I love Christmas, as much as a part of me protests the very idea. All the phony cheer, that horrible music, commercialism, and mythology. And yet, I can't resist its charm. I don't understand the cheer, I hate Christmas music, I despise commercialism whilst cynically accepting its inevitability, and although I have a huge soft spot for Jesus and the sentiment surrounding him, I recognize that the Nativity story is very likely a total fabrication. Yet when the air starts to get a chill, a chill that never goes too far beyond that here in California, and I start seeing multi-colored lights everywhere, lights that eat up so much electricity, wasting a great deal of money and resources that could be used to actually help people, somehow my heart warms to it all. Christmas in America is an extremely stupid affair, but I love it.
No doubt this in part because
I was raised to love it. I was spoon fed it, being brought up in a white,
middle class, American family descended mostly from Protestants. (My mother is agnostic and has a Russian father with Jewish blood, although we
didn't know we were Jewish at all until recently. But our Christmases were, I imagine, about the same as any other average WASP family). I loved Christmas. I mean, what middle class white kid with kind-hearted
parents wouldn't? We were dysfunctional and nuts of course, but nobody got hit,
nobody yelled too much, and nobody put anyone down (well, I got put down
for my weight all year, but I'll chalk that up to ignorant American ideals
and clumsy adults failing to recognize the power their words have over
children). On the whole, we were what you'd call a very normal family (We didn't fall apart until I hit puberty, which also seems fairly normal). But when I was a child,
Christmas was great.
We had plenty of presents, and of course I was
always excited about that. These days, of course, my intellectual side yells at
me about how brainwashed I was, and how sick the idea of Santa Claus
truly is; a Greek saint perverted into a magical white man from the North Pole as an incentive to squeeze some extra
good behavior out of children who can't think abstractly enough to
understand that good is not always rewarded nor bad always punished in
the real world. It's like Western soteriology gone totally mad. But
still, I loved it at the time. Now I think that if I ever have children of my own,
I'd prefer to dismiss the Santa myth. But I'd still want to do presents.
Get rid of the naughty/nice bullshit, and just have an excuse to give a
little extra and get a little extra.
I also like the idea of going to
church on Christmas or Christmas Eve. I find the idea of God
incarnating to dwell with us so very heartwarming and sweet, whatever the twisted
theological circumstances Christianity claims warranted it. St. Irenaeus believed that it
was always God's intention to come to Earth in the flesh, but the
horrific state of humankind made Him come down early to clean up our
act. (To a cynic like me, that's not all that far-fetched, really. Not if you believe in God,
at any rate).
I like the Christmas story, and I like having that be a
part of Christmas, even if I don't believe in the religion anymore. I still believe in God, in a most heretical way, but I pray on my own terms. That doesn't take away
the beauty of Christmas, the angels, or Mary and Joseph to me,
however. Going to church, with the lights low, some cheesy hymns, and a narrative
you've heard a million times before, sometimes acted out laughably by children making the whole thing insufferably cute, with maybe a short homily or sermon
attempting to make it relevant again each year; these things will always
hold a special place in my damaged heart.
This is all my Christmas past
and present. But I also fantasize about the future around this time of year. I resist
it, I even hate it at times, but I fantasize. Winter brings with it the
desire for more closeness. It's very physical, very natural, very base.
We're cold, so we have stronger urges to have bodies against us. Pretty cut and dry when you look at the facts. But that doesn't weaken the emotional sway over us. I'm a
neurotic freak who values his space, but I'm also extremely
touchy-feely. Physical contact is very important to me, which is why I
don't ever take it lightly. I don't like being touched by people I don't
know, especially unexpectedly, but I like being very close to and
touching people who I love. That applies to family and friends, but
obviously there is a whole other level of contact that you get with someone
you're in a romantic relationship with. And because that's what I lack
every year, that's what I fantasize most about, against all my better
judgment. (All right, that's not 100% true. I spent one Christmas in a relationship. Not a great one, but not terrible either. Another Christmas I spent dating someone, but I was drunk for about 99% of the time I was involved with that person, so whatever regrettable glee and closeness I was feeling was certainly not what you'd call "authentic.")
Christmas is a beautiful time of year to me, and I hate that I
always experience that beauty alone. During the rest of the year I watch sunsets alone, I go for drives
through the mountains alone, I walk through gardens and trails alone, and I watch
sappy movies alone. Christmas is just another one of those things I'd love to
share. I fantasize about holding hands with someone and simply walking
around somewhere where people are engaged in cliche and silly Christmas
activities, like the downtown or square of a small town, even local ones
here in Southern California (hell, even Los Angeles has areas like
this). I think about walking around, hand-in-hand, mainly in silence,
just absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas. Christmas
tree lots (oh don't get me started on what an egregious and ridiculous waste of good trees
those are! Potted trees, people. Potted!!), outdoor malls, ice-skating rinks
(yes, we have those in L.A.), art walks, even cemeteries (people leave extra flowers or decorations on the graves of their loved ones at certain times of the year) - everything
comes to life a bit more at Christmas.
I want to walk around these places with
someone close to me, near the crowd but never really in the crowd, staying on the periphery, and enjoying the
fact that other people are enjoying themselves; Allowing my
over-analytical brain to switch off and appreciate other people's joy
for once, no matter how shallow it may be. I want to spend nights like
this with someone, ending the evenings by going home together and
watching horrible, cheesy holiday movies.
I can't allow myself to spend too much time
thinking about this, because it makes my heart ache, and I can't afford
much more of that. But it's never too far from the surface. Foolish hope
and quiet desperation don't lend themselves well to successful
searching for potential partners, especially if you're a heterosexual
male in this society (Okay, quiet desperation may be the wrong term. I never really do anything quietly). Nevertheless, it's what I want, and what,
somewhere deep down, I believe I deserve. For all my self-loathing and
low self-esteem, I still somehow believe I deserve it, even whilst I
believe I may never find it.
But that's part of Christmas to me.
Closeness of all kinds, an extra surge of emotions both good and bad,
and a little slice of foolish hope and pipe dreams. I do all I can to
pragmatically sort out my past, effectively utilize my present, and make
my way toward a better future, but there is still a ridiculous and stupid
poet that occupies part of my brain, and, I don't know how, but he's not dead yet. Actually, I'm grudgingly glad
he's not dead. I need him. I need that idiotic romantic to save me
from horrible, horrible reality. Reality can get overwhelming at times, and that
dumbass poet sitting under imaginary trees, convening with spirits no respectable person would ever convene with, well, he is my hope. And he is
most alive at Christmas. He helps me more than he hurts me (although he does plenty of that too). And deep
down, when I feel that cold air in my lungs, taste eggnog, see all those
beautiful twinkling lights, or hear songs about a baby Jew born two
thousand years ago, I very much welcome that stupid part of me to take over for
Have a happy Christmas, Chanukkah, and Kwanzaa, everybody.