Rarely do I ever have uncontrollable urges to kill myself, bleach my eyeballs or stick ice picks in my ears. This, I feel is normal. Most people do not want to do these things. Most people want to keep their lives, their vision and their hearing. I do too. Most of the time. There is one time of the year however, that the concept of chewing ones own ears off while injecting an IV of turpentine seems completely natural.
I am certain that human beings are the only animal that has the dreary notion of committing suicide. Sure, animals are stupid; deer don’t seem to think twice before jumping in the path of a Mack truck and exploding all over the roadway, robins don’t double check their decent before flying face first into a newly washed window to break their necks and shove their brains into their rear ends, and Prius drivers don’t understand that while they’re diddling around in their stupid cars worrying about what the temperature will be a million years from now, they’ll be driven off the road by someone who has more important things to do than worry about than trees. I hardly believe these animals make a conscious effort to end their own lives. Mostly, humans don’t seem to think suicide is a good idea either.
So what is it about the Christmas season that drives me absolutely bonkers? It’s not that I actually hate Christmas. I have many fond memories of Christmas’ past. I always enjoyed seeing my siblings and family, the build up to Christmas in school, where we’d open a new door on the Advent calendars each day, the chore of setting up the Christmas Tree and adorning it with nine thousand tons of gingerbread men and cheap glass ornaments, the cookies we’d bake for the fat communist who would crash down our chimney on Christmas Eve… I even enjoyed waiting to open the vast expanse of presents that reached out for miles from under the tree.
And not a whole lot has changed for me since then. I still enjoy the winter time, with the lights on the houses, the dusting of snow on the ground, how it never actually gets dark because of the snow and the big, toothy grins on the chubby faces of passersby as they wish one another a wonderfully merry holiday season. Good will toward all men may be dead throughout the course of the year, but during the holiday season, it’s alive and breathing.
Except it really isn’t. Sure, people seem to be nicer to one another during the holidays, but they aren’t. I think people are actually worse. Gandhi said that one should never smile sarcastically, because that action takes a thing of love and beauty and distorts it into something evil and sinister. This is what the holidays do to people. Around their family, the people are all good and fine, happy and cheerful. But if you’re not in their circle of family or friends, to hell with you. You’re in the way. You can clearly see this when you’re between them and the flat screen lcd TV they’ve chosen as a family Christmas present. You’re liable to get stabbed. Especially if you live in Detroit, since that TV is the only Christmas present this year.
After you’ve left the store, you’re not out of the woods yet. You’ve got to make it to your car. And that is dangerous. Because you’re either carrying thirteen million shopping bags or towing thirty carts, you are inevitably going to hold up traffic. Christmas shoppers don’t like being held up. Especially the last minute ones. So they mow you down with their Navigators and Suburbans. The biggest problem in being mowed down by an SUV is that all the items you just purchased will break. And because you have just cleaned out your bank account to purchase those items, you can’t drag yourself like a land mine victim back into the store to purchase unbroken ones. Therefore, because you have gone shopping during this time, two things have happened: your family doesn’t get a Christmas and you now have a collapsed lung.
If you’ve managed to make it to your car with your legs intact and still attached to your torso, you are lucky. And you are free to go. Unless you’re pulling out of a parking spot at the mall. Because if you’re at the mall, you can’t leave. There are nine hundred cars behind you, stalking you like a pack of wolves, each one positioning themselves for your parking space. None of them realize that they can’t actually have your parking space unless you can vacate it. So you’re stuck in your car, bleeding out until after the stores close and the wolves go else where. The worst thing about bleeding out in your car (other than messing up the upholstery)? The Christmas music you have to listen to while you do it.
It is precisely the music and the movies that have caused all of these problems with an otherwise magical time of the year. Throughout the course of the year we watch movies with unrealistic plots and this does not affect us because we know that they are unrealistic. The guy with the big nose will not ever have the pleasure of sleeping with Angelina Jolie in real life. The idiot girl will never actually get a position as partner at the biggest law firm in history. We know this, and we accept this. But something happens to us as humans during the holiday season. We put all of our logic aside, and expect that life for the rest of the year will be spectacular. Maybe throughout the course of the year we use up our logic banks and end up with nothing. Either way, we listen to the mindless drivel on the radio, songs about a fat guy flying around in a sleigh pulled by talking reindeer and other such nonsense, and expect it to happen. We watch these movies, created by simpletons, about family holidays that end absolutely perfectly, with the in-laws blowing up inside their camper. And because these fallacies never actually occur to the “normal” person during this magical time of the year, we all get pissed off and hateful toward one another.
The little merry jingles get stuck in your head too, wedging themselves into the soundtrack of your life somewhere between Mozart, Brahms and Tool. One minute your brain is swimming in the masterworks of real musicians, the next minute there’s a song about a fat guy who effectively stalks you over the course of the year coming to town.
And it says in your head until after Easter.
Then you have the more “traditional” songs. Dreary, solemn hymns that sound more akin to funeral music than cheerful holiday music. Silent Night come to mind. Silent Night is one of the saddest sounding songs I’ve ever been forced to hear. The title itself reminds me of a dark assassin coming in the night to dispatch you and your family while you sleep. The tune fits the title as well, sounding of a funeral dirge, its effect making my heart heavy and bringing tears to my eyes.
Which seems to happen most Christmas’. Because even though I fight the fake cheeriness of people, hate the music and feel put out when I have to do something decoration orientated (like putting up the stupid tree), I like feeling the kinship of humanity during this time of year. As long as you’re not out fighting the crowds, people can be great. And charitable.
One of the local radio stations does “Help for the Holidays”, in which people who need a hand up but cannot get help from the Government during this season send letters explaining their situation, and the city calls in to donate money to help the families. I like hearing the stories and the reactions of the callers. I like that people donate money to complete strangers they’ll most likely never meet. I like that these actions touch something deep inside my cynical heart. I like knowing that humanity is still alive. It brings tears of happiness to my eyes.
There is so much about the holidays for me to despise. The music, the movies, the shoppers, the story of the fatty in the red suit… But all of this is overshadowed by the rebirth of humanity. And that’s what the Christmas story is all about: Being human.