Christmas Clichés and Contradictions

December 18, 2002

“?Tis the season to be jolly, and thank God for that (or, if you’re the type of person who is offended when someone tells you to have a Merry Christmas because you think they are, in some manner or another, trying to ram their religion down your throat while at the same time slyly taking a dig at whatever faith you might happen to hold, then you, whoever you might be, can thank your own conception of divinity, or if you are an atheist, then simply thank your lucky stars instead of God)! I don’t know about the rest of you out there in the world, but I sure am grateful to enjoy a little time off, and perhaps even fit some merriment in there somewhere”?these last few months have been overly stressful and have been taxing my psyche to the breaking point.

I don’t know if it is only me, but there seems to be a rising tide of anxiety going around these days. In fact, I saw a television special on depression a while ago, and it stated that the World Health Organization projected that by, I think it was, 2020 or maybe 2030, depression will be the second most common affliction behind heart disease. But enough about present and future gloom and doom”?let’s get to the jolly good stuff! Righteo old bean!

As we noted, it’s the Christmas season, and so, it’s that time of year to be merry and cheery and full of good will (and likely, for many, of booze”?don’t forget the eggnog!). However, sometimes these things seem hard to keep up (even the drinking can be tedious); sometimes they can slip from the mind.

It can be hard to have good cheer and be merry when you are out hunting around for gifts for your friends and family. Lines can be long, stores can be crowded, sought for items can be out of stock, and the pressure to find that special someone the perfect gift can topple the strongest resolve to be jolly. But no matter, come Christmas day it is all worth it when you get up in the morning, run to the tree and see that Santa has brought you that lump of coal you deserve”?wait, maybe that’s only me. No really, watching someone open a gift that you gave them and have them light up in delight and surprise can be one of the most rewarding things about Christmas; something which sweeps away any traumatic experience that might have occurred in the procuring of the gift. Well, that, and you might get some neat loot of your own.

But of course, does the rampant and frenzied consumerism promoted by the apparent advertised requirements of extensive gift giving really capture the spirit of Christmas? Well some might want to say, “Hell, yeah! Bring on the gifts!” but others might be more inclined to say that it is the time spent with friends and family, and occasionally even coworkers at staff Christmas parties, which makes the holiday season what it truly is. Yes, it can be a time to rekindle bonds and reaffirm the love and compassion that we have for one and other. Then again, some of us might not have any friends, or at least, not want to spend too much time with the people we know, or we don’t get along with our family, or there will be certain family members present at a gathering who don’t get along, and OH MY GOD (or your favorite deity, or your lucky stars”?no wait! that last one won’t work in this context) CHRISTMAS IS RUINED FOR EVERYONE! And how hard must it be to be merry when Christmas is ruined for everyone? And how difficult it can sometimes be to try to be authentically happy when the pressure is on to get along. But no, the important part, even if there is the occasional stress, tension, or social faux-pas, is that we make a concerted effort to get along, to make the season bright, to see the tree tops glisten and hear children in the snow. Or something like that.

And for some of the men out there, well, chestnuts roasting on an open fire (and perhaps you can already see where I’m going with this one) has the potential to take on a whole different meaning if they happened to be inconsiderate enough to get their wife or girlfriend or significant other something that dips way below the line of thoughtful, appreciated, or otherwise appropriate. But we won’t go too far into this one, because, after all, even the little drummer boy had no gift to bring other than the pa-rum-pa-pum-pum, and that was good enough for little baby Jesus (or your favorite deity or your lucky stars”?no wait! none of that will work in this context either, will it?). Was that sacrilegious or merely sacrilicious? And now you might not wonder why it is that Santa is going to be bringing me coal:

Yes, it’s Christmas time. Carols play in every store, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the lights are bright on the Christmas tree (or, if you prefer, “Holiday tree,” but don’t try to pull that sort of shenanigan in Toronto), the streets glitter with light, and darn it all if the Christmas village isn’t set up just so in the living room, with little Johnny sledding down that hill of cotton on his little sled. It’s all so festive.

But silly jokes, wry or dry humour, and plain old goofing about aside, Christmas time can really be the most wonderful time of the year (and are you now waiting for some sort of punch line?). It is probably the one time of the year when most of us make a real and sincere effort to get along and to appreciate the presence and being of one and other. It is the time of year when many of us go about our affairs with an extra sense of appreciation for the people in our lives, and perhaps, for people we don’t even know. We all tend to wish for peace on earth, it is a shame, however, that we can’t seem to turn that wish into a reality.

b.e. hydomako is a grouchy old crank trapped in the body of a wet behind the ears goldfish in a tank that is full of too many piranhas (which is, well, any number of them really). The tank is also quite dirty, and getting more so everyday, but no one seems willing or able to clean the tank, or at least clean it in a way that is really effective. He would like to understand more about the relations that make up the existence of himself, the other fish, the tank, and what is beyond, but knows that this is a most difficult task”?he is, after all, only a goldfish!