I have a very complicated relationship with Christmas, which I should attempt to describe so everyone understands where it all goes pear-shaped for me. These are all random thoughts in no particular order.
I enjoy gift-giving. I certainly enjoy receiving gifts, although I suspect I’m the most difficult person in the world to buy for. (This year, what I really wanted was for someone to reformat my Windows XP desktop machine and drop in a new 400GB hard drive. This is not going to happen, so I’m taking care of it myself.) What I don’t like is the way that gift-giving is prescribed; I prefer to give gifts for no reason at all. The notion that people are supposed to give gifts puts me into a really bad psychological state, almost like a phobia: did I get my family enough stuff? Did we get our kid too much stuff? Was there someone I forgot? That kind of thing. Drives me crazy.
Having a kid who is old enough to "get" Christmas makes it way more fun for me. She and I wrapped a present for my wife this morning and she really got into it. She’s at the point where she can write her name on the gift card, too, which is awesome.
This year we’ve got a couple of friends who are in a tight spot with money; I love being able to help them out but it makes me frustrated that we have to. Without going into too much detail about the why’s and wherefores, let’s just say it’s complete crap that people have to go bankrupt in this country because they are in poor health. This is a problem for everybody, because everybody suffers from poor health eventually.
I get a little nervous around this time of the year because when I used to report the news I’d see all kinds of nasty stuff around the holidays that happened because people got drunk and wrecked their cars, or burned up wrapping paper in the fireplace, or whatever. I think I saw two or three houses burn to the ground during the years I was reporting, and the big house fires usually happened around the holidays. Last night I noticed that a certain paper decoration put up by certain members of our family had come into contact with a lamp and all this came flooding back to me.
I really hate most Christmas music; maybe this means I have no soul, but I prefer to believe that most Christmas music is just terrible. We’re currently listening to the Special X channel on XM Radio (via DirecTV, which picked up a few dozen XM channels back in November) which isn’t bad. They play tunes like "Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus" and Tom Lehrer which pretty much rules.
The fact that Carole absolutely loves everything about Christmas, including the confounded music, makes my dislike of Christmas’ more candyass aspects a little more difficult to bear. I try not to put a drag on her festivities, and for her part, she’s very accommodating of my humbuggery. The other night when she brought home a set of sparkly stocking-holders for the fireplace mantle that spelled SANTA I wasn’t able to resist rearranging the letters so they spelled SATAN. Then after I was done photographing them and posting the photo to Flickr, I arranged them the right way.
I was talking to a colleague in Japan the other day and he pointed out that they’d decorated the Yahoo! Japan developer Web site for Christmas. I told him I thought it was pretty cool how Christmas had caught on in Japan and he pointed out to me that it wasn’t a religious holiday or anything, just an excuse for gift-giving. I told him it was pretty much the same way over here.
Update: Was completely freaked out just now (in a good way) to see that Gizmodo, coincidentally and appropos of nothing, has a shot of the Charo version of Mamacita Donde Esta Santa Claus up today. This could very well be what they call a "Christmas Miracle". Researching this overlooked gem a bit more, I found a most excellent version by the Chicano crooner El Vez.