Friday, December 29, 2006

Post-Christmas is what makes me cynical

My name is Mimi, and I love Christmas. I love candles, and candycanes, and minilights, and trees. I love cards, and presents, and stockings. I love decorating my house. I love mulling wine and baking cookies and urging my loved ones to indulge. I love putting hand-crocheted red-white-and-green doodads on my winter coat. I love sending and receiving cards, and reading all the family newsletters. I love visiting with relatives and friends and being visited in turn. I love big sit down dinners and even bigger workplace cocktail parties. I love pointsettias.

Pretty much ever since I got over the final spike of adolescent greed ("All I want for Christmas is cash! Cash! CASH!!!"), I have really cherished the 'holiday season' for its bringing of light to dark times, its cheer and kindness in a gloomy month, and its resolute festivity in the face of a quite natural desire to hibernate the winter away. Indeed, I have readily seized the opportunity to say kind things to total strangers: Merry Christmas, have a great day, hope your shopping is nearly done, don't those look nice, hot chocolate'll really warm you, eh, what a great reindeer sweater! Christmas means my world--coffee shop, home, neighbourhood--festooned in green fragrant swags, in lights, in wreaths, simply to be beautiful. To bring good cheer. And who doesn't need good cheer when it gets dark at 4:45 in the afternoon?

I understand--I really do--that I'm a sap to imagine that Starbucks puts up wreaths to cheer up my day. Starbucks puts up wreaths to sell me things: good lord, they have branded a particular coffee as a limited offering 'Christmas Blend' (red bag for regular, green bag for decaf). Even the garlands on local lamposts appear only in the commercial district, purchased and maintained by the local merchants association, again presumably to kindle the shopping spirit. But for the most part, I can just enjoy the beautiful cheery things, can't I? Can't I?

Well yes, mostly I do, although it's the boundaries of the holiday that bring me down. It is crass, crass, crass, I think, to crank up the Bing Crosby the day after Halloween, when people are still wandering around in flip-flops. I vividly remember being handed my red 'holiday traditions' takeaway cup at Starbucks that day, and just reacting with visceral disgust: "It's too soon!" I thought, "you'll ruin it if you start too soon!" Mine is not an uncommon complaint, obviously. What could we talk about the first week of November if not, gosh-I-wish-we-celebrated-Thanksgiving-with-the-Americans-so-

Mostly I hold out for a December festivity. The tree goes up on December 1st, and I give myself license to live it up to the red and green fullest until ... well, until New Year's. This seems a sensible, intuitive end to the holiday 'season', does it not? Most people seem to book off that week as vacation, and Christmas and New Year's Eve are two fairly major celebration events. Children are off school. Many offices are not simply understaffed but shut down entirely. In fact, my family has always tended to concentrate most of our celebrations during this week, after Christmas and before New Year's, and I imagine yours must have too.

So. What has really started to depress me, beyond the now-cliched it-starts-too-soon lament, is that Christmas ends too soon. What really depress me are the braying Boxing Day ads: buy! buy! buy! Get what you really wanted for Christmas! Now it's time to shop for you! Santa screwed you over, but we've got a big sale! My memory is not so poor that I don't recognize these retailers as the same ones pushing a peace, love, and better-to-give-than-receive message a mere 24 hours prior. It's just so cynical. I have not managed to work my way down to the orange-laden toe of my Christmas stocking before the holiday is loudly derided, and the tinsel all cleared away in the name of yet another commercial holiday. Radio stations that switch from 24 hour holiday music back to regular programming on the 26th give me a similar feeling: such practices seem to indicate that once the presents are open, the holiday is over. Or once more, my local Starbucks: it is denuded of wreaths by the time I walk down for a little Boxing Day treat, some indie-rock darling having taken over the sound system from Bing and company.

By the time that everyone is finally able to just sit down and enjoy the holiday, rather than freaking out preparing for it, it. is. declared. done.

So here is my plea: can we start the windup just a little later? and keep the party going just a little longer? Because my calculated innocence is starting to wear a little thin. And I'll need all the energy and cheer I can muster in the seven weeks remaining until Valentine's Day.


Beck said...

I come bringing tidings of great Christmasy joy - the Christmas season lasts until Epiphany/Three Kings Day on January 6th - and in fact, one is inviting hobgoblins if one takes down one's decorations much before then. We have a little family party with a cake, three crowns and three gifts and my kids think that it's just wonderful.

Mimi said...

Huzzah! I'm going to Beck's house! :-)

Mad Hatter said...

Yup, Epiphany ends the season here too. If I learned nothing else from those crazy Ukraniains out west, I learned how to make a holiday last. Ya know, those 12 days of Christmas only start at Christmas.

Alpha Dogma said...

Oooh. I'm screwed. I took the tree down January 1. Usually I only manage the tree til December 31, but this year I held out a whole extra day. I am a horrible mom.