Friday, January 25, 2013

COLUMN: Token Annual Grumpy Christmas Column

I can't believe it's happening again.

Every year, I approach the holidays with a child-like sense of wonder and anticipation. And every year, the holidays return the favor by raining upon me a shower of doldrums, dilemmas, and a delightful disdain for my fellow man that usually takes almost a full year to forget about. This routinely causes me to write at least one bitter, angry Grinch-like column every December that attacks the holidays and brings everybody down like the huge no-fun-nik that I really am.

"Not so this year!" I exclaimed to two rather confused cats. No, 2012 would be different -- and not just because some crusty Mayans decided to end their calendar before we even make it to Christmas this year. I just made a pact with myself. I said, "Self, here's the scoop. No one wants to hear some sad sack tell them how miserable the holidays are. THIS year, I'm finding that elusive Christmas magic no matter what."

Christmas magic exists -- just ask the kid Me. Once upon a Yuletide, all it took was a twinkling light or one whiff of pine for the air to become tangibly electric. Next thing you knew, reindeer could fly and bearded strangers could be breaking-and-entering into your residence without fear or repercussion. It's the most wonderful time of the year, said kid Me.

Adolescent Me loved the holidays, too, once he discovered that a piece of mistletoe could get you a peck on the cheek from even the cutest girl in class. College Me would sit around with his friends and talk about how traditional holidays were SO passe and just another tool for The Man to keep us down... but then I'd walk back to the dorms, feel the snow crunch under my feet, and be secretly giddy for the sight of tinsel and the sounds of caroling.

That Me still exists -- I know he's in here somewhere. But that Me was also convinced of the inherent goodness of human nature. Nowadays Me isn't so sure. I'm trying my ABSOLUTE best to avoid Grinchiness this year, but the holidays are doing their best to crush my Christmas spirit before its even been fired up.

As I write this, it isn't even December yet, and I'm already sick of the holiday season. Last time I checked, October was for Halloween, November was for Thanksgiving, and December was for Christmas. But thanks to commercial greed and our ever-expanding consumerism, we've turned three holidays into a three month long holi-daze, where each celebration just sort of blends into the next and we're left with an ugly slog of Thanksmasoween weirdness.

Most stores transformed their displays from Halloween to Christmas overnight on November 1st. Thanksgiving has pretty much ceased to exist; we might as well just call it Black Friday Eve. If this keeps up, twenty years from now, Christmas sales will start on the 4th of July. Even the Festival of Trees, the Quad Cities' greatest Christmas event, starts and stops before you've flipped your calendars to December. It's just not right.

I love working at a newspaper, because you can read all the heartwarming news about the holidays. Like the dude who pulled a GUN on a guy for cutting in front of him in a Black Friday shopping line. Or the pictures of the freezing nimrods who ignore Thanksgiving altogether to wait in line for two days for discount electronics. Or the melee that broke out in K-Mart when people started pushing and shoving just to get the best deals. Look, I love holiday sales -- those advertising inserts help pay for this very column -- but I just don't get the economics of Black Friday deals.

Sure, you're going to get a handful of people who'll help build the holiday hype machine by waiting in lines all night long. But I'd like to think that the good majority of us would rather spend Thanksgiving relaxing over some turkey and football. And seeing those Black Friday shoppers doesn't make me want to go shopping the next day. Instead, it makes me think that all the stores must be fairly well picked over by now and I should wait a couple weeks until they get restocked.

And if Black Friday isn't enough for us, now there's Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and what I can only assume to be Terrible Realization Tuesday, Overdrawn Wednesday, Emergency Loan Thursday, and Fiscal Cliff Friday.

My last line of defense when I feel like my Christmas spirit is waning is to, quite literally, start decking my halls. After
years of apartment life, one of the most exciting aspects of being a new homeowner is that I can hang Christmas lights to my heart's delight. It's become my favorite part of the holidays.

How much of a part, exactly? Six hours worth. That's how long my lights stayed up this year before some jerkwad attacked them with wire cutters and left me with a porch of Christmas carnage and fire hazards aplenty. What kind of a scumbag do you have to be to vandalize Christmas?

I swear I'd have been LESS mad to have come home and found all my lights stolen. I'd still call whoever did it a jerkwad, but at least then I could envision a Little Timmy Jerkwad somewhere whose Christmas was brightened thanks to his thieving dad and my lights. And it's not like I had some neon-bright robot Santa or something that required self-defensive destruction in the name of good taste or anything. These were just a few understated strings of lights hung around my porch. Whoever did this really was a heel, as cuddly as a cactus and as charming as an eel. You're a mean one, Mr. Jerkwad.

I'm not giving up on my pact. And with a couple of splices and some electrical tape, my lights aren't giving up, either. One of these days, I'll find that holiday magic. I already found an animatronic duck in a Santa cap that sings "Freebird" at Walgreen's, so if I can't have a holly jolly Christmas, I'll at least have a tacky wacky one.  In the meantime, I'll have to satiate my holiday spirit the only way I know how -- by winning the $550 million Powerball when they draw it in ten minutes.

(Post-script:  I lost that, too. Bah, humbug.)

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