Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Enchantment of the World

There's not much I can say about Christmas that you haven't heard, in one form or another, a hundred times before. Hasn't it been said a hundred times before? Of course it has, to the point that it sounds cliche--and we stop thinking about what the season really does mean.

By the time you read this, you'll have heard the strains of "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" blaring in your ears at least eight or nine times (and it's only Thursday), and on at least two or three of those times, part of you will have done a mental eye-roll and been like, "Yeah, right." Well, you're not alone.

I (and I suspect many others) have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. Or, to be more accurate, with what Christmas has become. Every year, I come to despise more and more the Black Friday crush that comes earlier every year, the mindless reduction of the holiday to a Santa Claus no one believes in any longer anyway and a generic talk of "togetherness" as bland as the Festivus a few atheists want to replace the day with. Is it so wrong to think that Christmas is meant to be more than an endless jumble of shopping deals and bad Hallmark movies?

I'm sure most people feel like this at some point. It just becomes a hassle, a family get-together to endure without too much damage to the house, without too badly strained feelings, etc. Certainly that's how my family can be, and many years, I'm left thinking that I won't be able to enjoy Christmas at all.

And yet.

For a few days at most, but always for December 24th and 25th, I find it within me to put aside my cynicism and detachment and appreciate the season for what it is. And if you know me at all, you know that I'm duty-bound to tell you it's about the birth of the Son of God, not about a man in a red suit or anything like that. But, I don't think all the talk about Santa and Rudolph and so on is out of place, either. Our society is based on fixed, tangible things: What we can see, what we can measure, what we can prove must be true because this theorem or scientific law says it is. And certainly those are good things. Having that kind of mathematical certainty can be very comforting.

But it's not all there is. A human being is an innately spiritual creature; even if he no longer believes in God, he still has the capacity to dream, to let his imagination run away with him, to think up grand stories in a make-believe world and wish, even for a moment, that it was true. And for a few days at this time of year, we get the chance to stop and reflect on the existence of a realm beyond our own, one no less real than ours, but where impossible things happen like reindeer defying gravity, a fat old man squeezing down millions of chimneys in one night, and a virgin conceiving a child. And if we're being honest with ourselves, we'll admit that our lives are enriched when that world interacts with ours.

That thought makes me smile. And at the end of what is often a hard year, smiles are desperately needed. So, when you're at your holiday get-togethers next week, don't forget to raise your glass or at least give a nod to magic and other impossible things.

Merry Christmas.

42 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

Well said, T-Rav. Christmas is a bit of a love-hate thing. One of the things that troubles me is how commercial it has become. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of commercialism because that means consumers get their choices satisfied and that makes the world better. But what they are doing to the holidays is pretty despicable.

The holidays are no longer about family and friends and the things we are supposedly celebrating, they are about spending money, Black Friday/Thursday/Wednesday and pro forma greetings like Hallmark cards... "look, I bought someone else's words for you."

It would be a better world if people took a step back and set the day aside to really get into the spirit of the holiday. Whatever your beliefs, focus on the people you love... not the stuff the media tells you is an event.

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

I get what you are saying. I too have those moments, where I ask myself, "What's the point?". It's just an huge hassle, and people are putting the true meaning of it -- The birth of Christ -- to the backseat. But in the end of the day, after sinking in all the sights, scents, and sounds -- the magic, if you will of the Christmas season, I never fail feeling pure joy of it all. It's the only time of year, where I kinda feel like a kid again. Santa is real, dammit!

Merry Christmas to you too, T! And to my Commentarama family! I love you all! No, I'm not just saying that, because I need a new car... No siree...

K said...

Filter out the materialist crap.

Experience the joy:

LINK

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the vid, K! That chubby kid at the 2:42 mark, made my day!

-Snape

tryanmax said...

Your reference to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" reminded me of THIS. (Sorry.) Also, I'm very glad you didn't dismiss living snowmen as impossible magic. 'Cos that $#!+'s real.

Individualist said...

tyranmax

Magic Hats bringing Snow men to life was way cool until the Snow men decided to Unionize. first things got a little weird then downright ugly - - I blame the Boiler Elves......

T-Rav - Great article. Interestingly some physicists with all their math and grounded reality are proposing a theory that the Universe is a hologram on a two dimensional surface. So maybe everything is a "movie" after all.

Merry Xmas

T-Rav said...

Thanks Andrew. I hate to go too far in bashing commercialism either, partly because that in itself has become par for the course: make a generic attack on it, then discover "the true meaning of Christmas." And hey, I like getting presents just as much as the next guy.

But it has bothered me more of late, because I think we really have got into the habit of treating it as a shopping season and nothing more. And the way Black Friday was moved back this year into Thanksgiving Day really got my goat. There's no law that says you as an employer have to wait until Friday, nor should there be; but it's kind of a jackass thing to open stores on Thanksgiving.

Anyway, that's just one example of the shallow, generic "Christmas experience" people seem to have, and it's making us not care about what's really important. I wish more people would take the time to pay attention.

