Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Giving

I remember the sticky pine wreath and tree sap, weeping through my mittens, leaving little black fuzz on my fingers and a pleasant smell on my mind. Crazy Mistletoe traps hovered over doors, snatching perfectly sane adults in their grasp, only to urge them to pull me into a conspiracy of kisses. Yams, hams and Rankin Bass Christmas classic clay animation classics, with endless sequential stories of optimistic triumph over holiday tribulation, marched along the beating drum of carols and musical tributes. Where did mom hide those presents? Can I guess what's in this box?

There I was, Christmas eve, waiting in my grandmother's house for Santa's arrival. A brisk winter wind would usher the gnarled fingers from that craggy old oak, across a roof shingle or two. I would whisper over to my sister.

"Did you hear that?!"

I gasped, slipping from underneath the quilt, and padding to the window. I could feel the frigid breath of winter crystals kissing my cheek, through the leaky, creaky window sash, as I pressed on the glass, trying to purchase a glimpse.
"Shhhh! Quiet! Get back to bed!"
My sister would caution me, reminding me that if Santa detected my awakened state, he would hurry off to the next house, leaving us unadorned by gifts. She was bigger, but none the wiser. She also reminded me that if I scared St. Nick off, she would quickly cast my broken body on her scales of sibling justice, for my curious folly.

To my relief, the next morning, there was that brand new box full of Tinkertoys, the Erector set or a dazzling box of Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. Stumbling in excitement and pajamas, in the midst of the smell of Christmas morning bacon sizzling, hot buttered toast, steaming rich cocoa and pancakes, we would shower each other in the confetti of exhausted bows and paper. Gramps would have to shoo us into the television den, since our rough housing had upended Gram's ashtray, bringing a brief orange shower down on her seasoned wood floor, still fuming from an early wash of Murphy's Oil soap, wicking between the cracks.

How do you tell a Holiday story, so that it will last many years?

If a story is embedded in the ritual of tradition and it is bound tightly to the human senses, the story will be immune to variations in language, or the education of its recipients. The Jewish folks have a meal called the seder. It is an elaborate ritual of cleansing, unleavened bread and ritual, geared towards the remembrance of Exodus. It does not matter what language is spoken during the exercise. The story is elaborately told by the sounds, the smells, the tastes and the timing.

As I get older, the things I cherish about Christmas are those very things that make tradition so important to people. I don't care much about gifts these days. The sounds, the tastes, the ornaments, music and gentle touches of the holiday mean much more to me now. Apparently, there was no brainwashing, in spite of years of exposure to consumerism.

Every year I inevitably join a discussion regarding the materialism and consumerism of Christmas. I know it's a popular theme here in Massachusetts, where everybody likes to pontificate on the evils of Walmart and Costco. Of course, they quickly bring the evil corporate bonus they received down to Walmart and Costco, to buy all those toys and gifts at bargain prices. Whenever a particular brand of criticism becomes too popular, much like a stock, I begin to think that it is time to get out of the market.

Is Christmas more commercial? Probably.

Are people trying to remove the original meaning from Christmas? Definitely.

Is the commercial aspect of the Christmas holiday wholly responsible for the decline in Christmas spirit?

Not really, in my humble opinion. I think secular hostility, political correctness and the destruction of the family dynamic, are the guilty parties. If you strip away a good deal of the real underlying Christmas spirit, what remains? The gift giving stands alone. It is easy to judge what is left over. It is easy to blame the leftovers, for any moral decline we now witness. If people are giving, merely out of the guilt of obligation, for generic Holiday theatrics, the meaning, behind the giving, is empty.

I know many people never grow out of selfishness. I know many people have painful Christmas holiday memories, often brought on by self-imposed emotional obligations. I have been through enough of those years, sometimes ruined by my own selfishness. It's all part of accepting the perpetual imperfection of our lives, I suppose.

Ultimately, isn't selflessness and human imperfection the lesson taught to us, by the human being who's name and birth are celebrated every Christmas?

.

15 comments:

Peakah said...

how beautifully put...

Whenever a particular brand of criticism becomes too popular, much like a stock, I begin to think that it is time to get out of the market.

