I can't imagine other people’s holiday traditions much less other people’s private hells. Every culture and ethnicity has unique customs and odd rituals relating to Christmas. The mass hysteria that holidays may create for too many is of the highest order, brewing endless stress and high anxiety. Probably the most wonderful time for a beer or a basket full of 90 proof cheer this time of year. Hey, whatever works. Finding that perfect gift for the person who has everything or forget about the whole thing. It’s always all or nothing. The big demand for sympathy and compassion is in short supply. The things we can’t buy.
The raving madness begins near the end of every year. Giving thanks and eating too much food beginning in November with the mass consumption of leftover Thanksgiving dinners all the way through to giving and receiving gifts in December with too many holiday leftovers right into the new year, still eating even more. To a quiet meditation of how anyone navigates smoothly through the murky maze of food and useless tidings this season delivers sliding into disharmony's indigestion. Electric tableaux of multi-colored lights and festive figurines on display line every street to rage against the dark of long winter nights. A weird obsession with giant inflatable balloon figures and bright colored displays of plastic.
You have to wonder about that one house on the block that goes way over the top with every available inch of space full tilt with lights blinking and flashing like a pinball machine that can be viewed by satellites in orbit and cause epileptic fits from a mile away. Entire blocks of houses competing to outdo each other's holiday house displays. Life-size robot Santas riding sleighs with mechanically controlled reindeer in tow on the roof and laser light shows projecting artificial snow and all the other festive imagery of the season.
Do tipsy carolers happily stroll door-to-door singing classic Christmas carols anymore? I still witness Salvation Army bell ringers begging spare change outside the front doors of every chain store. No salvation in that army. The Christian live action Nativity scenes portraying renditions of the birth of Jesus. Three shows daily, and a weekend matinee, an exercise in excuses for all the conspicuous consumption. Parades and football games, sappy Hallmark greeting cards gone berserk that play synthesized songs of the season upon opening, Secret Santa office gift exchanges everywhere. Christmas songs piped into besotted brains in every public place, including bathrooms. There’s no escape from the idiotic irritation of holiday music. The torture’s never-ending until the New Year and it begins all over again. Wrapped in fancy paper and frilly bows of insincerity.
Lo and behold a savior is born unto the world to save humanity. Peace on earth, good will to men. There’s no mention of any good will to women. Say a prayer to the joyless world. Let’s not forget Hanukkah and Kwanza too. I don't like questionable philanthropic institutions begging. They never discover a cure for anything: the poor are still sick and starving. But give until it hurts. Nothing is different for the meek. They inherit a mad sad world.
Wait a moment! I’m hearing Arlo Guthrie’s classic holiday tune running through my head and having too much spiked egg nog. “Santa Claus wears a red suit he's a communist. Has a beard and long hair must be a pacifist. And what's in the pipe that's he's smoking?” No milk and cookies for that guy. Santa got stuck in the chimney and we’re starting a fire in the fireplace.
Festivus was introduced to an unsuspecting public decades ago on the TV sitcom Seinfeld. As told by George’s father Frank Costanza, the character played by Jerry Stiller. A Festivus for the rest of us. An alternative celebration for the holidays involved a competition of amazing feats of strength, the airing of grievances, and a dinner party. Replacing the traditional Christmas tree, the miracle of the aluminum rod. The perfect substitute for dysfunctional families who can’t seem to pull off a decent Christmas without pettiness or jealousy. Maybe the key to having happy holidays is don’t try so hard. Let it happen. After all the party goes on with or without us.
The dark night of the soul happens. Time can’t be measured. Kept on a shelf like dusty keepsakes from the past. Right next to the tarnished regrets. Souvenirs of moments you never want to forget. Whether it’s a grand illusion or flimsy knock-off snapshots of faulty memories. It’s the great recall of misfired synapse and forgotten recollections. Life passes before the eyes, a trick of nature. Deeper inside behind what’s witnessed as genuine artifact. The gateway to the soul, if it exists at all, is through the heart. A bypass of the simple mind made up of ever changing moods and emotional baggage. An invention of the magic that surrounds us. Both real and imagined as the holidays we celebrate.
Shedding light upon the darkest hour. Brighten up the mood while making the broken whole again. Instills faith in humankind. Spreads joy and happiness around. It’s not a crass commercial for the latest gadget gift. Some must have gizmo to make life easy. A novelty item for the needy. Whatever it takes to achieve maximum happiness. That’s not how it works. It’s sad we celebrate our façade of joy only one day every year. Displaying our fatal flaws in an otherwise perfect place. A painless remedy for our collective blues. Marked off on a calendar of sorrow. Happiness is freedom. Get it while you can and give it in return.