Tam said...

My kid said, "Grown-ups had to be invented so someone could get married so Jesus could be born so we could FINALLY have years."

But he also put gifts to the Baby Jesus in front of our nativities and said he loves God most of all because "He pretty much gave us everything."

It's easy to get wrapped up in the heaviness and contention of the world, but I'm glad I have my innocent kid to remind me to laugh and be grateful, and my Bishop to remind us that it is our duty, responsibility, and privilege to "be of good cheer" as we go about this world.

Merry Christmas, all.

tryanmax said...

Indie, that's a distortion. First of all, snowmen and boiler rooms don't mix, if you catch my drift--or rather, lack thereof. Furthermore, the snowmen were subject to an accumulation bargaining agreement. Things only got weird after Frosty, a fierce proponent of Right-to-Precipitate laws, mysteriously vanished in the mid-70s. The only clue to his disappearance was a corncob pipe, a button, and two lumps of coal sitting in a large puddle of water. In a boiler room, no less.

ScottDS said...

And now the point of view from someone along the Jew/agnostic border...

First of all, thank-you for putting this holiday near Chanukah because, without it, Chanukah would be recognized for what it is: not the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar but because of its (varying) proximity to Christmas, we get swept up in the craziness, too, and that's just the way I like it. :-)

In all seriousness, though, I enjoy the spirit of it all. The songs (except for Paul McCartney's Christmas song which repetition on the radio has ruined for me), the TV specials, the lights and decorations, etc. A couple houses on our block used to go crazy but that was years ago. Today, we've got one palm tree on the block decked out in Christmas lights - only in Florida!

I understand the consumerism complaints - it seems the holiday season is now all about logistics: shopping, traveling, mailing, shipping, etc. I've actually worked retail on Black Friday in the past and we thought it was crazy when Best Buy opened at 6 in the morning - how quaint! Sooner or later, the stores will simply stay open on Thanksgiving, though some folks say they should move Black Friday up a week in order for people to get their shopping done before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Notawonk said...

I've already alerted my family to the news black-out that will occur on the 24th-25th. We need to take a deep breath and remember the holiness of this season.

Merry Christmas to all!

tryanmax said...

Scott, where have you been? The stores already open on Thanksgiving!

If you want to experience Black Friday Retail Hell, try working in fast-food. I worked at a McD's across the street from a Walmart (back when they were called Wal-Mart) four Black Fridays in a row. They were hands-down our highest grossing day of the year.

So...much...special sauce. *faint*

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

I meant all day Thanksgiving and not just at night, but I was only referring to Big Box stores and not smaller places. :-)

I did a Black Friday at Best Buy - I had only been there two weeks after leaving my Target job of 3.5 years. I was told to man the DVD bargain bin and I never abandoned my post. My shift was 4 AM to 4 PM, they gave us subs for lunch, and even my parents showed up to see me.

I refuse to wait in line but I do enjoy going to the stores on Black Friday. I kinda like the insanity, though this year I mostly ordered stuff online.

TJ said...

Merry Christmas to everyone in Commentarama Land and I wish you all a blessed and prosperous New Year (despite the cliff diving and all that).

tryanmax said...

Ah! I gotcha now. Yeah, one thing we did, back before McD's was 24hr, is open early on Black Friday. I think it was 2am, which was 3hrs early, but we already had a line of cars in the drive-thru when I went in to start the grills at 1. We didn't have to bring in lunch, though. LOL!

Individualist said...

Tyranmax

maybe it was the magic "ice" bullet that got Frosty...

the Boiler Room elves are good at cleaning up the evidence..... just saying

T-Rav said...

Snape, Merry Christmas to you, too! And we at Commentarama are more than happy to procure a car for you, whatever model you like....except it'll be invisible, and also in a parallel universe. That's not a problem, is it?

T-Rav said...

Thanks for the link, K. That was beautiful.

Good--and I mean good--Christmas music is certainly a tonic for me. Personally, I like to rock out to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but this works, too.

tryanmax said...

Indie, Frosty was a naturalized immigrant (from someplace up north, though I can't recall where exactly) so it's possible ICE was involved.

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, wow. Just...wow.

Although honestly, I found "Jensen"s singing less inappropriate/disturbing than the ad for Spanish Jim's Rust Remover. "Make rust head for the border with Spanish Jim's Rust Remover!"

T-Rav said...

Indi, when physicists start seriously discussing whether or not the universe is a computer simulation, I think we've pushed the line of inquiry about as far as it can go, yes?

And it wasn't so much the snowmen unionizing per se that caused trouble, it was when they started demanding closed-shop blizzards. Mother Nature doesn't put up with that kind of crap.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, The Boiler Room Elves are just evil... all around evil.

Thanks TJ! Merry Christmas to you too. :)

T-Rav said...

Tam, out of the mouths of babes, etc.

It really is hard to be of good cheer, isn't it? And yet, who will be if not us believers? At least you're teaching your son to keep the really important things in mind, so all is not lost. :-) Merry Christmas back.

