The “C” Word
Now I know what you’re all thinking. You’re letting your minds run amok in the gutter, and you figure I’m an obstetrician, so you think you know what the “c” word is. But, you’re wrong! The “c” word is actually something much more devious: Christmas. I keep track every year of the first time someone lets the “c” word slip – it usually happens around August and causes me spasms of revulsion. Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea behind Christmas. I love the meaning of Christmas. But I hate what Christmas has BECOME. The fact that it must be mentioned in August when it happens in December says it all. Every year the stores put up the Christmas stuff earlier. Hobby Lobby and The Cracker Barrell had their stuff up already in August. You can’t even buy Halloween stuff (a month in advance) because all that CHRISTMAS stuff is taking up all the space. I hate that Christmas has STUFF. There is more stuff, and more knicknacks and more junk to collect for Christmas than is rationally possible.
I loved Christmas as a child. All children do. I loved the rituals: the decorating of the tree, the making of Christmas cookies, the Advent calendar, and the annual cheeseball. (Yes, cheeseball. I made one every year as a kid with my grandmother until she was gone and now my daughter makes them with my mom). I loved the AVARICE and the GREED and the anticipation of MORE STUFF. I was always so excited on Christmas Eve that I hardly slept at all. Then I would wake up at four AM and want to open gifts. I would be allowed to investigate my stocking in the interest of peace and a little more sleep for my parents, and I would have crammed my face with chocolate before the sun even came up. So of course I loved Christmas.
I loved it not so much when I reached adulthood. Bear in mind, I did not get married until I was thirty five and did not have my child until I was thirty seven so nearly twenty years were spent waiting for Christmas with a family that just didn’t exist. I still had Christmas with my folks every year, either with or without whatever guy I was dating at the time, but it just wasn’t the same. There was no Santa Claus. And the responsibility fell on me to decorate and make whatever apartment I was living in feel festive. And I had to go out and buy presents for everyone. And I learned that the only time I really do NOT love shopping is at Christmas. All those crowds. All those pushy people. All those ringing bells. All that desperation to find the perfect gift for each person on your list. That for me was misery. And there was little joy. The greed of the season and the anxiety of the merchants to SELL, SELL overshadowed any deeper meaning that Christmas might hold. I didn’t want or need anything, or I would have already bought it. My family didn’t want or need anything or THEY would have bought it. The whole buying and selling and marketing and decorating thing just shut me down.
I thought I would enjoy Christmas again when I had a child of my own. That was true for about four years. The first Christmas was enjoyable from a cuteness standpoint; many elfen pictures and cunning pictures of wrapping paper being eaten were taken. Year one was still pretty clueless. Things got a little more magical at age two, three and four. At that age, Santa was a given and our daughter wasn’t old enough to understand the greed factor yet. However, things began to slide downhill quickly after that. In kindergarten, my daughter had a first grader help her make a list of Christmas wants. It was endless and included “a Nintendo DS – pink”, and “a thousand dollars.” I think these were more the wishes of the assisting first grader, but it was obviously the beginning of ridiculous greed. The next year, my daughter visited her cousin and her Christmas list consisted of every toy her cousin owned. Ridiculous. And of course she didn’t play with a single one of them for more than a day or two. This last year, the list was incredibly specific and all goods were material and fashionable. She doesn’t even believe in Santa Claus any more. She’s only seven. So the joy of Christmas has again been reduced to greed. My parents and I have an agreement just not to buy each other presents – we don’t need anything. My husband and I play at exchanging gifts, but again there’s that “If I wanted it I would have already bought it” thing. So now I just acquire more decorations for the house, because the common knowledge is that where Christmas is concerned, more stuff is always better.
Next year, I swear we’re just going to attend a Christmas mass, and buy gifts from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. And maybe I’ll get enjoyment out of Christmas again when I have grandchildren. If nothing else, we’ll make a cheeseball.