Monday, December 26, 2016
Christmas in hell
No, the title of this post aside, I am fine with Christmas, which, due to the tape delay quality of the Internet is over for you even though it began just 47 minutes ago for me. It takes forever to get something published on the Internet. All those committees and processing boards and whatnot. And they're certainly not going to meet on Christmas Day.
So Christmas is perfectly nice for me. I write a blog post, and then I can go to sleep. In the morning I am with my wife for the day. Freezing rain will fall all afternoon and will be a good excuse to stay inside making coffee. I like to think making coffee is enough activity for any one day. And it is, you know, if you take the time to make a proper cappuccino.
Once upon a time I did celebrate Christmas as Christmas. I was young. The night before it my father would pretend to yell out the window "I don't care who you are fat man, get your reindeer off my roof!" This was a funny joke, but he didn't write it. It's an old joke. I can't find the source, but if he had ever really yelled it out the window my heart might be melting to think of him now.
There it was pop, yell it out the window. Just yell it! Who cares what the neighbors think?
My family celebrated Christmas with a reluctant restraint, unable to resist its charms and yet feeling there would be some kind of betrayal in a Jewish family going so far as to have a tree or lights. Stockings hung by the chimney with care were okay. Santa was acceptable, as long as we mock mocked him out the window that night. Not loud enough for him to hear though. Just loud enough to make us think about ourselves "Wouldn't it be great if we really were fun crazy."
My older brother (the slightly more disturbed one) objected to this halfhearted embrace. "Christmas is an American holiday!" He insisted. He may have been slightly joking. Sometimes it was hard to tell in that house. Sometimes it wasn't. Oh man, sometimes no one was joking at all.
Nevertheless this brother, whose "Christmas is an American holiday!" rings in my ears to this day, had a lackluster commitment to Christmas compared to my sister and I. We had a deep hunger, a feeling that because we had no chance in hell of getting what we needed emotionally, perhaps we could at least be materially remunerated, like losers on a gameshow. It only occurs to me now, roughly 40 years later, that it wasn't that my parents weren't generous enough, or good enough gift buyers, it was that what I was looking for never could have made it into a wrapped box.
Pope Francis just called for the faithful to not get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas – “when we are concerned for gifts but cold toward those who are marginalized.”
Materialism has “taken us hostage this Christmas,” he said. “We have to free ourselves of it!”
This is such a nice thought. It dovetails with what I've just been saying. But I think it's important to keep in mind that Pope Francis, Il Papa no less, has fallen short of the requisite passion and danger. You can't just talk at the window, Pope Francis. You're Pope. You have to open that fucking window and yell.