Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas: Scourge or Minor Nuisance?

Once again, my friend Natalie has prompted this post. Her recent announcment of detente with the Christmas holiday got me thinking about my own Yuletide issues.

For the two of you that actually read this drivel I'm arrogant enough to call a blog, my father died on Christmas day in 1987. As I was a whopping 13 years old at the time, you can imagine my feelings towards Christmas were, thenceforth, less than salubrious. About a year or two ago, I came to my own detente of sorts, though my reasoning is slightly different: I realized that my being angry and bitter about Christmas wasn't doing me any good, and was making the people around me at least marginally less happy than they would be otherwise.

I have retained at least one issue, howeve, upon which I refuse to compromise: 90+% of all Christmas music is drivel, at best. The only Christmas music I will countenance is unconventional, or unconventionally arranged-- Dolly Parton doing bluegrass-style carols is okay, Englebert Humperdinck doing anything, really, is right out. The only exceptions I will make are for Tony Bennet or Frank Sinatra. Okay, maybe Mel Torme, but that's where I draw the line.

As far as the overcommercialization, well, that's an easy thing to get self-righteous about, but ultimately, all you end up doing is upsetting your friends and family; the message (if it was ever really about the message, but that's another rant) gets lost, and you just look like a jerk. But there are options-- as much as possible, this year, I'm trying to give experiences, not physical gifts. I can't do it for everyone, but most of the people in my life have too many things already-- what they could use more than anything is (say) a whitewater rafting trip, not another nonstick cookware set.

Besides, I think it's easier to personalize an experience than it is to figure out what to get my brother this year. I just think of what he and his family enjoy most, and most of the time it's something like a sailing trip, or a fun time with the grandparents. When lying on your deathbed, will you remember the Transformer you got for Christmas in 1986[0], or the time you went trekking around Japan on your own for two weeks?

On a side note, I must have a sick sixth sense for gifts, or something. At least in my family, it seems that whenever I get disgusted with the whole shopping process and just say "The heck with it, I'll give them this piece of crap", it turns out that's EXACTLY what the recipient wanted-- sometimes whether they knew it or not. (I got my brother a nutmeg grinder, of all things, for Christmas a few years back, and he still tells me how much he loves it!) I'm afraid this year, my ideas are going to get me in even more trouble that way-- I don't know how I'm going to follow this up next year.

[0] Yes I do, actually. Omega Supreme, TYVM. And it rocked beyond belief.

1 comment:

Natalie said...

You are absolutely right concerning the awfulness of Christmas music. I honestly don't know how people can abide it. One can't solve the problem in public spaces, but when I've discovered friends and family who drive me crazy with their taste in such matters, I've remedied the situation by presenting them the following with CDs of Christmas music I can bring myself to listen to (the Robert Shaw Chorale, say, or even Handel's Messiah -- and spare me the rant on the extent to which Messiah is Christmas music :-). Such action is of course self-serving, but it's worth it. If I'm the one with the issue, it's only fair that I be the one who spends money on fixing the problem in any case.

As for gifts, I've been turning more to perishables and consumables, for exactly the reasons you mention. Since I live in Northern California and have a certain ability to select wine for people's palates, it's working out.