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, and sadly, the story that Frosty was made of special Christmas snow was debunked sometime in the '90s, so I'm afraid there's no coming back for him. :-(

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I agree, it's become a cliche complaint, which is too bad because it is a valid complaint. That said, the cliche is always "something is being lost here..." but I think the real problem is that "something is being replaced." In other words, it's not that people are forgetting to think about the things that matter, it's that people are finding a new meaning in these holidays and that meaning involves competitive consumerism -- look at how violent Black Friday is now for example. It's the same impulse that gets people to burn down towns when a sports team wins. They are looking to take something with a greater meaning and which should bring them joy and they are turning into something about themselves and about hurting others.

I think that's the problem.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I was wondering how you would react to this article, so I'm glad you can get caught up in the season as well. You should know I always make a point of listening to Adam Sandler's "The Chanukah Song" every year on YouTube. :-)

I'm pretty sure we will be seeing stores open all day on Thanksgiving in the next couple years. I have a sister who works retail, and word is this year was a dry run by Target, Wal-Mart, and the other culprits. Sales seem to have been encouragingly high, so...great. I made a point of not going to any of the sales this year; I can't stop them from doing it, but I can choose whether or not to give them my business. And the lingering irritation from that led up to this article.

Also, I have actually been in Florida on Christmas once or twice while visiting my grandparents, and there is something very odd to me about a palm tree decked out in Christmas lights. But, do what you gotta do, I guess.

T-Rav said...

Merry Christmas to you too, Patti! Yes, I will be observing the news blackout as well, or at least as best I can.

Tennessee Jed said...

traditions are important. Sadly, I think mass communications and pop culture have eroded their impact, though.

T-Rav said...

Thanks TJ! Merry Christmas to you too! Remember, never go cliff diving without a bungee cord. :-)

Individualist said...

tyranmax and T-Rav

now they've done it....

I have to now google what John F Kennedy's position on illegalo immigration was in order to better understand the nuances of our Snowman Union issues...

Andrew is right ... those boiler elves are evil!

BevfromNYC said...

Hey, our dear BRE's are NOT evil. They're just misunderstood.

[Dear BREs, I have done your bidding, so please give me back my house keys...with the copy!]

T-Rav said...

Andrew, I don't mind waiting in line for a while to get something on Black Friday if I really want it. I do mind people who get violent or profane in trying to obtain same object. And unfortunately, we keep hearing stories about that every year. I think you're right--despite the 83 movies they see every December telling them otherwise, a lot of people really do believe, deep down, that shopping and fighting for the best deal are what Christmas is about.

T-Rav said...

Jed, it's kind of a double-edged thing. In my area, most people who take to the airwaves where Christmas is involved make a point of defending our traditions and saying "Keep Christ in Christmas!" for which I'm very thankful. Around here, it's good business.

On the national scale, though--yeah, I would agree that it's degraded by having the "what Christmas is all about" message watered down and watered down until it's essentially meaningless. I sometimes think of Home Alone in this connection, which wasn't afraid to have a Nativity scene and a church choir singing "O Holy Night" front and center. You don't see that in more recent productions. Most of it is increasingly tawdry and forgettable. Another reason to stick with the old stuff.

T-Rav said...

Guys, the Boiler Room Elves are not evil. They were made that way by society.

AndrewPrice said...

No, they're evil. I'm pretty sure of that.

rlaWTX said...

Even as far back as the original Charlie Brown Christmas there have been cries of commercialism. I think that's one of the reasons that I love that cartoon - it not only names the problem, but offers the solution.

Merry Christmas, my Commentarama friends! I don't know how I would have stayed sane this year without you! Best wishes and hopes for each of you!!
Hug your family and friends, eat too much, think deep thoughts, and TAKE PICTURES!! (you never know when you'll wish you had and then it's too late!!!)

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

Thanks, T, at least I know, my parallel universe self is having a new lamborghini! ;)

Isn't the world supposed to end tomorrow, anyways? At least, the whiney uber-secularist-progressives are happy! We won't be able to celebrate Christmas! lol

Here's another vid to bring us closer to the Christmas season (Warning might piss off PC whiners) :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vnt7euRF5Pg

Yes, it's a flash mob vid, but this one isn't dreadful, it's actually very heartfelt and beautiful! Other than this and the one with Carlton from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-air", I freaking hate flash mobs with a passion!

Individualist said...

Snapes Vid

T-Rav said...

Okay, I stand corrected. They're evil.

T-Rav said...

rla, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is hard to beat in terms of appeal and message. It's one of those shows where, well, it wouldn't be Christmas without it.

A Merry Christmas to you and yours as well! Personally, I think I nearly lost and then recovered my sanity about twenty times at this site alone this year. ;-) Enjoy good times with the family.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I can't imagine why you would have lost your sanity here? ;P

Glad you got it back though. :)

T-Rav said...

Very nice, Snape.

My congrats to your parallel-universe self.

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