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December 19, 2007

Grinch Moment

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I don't know how you're contending with holiday season but, as for me, I'm (as I am every year) holding my breath until it's over.

In NYC, holiday season extends from mid-November (what with Thanksgiving madness) through January 1. To my mind, that's a much-too-big chunk of the year. There are times when I don't mind humoring the general culture. Gotta go along with things, might as well be cheerful about it, life could certainly be worse, etc. And in the abstract I can even summon up some benevolent feelings. I approve of rituals, it's fun hearing from people, and I'm a big fan of parties. But the reality of America's holiday season just plain grates on me.

Lordy, at the end of the year we really overdo it, don't we? By my lights, anyway. The sentimental feelings, the cards, the crowds, the shopping, the jiggered work schedules -- and especially the way the whole process drags out for week after week ... It's too damn much. It feels like a form of social bullying. And it does leave me feeling resentful.

Why don't we confine the fuss to a single week, treat ourselves to one big party, and limit present-giving to children only? That would suit me, at least. The way we actually go about the holiday thang, though ... Well, sometime in early December I put my head down, do my best not to feel too irked, and try to stay focused on my real end-of-the-year goal, which is to survive the obligations without coming down with the flu.

I suppose the holidays can be fun for very young kids, and maybe for parents of very young kids too. But for everyone else ... Why don't more people feel ashamed, even embarrassed, about the amount of emotional-physical-financial emphasis that we place on the holidays? Hey, Americans: What do you say we finally get around to growing up?

And if I never hear any of the more-familiar Xmas carols again -- especially in "swinging" or "jazzed-up" versions -- I'll definitely die a little happier.

Deep in Grinch mode,


UPDATE: Stephenesque recalls the exact moment when he lost faith in Santa.

posted by Michael at December 19, 2007


Is there room on your bandwagon for this Eugene Oregon/Kellogg, Idaho Grinch?

Posted by: raymond pert on December 19, 2007 11:29 AM

The Karaoke Queen has been urging me to make a Christmas CD for two years. Next year, I think, I'm finally giving in. Why? Because people buy the damned things. Hell, people flocked to Liberace shows in Las Vegas. They made Evel Knievel into a multi-millionaire. Apparently, a lot of people will pay real money to listen to Britney Spears or Celine Dion. There's no explaining crap like that.

About the only Christmas song I like is "Blue Christmas."

The Queen has also been urging me to take everybody I can round up from both our families to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas spectacular. God, I hate spectaculars! The beaver shots from the Rockettes don't make up for all the hokum. I can see beaver shots anywhere and I'm not that crazy about white girls. At 70 bucks a ticket, we're looking at a major cash outlay, and the Queen's suggested I ought to take everybody out to dinner, too.

I'm laying low and hoping it blows over.

Christmas was great when my kids were young. It's all about kids. I miss that part. Now that they are grown up and gone, it's pretty lame. And, all the hoopla only serves to make the bitterness over those who are gone (especially Myrna) sting a whole lot worse.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on December 19, 2007 12:06 PM

Raymond -- I wonder how many people, underneath the holiday "cheer," really feel pretty grumpy about the whole overdone thing. A substantial minority would be my guess. What's yours?

ST -- "God, I hate spectaculars" is the funniest thing I've heard all day!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 19, 2007 12:10 PM

Michael, I couldn't agree more. The whole thing just wears me out. That's why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - a gathering of family and friends, a nice meal, a bit of reflection, and then it's over. Except that the yearly retail orgy begins the next day.

Posted by: Henry Chappell on December 19, 2007 12:55 PM

I was remarking to my wife the other day about that syncopated-Christmas-song thing. I suppose that the singers figure that there's no percentage in trying to duplicate the straight-ahead versions of the songs that everyone knows, so they try to put their own little stamp on it. But that stamp always seems to be some pseudo-jazz behind-the-beat stuff with the lyrics, some pointless melisma, etc.

And although I don't consider myself a Christian, I prefer hearing the older carols to the Santa-snow-sleigh-reindeer stuff.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on December 19, 2007 1:22 PM

Grinch moment? Hell, it's a whole grinch season for me.

