Friday, December 23, 2016

Cancel Christmas -- subversive idea, or one more true to meaning of holiday?

A Facebook “friend” of mine (as in someone who used to be a daily part of my life but whom I haven’t seen face-to-face in years) posted an intriguing thought Thursday – cancel Christmas and instead donate whatever money you’d have spent to a charity.
Does this sight make you feel merry as you leave (or return to) Chicago? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

I’m sure there are some people to whom the very thought of “cancelling” Christmas is something they’re going to find repulsive – they’ll probably think this is part of the ongoing “War on Christmas” that they perceive because some people have the nerve to acknowledge there are other holidays of religious significance that occur around this time of year.

BUT THERE IS a part of me that does find the idea intriguing enough to wonder if it would actually be more in the spirit of Christmas to think of what you can do to make others happy – rather than the usual gift-giving orgy.

It also catches me at a holiday season which I will be the first to admit will be a bit more low-key than some Christmas celebrations in the past.

With both my brother and mother gone and my father having converted to Judaism, I don’t have immediate family with whom to get all worked up over images of Santa Claus or repeated watchings of little Ralphie wanting the BB gun, then nearly shooting his eye out, in “A Christmas Story.”

While my father and step-mother do always include me in their Hanukkah celebrations, this year is also taking a turn because of scheduling conflicts.

WHILE THEY WILL do the ritual of lighting the candles on the eight nights of Hannukah beginning Saturday night, the actual celebration where family gets together and there will be some gift exchanges is being put off until some time in January.

Even then, there aren’t any really young children in that part of the family. So watching kids get all anxious to open presents is something of the past.

So the idea of doing something of a more charitable nature is an idea swirling about my head. Although being able to pick a single charity with which to do something of significance is something I’d have to think long-and-hard about.

I suppose I could make several small donations and claim to have spread my good will around. But then I’d hear the spirit of my brother, Christopher, telling me that I’m being a cheapskate by not doing something truly significant for somebody.

THIS HOLIDAY SEASON will be a lower-key one, and perhaps that is to be expected with the passage of time. I can’t envision the holiday ever meaning as much to me in life as it did back when I was something like eight or nine years old.

So perhaps the idea of “cancelling” Christmas is something to be considered.

Although it wouldn’t truly be cancelling Christmas as much as the idea of downplaying all the trivial nonsense that is associated with the winter holidays and that we have been bombarded with by retailers since back before Halloween as they desperately try to get us to buy, buy and buy any many consumer goods as possible.

Which may make for a Very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah or a nifty Kwanzaa for retailers – whom I’ve always suspected view the holidays as something created for the betterment of their financial bottom line. They probably thought “A Christmas Carol” (everybody with sense knows British actor Alastair Sim is the only real "Ebenezer Scrooge") was a wonderful story UNTIL that Scrooge character got all soft and wimpy after being visited by all those Christmas spirits.

THE REALITY IS that the commercial atmosphere cheapens the holiday to the point where the idea of taking a pass on the consumerism almost feels like a celebration more faithful to the real purpose of these holidays.

There has to be a more serious reason for the celebrations people are going to do this weekend than whether or not my niece, Meira (she’s soon going to turn 14) actually gets the Timberland-brand boots she has been hinting at wanting for months now.

Besides, I suspect that whatever I actually wind up doing Saturday night into Sunday will wind up being more relaxing, which is something I can actually use following what has been a chaotic year.

A chance to chill out, at least until some editor somewhere makes a frantic call to me saying there’s empty space somewhere that needs to be filled, and I’d better get off my duff and write something to fill it so that an advertisement promoting post-Christmas holiday sales can be sold right next to it!


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