Thursday, December 3, 2009

The jolly old atheist

I have to admit something...I love Christmas. According to the AFA, I am supposed to be making war on it, but I must be a backslider. I hear a lot about how hard the holidays are on some people, and I do not doubt that this is true. Having to get together with a dysfunctional extended family, or be alone cannot be fun. For some it is the oft-forced Christmas cheer, especially in some office settings, or the incessant playing of the same 20 Christmas songs. Happily, none of these is a problem for me.

I enjoy the pagan parts of the season, the secular parts, and even, to some extent, the spiritual parts. I don't handle the preaching well, but that can be avoided reasonably well. My workplace does not have any massive after hours Christmas party that anyone is forced to attend. My floor has a carry in (must remember to get the Andouille and the tasso out of the freezer this weekend, I am bringing jambalaya.) As I am a one man department, it is nice to be included in a larger group, as a one person carry-in is simply brown bagging. Last year, my boss took the three people under him out for dinner, but there wasn't any politicking, just good food and company.

My wife and I get along pretty well with both sides of our families. There are in-laws that I don't share a lot of interests with, but no-one particularly obnoxious (well, almost, but it is a relaxed season and I can generally just ignore him.) Certainly none of the cat-fighting and back-biting I hear about from others. This year the travel for the family get-togethers is pretty light and the timing for them is pretty good, so all is good on the family side.

I hear people complain about the crowds in the malls, and about how nasty people are when shopping, but I have experienced very little of this. I understand that lines will be longer, that at least one person in the line ahead of me will have completely forgotten how to exchange money for products, but I go in with that assumption and don't let it bother me. I find that if you go to the malls in a nasty mood, you will notice the others in the same mood. I tend to go in a good mood, and I usually meet other people who smile and joke about things. Sometimes I really believe that one can choose their mood, so I choose to have fun.

There is certainly some godawful Christmas music out there, and I was hearing in the first weekend of November, which was annoying. My advantage is that I don't listen to the radio, so I don't care if all the stations have switched to Christmas must a month ago. I play CDs, so I can choose what I listen to. When I do decide to listen to Christmas music, I pick the music I listen to. At work I have about 11 hours of seasonal music on my PC. I hit shuffle, and between answering calls, leaving the office to fix this or that, I can get through the month without hearing any song more than 3 or 4 times, unless I choose to (never get enough of Blues Traveler's Christmas, or No Doubt's Oi to the World. )

Now to the best parts of Christmas. I enjoy the music, and when we go to a larger event, I can even sing aloud without anyone throwing things or calling for the police. I enjoy the secular music, I enjoy the traditional music, I enjoy, in small doses, the novelty songs, I enjoy the edgy and/or slightly bitter songs. I have Celtic songs, blues songs, jazz songs. My mix includes the Chieftains, Nat King Cole, Dr. John, Jethro Tull. Good stuff all!

There are favorite Christmas movies. We only watch a few, so we don't get over-saturated with the various awful TV and movie presentations. (Always remember Sturgeon's Law: "90 percent of everything is crud.") We love to watch the Alistair Sims' version of A Christmas Carol, love to hear Boris Karloff in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to see Edmund Gwynn in the original Miracle on 34th Street (admittedly, there are very few things I do not enjoy Gwynn in) and It's a Wonderful Life, while it got played to death when it was in the public domain for a while, is still a great movie, with a wonderful message, if a bit cloying. (OK, I realize that three of these are in black and white, but what's wrong with that, you $#@# whippersnappers! Get off my lawn!)

Food. A big word in just four letters. DeBrand's chocolates. Macadamia nuts. Pistachio nuts. Nuts. Attacking assorted nuts with nutcracker and picks, fun for both the nuts and the memories. Pies. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Mince meat. Rolls. Honey baked hams. Another turkey, just for the heck of it. Sweet potatoes. Some green beans, just to make Jill happy. Aaah. This year may even include some home brewed beer, which I haven't had for several years.

Memories. Listening to our kids going through their stockings, not realizing that we could hear them from our bedroom through the heating ducts. When your kids are about 3, and they get so excited by each present that they have to show everyone in the room and don't want to open the next present because this one is so cool. The few times when I actually got it right with one of Jill's presents. You know the times. When it isn't on her list, but is something truly special. OK, I didn't manage it often, that's why the memories of those times is so special. Coming back from Thanksgiving and putting in the Christmas music for the first time in the season and singing for hours on the way home...each in their own key.

So in the end, to reiterate, I love Christmas. I know that it was a pagan holiday that was converted to Christian holiday was transformed during the Victorian era into what we think of a traditional Christmas and has become a marketing tool. I know all that, but I still love it, so to steal from the lyrics of Jackson Browne's The Rebel Jesus:

So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

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