In American culture, there is a certain order by which we celebrate the holidays.
For example, there is New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc., etc. For a few years now, ok, perhaps the last decade, one of the most joyous holidays has been overstepping its boundaries.
I first really began to notice when I allegedly went apoplectic and turned into a spider monkey on acid when a colleague of mine began playing Christmas music before Halloween.
The comedian Lewis Black was correct when he said that “You Christians have created a beast that cannot be fed.”
It seems that Christmas decorations come out in stores sometime around late August and get put away in early February when the last item has cleared from the far, far fairytale land of Layaway.
Now, while I agree with the message of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ and try to remember the spirit of Christmas and keep it with me year-round, this commercial encroachment is entirely too much. Sadly, this is not even the most egregious part of the holiday. While many will declare that I am an elitist, I will accept their contempt. I absolutely detest ‘A Christmas Story’.
But, I should clarify; the film in question is an undisputed holiday classic. I glow with humor every time I see a fish-net stocking leg lamp in a business window display. And who doesn’t giggle a little when someone belts out in the stereotypical faux Chinese accent ‘Fa ra ra ra ra’? What really gets me is the 24-hours of forced viewing of the film over the entire Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and into Boxing Day (a relatively unknown holiday in the United States that requires its own essay of explanation.)
This eagerly awaited televised showcase is like the intellectual equivalent of force-feeding ducks for their tasty, oversized, delicious and delicate livers. I enjoy a classic film as much as the next person but I only watch ‘The Quiet Man’ and ‘The Boondock Saints’ once during St. Patrick’s Day.
And yet this super-marathon of holiday cheer is not enough, there is a new contender to the throne of Holiday Hijinks. It’s the film ‘Elf’ starring Will Ferrell. Despite its all-star casting, the humor is brought down to the lowest common denominator. I find the original ‘Home Alone’ film a much better substitute.
Like Charlie Brown, I search for “What Christmas is all about”. I did not have to go far to find it. This is where that shiny new Mecca of ideas and social interaction, Facebook, comes in and brings a multitude of Linuses to explain why Christmas is the best season on the calendar.
Of course, when you ask people about their holiday memories and traditions there are always a cracked bunch out there. Mark Thomas wrote to me via Twitter that one of his favorite holiday memories involved “The heaviest scary looking fruit cake with some single barrel egg nog.” Brian Padnes claimed that he would rub candied yams over himself as he sang “O Tannenbaum”. But on a more serious note, there are annual events that we all look forward to in our lives, such as the church christmas bazaar.
Janice Lee Miller wrote in “I love Christmas. My memory is my grandma giving me $10 and I went to St. John [the Baptist R.C. Church]’s bazaar and bought presents. I bought her a coffee cup. It said ‘Grandma got ran over by a reindeer’ and she loved it and my mom got mad. But my grandma was happy…”
The holiday spirit was not confined merely to the Catholics. It was once found at a business on Ridge and Port Royal Aves in Upper Roxborough, The ‘D’ Boys was one of the classic neighborhood hardware stores that is becoming harder to find in our big box store era. Sadly, the store no longer exists. Carla Tomassioni remembers going to see Santa at the D boys and getting her tree. “They always had fresh popcorn popping and it made it really feel like [Christmas]!” she wrote.
Donna Tinneny Persico wrote in, “Our home never had a tree set up until Christmas morning. When we woke up in the early a.m. and went downstairs there it was with a multitude of gifts for the seven Tinneny children.”
But despite all the build up, tree trimming, commercialism and gift giving; there is more meaning to the holiday, a lesson that is taught in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Allison Hirst O’Callaghan writes “When I was a kid, we always went to Grace Chapel on Henry Avenue, then visit the family, the Smiths on Keiffer St., the McIlvaines (and all Di’s cookies) on Scotia Rd and the Kistlers on Markle St.. We’d get home really late like 2-3 a.m., and I thought our family was really cool. That Karen Carpenter Christmas classic always seemed to be on the radio. These were the early 70’s, simply beautiful.”
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” said Linus.