I don't get into the Christmas spirit until late in the season. It's too daunting to begin the endless, obligatory preparations. It all begins too early. September is barely past when advertisements show people happily building snowmen or dressing up as Santa. You end up moaning to yourself, 'Didn't we just get done with Halloween?'
You know how it goes: racing for the 'right' presents (any presents at all), dealing with grumpy people ? broke people. How does one get decent presents while still having money left for rent? Visa payments loom on the economic horizon. This year, I swear to myself, I'm going to keep things simple ? maybe buy books for everybody.
Despite my fighting it, every year Christmas takes on a life of its own.
I resist it, battling the 'Christmas spirit.' I don't want to feel it because the commercialism gets me down. It starts to feel like the businesses own Christmas, that they're brainwashing me into following their schedule, validating their priorities. And I don't like anyone who makes me feel like a pawn, so I'm relegated to some role resembling that of Scrooge or the Grinch.
But there's one thing that thaws me out, one seasonal cue that kindles my Christmas spirit.
I tend to watch 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' You know, the TV cartoon?
Honestly, I don't want to. It's on every season. At some point, I always end up taking a peek at it, then getting hooked, and watching the whole thing.
I think I'm drawn to it out of a sense of comforting familiarity, but also the fact that the thing isn't as saccharine and vacant as most Christmas 'children's' features. It presents a fine blend of the positive and negative aspects of the season, and I truly identify with Charlie Brown's disgust with the holiday commercialism. He's misguided in his own way, of course ? thinking that Christmas is about quaint, cuddly traditions and ambience, but I still share his hatred of commercialism.
But all of this is adult rationale. Want to know the real reason why it works? It's the part following the point where Charlie Brown finally throws in the towel. In bewilderment and frustration, he screams and asks if there is anyone who knows what Christmas is really about?
It's Linus who answers, when he takes the stage in a stunning soliloquy, drawn from the Gospel of Luke, chapter II, verses 8-14. It concludes with:
'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'
Once I hear this, Christmas has begun. Because it says it all.
In the course of writing about Inuit, I've been compelled to compare my culture to many others, thus researching much folklore. I've read of the Obon, wherein the Japanese honor their ancestral dead with open doors, food, and conversation. The Festival of S?o Gonalo in Portugal, wherein the patron saint of married couples is honored with phallic cakes. I've read of the June Crop-Over Festival in Barbados, celebrating the harvesting of sugar cane. The Procession of the Witches in Beselare, Belgium, the Mongolian Naadam Festival that celebrates archery and horsemanship, and the Hindu Fire Festival.
But at this time, the grand pageantry of humanity's festivals only serves to make me realize just how important Christmas is ? not just as a Christian holiday. And I'm not taking the Christ out of Christmas, here, but we must remember what Jesus most seemed to want: for people to get along.
And it is in this way that Christmas is most successful, most powerful. If we look at the sheer variety of festivals that humanity has and has had throughout history, how many of them are those whose main theme is good will itself?
No matter how it was intended, no matter its pagan roots in the Natalis Invicti Solis of Rome or the Nordic Asgardsreid, no matter what annoying social and commercial overtones it has taken on today, few would dispute that it is essentially a festival of common good will. This explains its popularity, and its triumph. In the bloody, ravening history of mankind, it is distinguished as a time dedicated to kindness for kindness' sake.
We can't afford to humbug it. The fact that we have it at all speaks well for us.
Quviasugitsi quviasungnaami, and may you all have a Charlie Brown Christmas.