Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Angst. And, The Christmas List

Laura and I are having yet another busy Christmas season. I know this is nothing special. Absolutely everyone everywhere is having a busy holiday this year. But we're both having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. I've been trying to figure out what the difference is, but I'm having no luck. But this is definitely the least holiday-like holiday season I can remember. Neither of us is Christian, but we've always enjoyed celebrating Christmas. For one thing, it's really an adopted pagan celebration anyway. For another, it's been at least a decade since Christmas was a religious holiday in a practical sense, given that the focus of the modern holiday is only mildly about celebrating Christ's birth.

I had an amusing conversation with a Jewish friend a few weeks ago. We were talking about decorating for the holidays, and he railed about the commercialization of Hanukah -- that it wasn't really an important holiday, but is being celebrated as a huge feast because of its proximity to Christmas; that it's overly commercialized; that the true meaning of the festival has been lost behind the trappings. I said, "join the club!" I told him that I had heard the same complaints about Christmas for my entire life. It's strangely comforting to know the commercial influence is spreading even to non-Christians.

We're also undecided about what to call the season and which holiday greeting to use. "Happy Holidays!" seems too inoffensive and generic; "Merry Christmas!" is a little too Christian for devout heathens like us; "Merry Solstice!", while most accurately capturing our feelings, is a bit too in-your-face and confrontational (the purpose of a greeting being, after all, to greet someone, not to alienate people or start an argument); and "Happy ChristmaKwanzAnukah*" seems too cute.

I should mention that Non-Zero Chance makes shirts that express our feelings about Christmas: one for me, the science nerd, that says, "Axial tilt is the reason for the season" and one for Laura, the pagan, that says, "Co-opted pagan rituals are the reason for the season". We don't actually own the shirts, but they'd be perfect for us if we ever wore T-shirts.

And, I've had a few requests for a Christmas list, so people have some vague idea what to buy me; apparently I'm difficult to buy for. Like last year, I've got a very boring wish list. I'm a tightwad at heart, so I have trouble buying things for myself -- even if it's stuff I really need. I've needed new glasses for probably two years, but I'm keeping these until they break. It's a big expense, so I'm putting it off until it's necessary. Likewise with my car tires. I get out the bicycle pump and put air in my two front tires every few days because I'm too cheap to buy new tires. They're safe, they're just trouble. As soon as they become unsafe I'll replace them, but mere inconvenience isn't enough to justify the money. So with that in mind, my Christmas list consists entirely of things I know I won't get (like a MacBook or a new car), and things I need that I'm too cheap to buy myself (socks, work pants, tennis shoes). And my deal from previous years still stands: if you give me interesting baking supplies, I'll share the finished baked goods with you. Last year I got chocolate swirl chips and Andes mint chips. This year Hershey's is selling designer chocolate chips, hint hint.

*BTW, the holiday of ChristmaKwanzAnukah is credited to my brother Mike, who coined the phrase a few years ago. He's too clever by half. :-)

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