A few years ago the Holiday Committee where I work--a medium-large state u library--thought it made sense to have department heads do readings from A Christmas Drivel (sorry, Christmas Carol) for the edification and amusement of the assembled multitudes; they had, in fact, already sent out a program with readings assigned. They seemed quite miffed when I flatly refused to participate in any such activity.

Last year one of them decided to pipe Christmas music around the building. I had a researcher in who complained, and when I gladly called to the responsible person to ask for quiet, I was met with silent disbelief that anyone could possibly object! An old friend and colleague of mine was later asked if it was because I was Jewish, and as he told me later he -really- confused them by saying, "No, he's libertarian."

Enjoy the materialistic glut and lousy music if you can.


Posted by: Narr on December 19, 2007 1:39 PM

I'm actually looking forward to this year's festivities. I'm finally doing what I've been promising myself for years-cutting back the gifts.

It's not so much the expense (though that IS a component) as the fact that I actually spend some time and thought on the gifts I give people. In return I get whatever dreck people want to get rid off (excepting Mom and my honey), and I'm sick of it!

It's the old story of being the divorced single guy. My brothers have families, and with my 2 nieces and 6 nephews, good ol' Uncle Brutus always comes through with the excellent, parent-pissing-off stuff. My oldest bro's wife actually commented to him a couple years ago that he has NO gift creativity compared to me! So why does everyone feel free to give me crap?!

So this year everyone gets gift cards to the cheesiest and hardest-to-find stores I could come up with, and all the Whos down in Whoville can kiss my posterior!

Posted by: Brutus on December 19, 2007 1:44 PM

I'm with Michael, in that it just goes on too long. All normal stuff gets stopped in its tracks for six solid weeks---over 10% of the year!! And no matter how I try, I do also end up consuming more calories than I need---with all the dips and cookies and fudge and pitch-in lunches for the "office" Christmas parties....just...yuck. For me, it wouldn't even be so bad if it was all over at Christmas, but then, chugging ahead on the track...comes New Year's. Please, aren't we done yet?

As for music---it's the "old standards" that drive me crazy---I don't care if I ever hear Bing Crosby sing anything again. Can someone shut Karen Carpenter and "Merry Christmas, Darling" up??

But we did just have one of those office Christmas lunches, and somebody brought the Temptations' christmas album. It wasn't half-bad.

Posted by: annette on December 19, 2007 2:13 PM

There's this genuinely nightmarish version of "O Holy Night" sung by some young man with mediocre vocal cords and the most astonishing breath control ever going around the malls now. Every year I am bombarded with this, this, excrescence, whose closing sequence (from the final 'Fall on your knees' on) feels like it takes fifteen minutes, each one an agonizing, screeching, singing-with-a-string-around-his-testicles exercise in Michael Bolton / Celine Dion / American Idol excess. It is simply impossible to ignore. It's as bad as starchitecture, I tell you, and as hard to escape.

Posted by: PatrickH on December 19, 2007 5:11 PM

About thirty years ago I saw a gag greeting card that said it all. The card said something like this: During the 12 days of Christmas, it's all peace and good will to men. The day after, it's back to "Screw you, Charlie."

Christmas is now just a commercial imperative. Same for all the other major holidays. I ignore them all.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on December 19, 2007 5:58 PM

Henry Chappell, our Christmas gatherings are becoming more like Thanksgiving and everyone really likes it. Less gifts, more just getting together and eating and Mass. We listen to "The Anonymous Four" and leave the radio off. Less stress, much more pleasant.

Posted by: Bradamante on December 20, 2007 11:16 AM

"... whose closing sequence (from the final 'Fall on your knees' on) feels like it takes fifteen minutes, each one an agonizing, screeching, singing-with-a-string-around-his-testicles exercise in Michael Bolton / Celine Dion / American Idol excess."

I'm still laughing out loud. Maybe Christmas is worth it with descriptions like this floating around.

Posted by: annette on December 20, 2007 12:58 PM

Yep, too long and too sappy. I like idea of celebreating for one week. But I'm sure even that get be screwed up in excess. I still have young kids so I'm not completely Grinchy, but give me a few years and I'll be right with you.

Posted by: Peggi on December 21, 2007 8:43 AM

We get no vacation in this crappy country compared to the Euros, so I'm all for anything that decreases productivity.

Mike, this may be why they're so better at culture.

Posted by: SFG on December 27, 2007 6:35 AM

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