Isn't it unfortunate that this tends to the the center of attention nowadays?

Ultimately, isn't selflessness and human imperfection the lesson taught to us, by the human being who's name and birth are celebrated every Christmas?

I'd be honored to share Christmas memories with you over a cup of steaming hot chocolate with withering marshmallows.

Despite the cynicism over the evolution of a beautiful and pure holiday, there is still just that... the purity and wholesomeness of the reason for the season... Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who's birth we celebrate despite the fact that chances are his actual birthday is in April... but does it really matter? Not unless you were an exec of a multibillion dollar retail chain... but even they celebrate do they not?

Your ability to suck us into that simple and tangable time of anticipation with family and friends is what makes me a devoted reader of your work.

I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to spend the Christmas season with a great and introspective man such as yourself who can tap into the sweetness and beauty (as well as the intent) of the Christmas season.

Thank you for that beautiful post my friend... *raises glass of steaming hot coco towards ya*

Cheers Insolublog!

Dr. Phat Tony said...

I guess it all comes down to one of my favorite sayings "We just can't have nice things." People tend to screw everything up, get wrapped up in the details and forget the purpose for the details. Oh well, let me get back to shopping for presents.

Insolublog said...

My cup to you Peakah. I'm glad I am not buried in the cynicism around me. It is such a waste of potentially useful and positive spirit. Keep up the good blogging my friend.

DPT, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Merry Christmas.

Uber said...

Beautifully put, Insolu, and an important reminder as well.

Merry Christmas :)

Pebble said...

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Merry Christmasqw

Fiar said...

Excellent work again!

Can you have some sort of auto posting of that for me. It'll save me the work of writing it every time, and failing the drunk test repeatedly. Plus, you're a genius. You should be able to figure it out.

Merry Christmas!

The Conservative UAW Guy said...

You never fail to make me contemplative, Insol.

Thanks for the shots of beauty, retrospection, and realism.

Merry Christmas, ya freakin' genius. ;) :)

Insolublog said...

Uber - Thanks. I hope your cats and Christmas are merry.

PebblePie - A master of ASCII art! I will be forwarding that one.

FIAR - I am sure you will continue to be right all the time. Keep spreading the word, and the Constitutional fight.

CUG - Thanks jimmyb. Don't feed all your fingers to the Canukismiter hound! He needs room for hippies and Egg Nog.

Ssssteve said...

I am always amazed when I read your serious posts! You can put your thoughts to words better than anyone! Great post as always!!

Insolublog said...

Thanks Sssteve. I hope your Christmas is a merry one.

GunnNutt said...

Last!

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Your post brought back different but equally delightful scenes from bygone days of mine.

I'm not sure when it happens, but don't most of us transition from the selfish "what did I get?" Christmas mornings to a more philanthropic "what can I give?". Its such a pleasure to find and deliver a gift that you know will be enjoyed by the recipient. I can't view the rampant consumerism of Christmastime as a bad thing if the reason for it is to bring happiness to all involved. In any event, I'm just in it for the presents.

Belated Merry Christmas, Insol!

mensa B said...

Oh, I Loved this, so much...:) Belated but not forgotten, I not only send you a longer Christmas time (*,,,,,*)...
I send wishes for the best New Year you can imagine. (and I know you can imagine a good one.)

Insolublog said...

GunnNutt - I think you made the exact same transition I did. The gift giving is still a great part of that ritual, regardless of which end you are on.

MensaB - I am glad you enjoyed it so much. Bringing back those memories in writing, refreshes my mind. This is another wonderful byproduct of tradition.

fmragtops said...

I don't know if you'll ever read this comment, Insol, but I am now so very sorry I went on Hiatus around the time that you wrote this post. It was one of your best ever. Damn it! I have a speck of dust in my eyes now.

Anyhoo, great stuff, dude. A perfect testiment to why I think you are one of the best pure writers in the blogorandomgeometricshape.

I hope be here this coming Christmas.

Insolublog said...

You threw me for a loop fm! I usually take a while to clean out the e-mail. I am glad somebody is reading my older stuff. I am also glad you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.