I joked earlier about how the "war on Christmas" drove us to flee to another country, but that's only the tiniest bit true. Granted, I get really upset every time I'm accosted by a Salvation Army bell-ringer, but I'm mostly just amused at how people get so worked up about someone wishing them a happy incorrect holiday.
Here in Australia, all the ads on telly that I've seen say 'Christmas.' There's nary a mention of generic "holidays," nor any mention of specific non-Christmas ones. I'm not sure whether this is due to the fact that Australia is considerably more secular a society than the states, or some other factor of which I'm unaware, but people are clearly laid back about the whole thing. Even the non-religious folk seem to have no qualms with wishing each other 'Happy Christmas," which is something I think the US could learn a few things from.
This laid-backness regarding 'uptight about Christmas' is why I was so utterly shocked to see this poster at the cinema yesterday:
I'm guessing that the title change is due to a generic "foreign" marketing campaign, wherein they just make one set of marketing images for all the english-speaking non-US countries, allowing for other countries who aren't nearly as laid back about the whole thing. Still, it's jarring. If they had done this in the states, there'd be boycotts and outrage. "How dare they take 'Christmas' out of the title of that sucky movie??!" Bill O'Reilly would have to have Reese and Vince on in order to berate them. Geez.
I've had just about enough of you and your War on Christmas, so I've decided to take some time away from you. We shall be spending our Christmahanukwanza ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET. Australia here we come.
Hopefully I'll be blogging and taking photos and whatnot as connectivity allows. Stay tuned.
On this December 26th, I want to wish all of you and yours a Merry Christmas!
"But wait," you say, "surely the made-up1 birthday of Jesus is on December 25th, not December 26th?"
Well, as anyone who has eagerly run out to check the mailbox for the first issue of Some Funnily Embarrassing Magazine I Got Given A Subscription Of For Christmas can tell you, the mail is not being delivered today. A quick check of The USPS Calendar will tell you that this year, Christmas Day is on December 26th, so your Christmas subscription will have to wait another day2.
1) As I have been told my entire life that there is "historical evidence" which corroborates the Bibles already historically accurate opinion that Jesus Christ was an actual person, it seems one could simply look up the actual date of Christ's birth, thus doing away with this whole President's Day style made-up holiday3.
2) Imagine my surprise to learn that magazine subscriptions take 4-6 weeks of processing before delivery of the first issue. I guess that's understandable, but the extra day the USPS is tacking on is ridiculous.
3) If anyone were to ask me, which they never do, I would tell them that I think Christmas might work better as a "floating holiday", one which, for example, might always take place on the last Sunday in December4. Since everyone agrees that the actual date is a made-up one anyway, this would make a lot more sense than just letting Church-and-State-separated government bodies who wish to celebrate this particular religious holiday anyway go changing the date willy-nilly5.
4) Of course, this would be counter to the efforts early Christians made to "embrace and extend" the holiday that was observed prior to the acceptance of Christianity, and thus "Anti-Christian", so I don't see that happening any time soon.
5) Did you know that "willy-nilly" doesn't mean what you think it means? Look it up to see whether I've used it correctly or not6.
6) Boy do I love a good nested footnote. I think this is a new record for footnote nesting on my part, getting me one step closer to the convoluted footnoting in the excellent book House of Leaves, which is amazing in the level of twisty writing Mark Z. Danielewski7 employed during its writing.
Like many people, I am not a very big fan of Christmas. It isn't actually Christmas that is the problem, it is the extreme over commercialization of the entire Holiday Season that has caused me to hate. Stores are too busy, traffic is nearly impossible to deal with, and most confusingly, people become more self-centered and selfish the closer you get to Christmas. This amuses me to no end, because really the point of them flocking to retail centers in droves is to buy things for other people, yet they are doing it in completely selfish assholish ways: fighting with each other for the last copy of The Oblivion Society, sitting in a parking area waiting 10 minutes for the elderly couple in the Buick LeSabre to exit the "perfect parking spot" (stopping all traffic in the entire lot in the process), being rude when people who need to get by them in stores ask them nicely to move, etc. In short, this season turns people into assholes.
As you can probably guess, this has caused me to rethink my Holiday Season shopping strategy somewhat. The past few years I've decided that the majority of my Christmas shopping was going to be devoted to people that actually appreciate and deserve the time and money I'm spending. Am I talking about my family and friends? Nope. Sure, my family and friends probably would enjoy the somewhat inane material goods I would buy for them, but would they really appreciate it? I know from personal experience that most of the gifts I've been given weren't as appreciated by me as they would have been by someone else, someone who can't afford to just go out and buy those inane things for themselves. I'm talking about people who are in bad situations and possibly might not have an enjoyable Christmas without my efforts.
There are quite a number of factors that can cause children to not get Christmas presents on Christmas, some which are the fault of their shitty parents, some because their good parents have been down on their luck. Some don't even have parents to get them presents. As none of these factors can be controlled in any way by the children forced to live in such a situation, I feel it is important that they get to have a good Christmas anyway (while they are still young enough to not be overcome with the wanton over commercialization of it all.) Since I have decided to reshift the focus of my gift giving towards these less fortunate children, almost all the budget that has in past years been allotted to getting my parents the perfect restaurant gift certificate is now going to make sure there are at least a few bright-eyed smiles on Christmas morning.
Since I am quite possibly the laziest person in the world, I've opted to use the "Giving Tree" method of gift dispersal. If you are unfamiliar with the Giving Tree, it is essentially a Christmas tree decorated with tags instead of ornaments, and you can find them in any mall, fire station, church, Salvation Army, and a multitude of other places. Each tag has information about a specific gift that a specific needy child would like to have, specifying the age and sex of the child, along with whatever will make them happy come Christmas morning. All one has to do is grab a tag off the tree, buy the gift, and take both the tag and the gift to a drop off location where volunteers will wrap it and make sure it gets to the proper home come Christmas. In the case of malls where the tree is located, you can simply drop the tag and gift off at the Gift Wrapping Center in the mall. This is the easiest Christmas shopping you will ever do. Also, if you are concerned with such things, the drop off point can give you a receipt for deducting these gifts from your taxes.
I would like to encourage each and every person to go find a Giving Tree, and at the very least read some of the tags. What I always find striking is just how realistic these children are in what they ask for. I'm sure having crappy Christmases in the past have helped this realism, but it is still refreshing to see kids wanting things that aren't ponies, xboxes, cars etc. There is a tag for every budget; most items aren't expensive at all, they're things like a CD or a sweater, which you can go above and beyond by getting 2 sweaters, or a gift card for multiple CDs. Even the most budget-strapped Christmas shopper can afford to take at least one name off the tree, maybe two if they buy dad the imitation leather wallet instead of the leather one they buy him every year. When you explain to your friends and family that you've spent most of your Christmas money on needy children instead of them, they will be so amazed by what a great human being you are that they won't mind a bit. Maybe some of them might do the same thing next year...
This year, why don't you make your time spent shopping among the selfish assholes worthwhile by helping to provide a nice Christmas to some people who might not have one. It will make you feel good, it will make them feel good, and it will make (Jesus/Santa/Jewey McJewerston/Kwanzaa Karl) feel good too.