremlins kind of stories. Then it's understandable. Barring that, no matter how drunk and disagreeable Grandma gets off the eggnog, I don't think you should let anyone get in the way of holiday spirit. You are responsible for being your own Ghosts of Christmas, and while I disdain the rest of the Dickensian oeuvre, he had things right with that one. You should celebrate, and make the best of it, regardless of circumstance.

This is not a pollyanna, as is well with the world kind of response. This has been a hard year on my end, and I'm not under any illusions Santa's going to gift me with everything I want. I'll settle for another hooded sweatshirt. Others have it worse, and there have been past Christmases where I've had it worse, certainly financially if not in terms of family. But for all that, it's a time to remember that you've gotten through another year, whatever the challenges, and celebrate that if nothing else.

So yes, it's been over-commercialized, and yes, you've probably heard the Carol of the Bells or Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer at least one time too many. And yes, every year someone breaks out the tired religious arguments, whether they are for the holiday or against it, which makes the rest of us who are sane want to beat them senseless with a yule log. (Okay, that last part may just be me.)

But you know what? The holidays are not about them, the ad execs or religious fanatics, or the just plain greedy. It's about the rest of us, who once a year rise to the better angels of our nature, and manage to set aside something for someone else, even if it's just saving up for that one present for a child who otherwise might not have much else to look forward to. Sure, it would be nice if the spirit filled everyone all year round, as it is said to do with Scrooge at the end. But that's asking more of human nature than we're capable of, if you ask me, at least for right now.

As Dickens' says, elsewhere in the book, "But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round [...] as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

So never fear. There shall be no cancellation. Christmas is better than the Post Office (and in less danger of being shut down). It has survived wars, disasters, cheesy Hallmark movies of the week, and other sundry difficulties and horrors.

As long as there is someone willing to wander about in a Santa hat, sing a few carols (however badly), and wish all their fellow travelers upon the globe a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays if you aren't Christian) in the true, full spirit of the season, Christmas will exist.

And I, for one, have a Santa hat, and intend to proudly wear it.

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