by Jim Harris
Attention citizens. This is a code yellow alert. It is now safe to leave your homes. Christmas has come and gone. The non-stop playing of Christmas music in public places has ceased, and no one has been seen wearing a Santa hat in the last 24 hours. Please proceed with caution, as there may still be some minor fallout, such as dazzling lights and overly cheery shopkeepers, for the next several days.
I offer this warning as a public service to other mature adults like myself for whom the Christmas season is a time of painful trauma. And by painful, I mean somebody else’s pain, not mine. Because sooner or later, all the hype and hoopla is going to drive this Scrooge over the edge, and I may kick someone. I have already forewarned my team of lawyers to use the “Tinsel Defense,” claiming that the ubiquitous gaudy ornaments made me temporarily insane.
The craziness starts right after Thanksgiving. All the stores begin playing an endless stream of bouncy Christmas songs. There’s no escape. I feel like I’m being stalked by Nat King Cole. I’m hit with “Holly Jolly Christmas” as I stumble into the Wawa at 7a.m. for a cup of coffee. And the worst part is, I start bouncing along with it. Somewhere deep in my European DNA is a gene that makes it impossible for me to resist a jaunty two-step. One day last week I spontaneously broke into a full-blown tap dance routine in the Acme in Flourtown. It was humiliating.
The Christmas album, much like the elephant graveyard, is a legendary place where singers instinctively direct themselves when they sense that their careers are dying. Once there, they vanish from the limelight and are thankfully never heard from again, but their horrid Christmas offerings live on. They leave behind monstrosities like “Rudy the Red-Beaked Reindeer,” by Dean Martin, or “Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas,” by John Denver.
Even non-singers (and some non-humans!) are lured into making holiday recordings because of the virtual immortality of the genre. A few such shameless, tone-deaf opportunists include Colonel Sanders, Sponge Bob, Roseanne Barr and the entire Brady Bunch. And then there’s the whole gift-giving business.
After a long lifetime of giving and receiving Christmas presents, I’ve become profoundly weary of the whole useless activity. Not to mention, I’m surviving on a limited income these days. By late November, I realized that I was in danger of going over “The Yuletide Cliff.” That’s the point where the demands to reciprocate for gifts coming in exceed one’s ability to adequately respond.
So I tried to discourage my friends and family from gifting me. I told them I had become a monk and had taken a vow of poverty. Still the gifts came in. I tried sending them Christmas cards containing pictures of me smashing previously-received presents with a baseball bat, or feeding gifted fruitcakes to my dog. Still, new presents arrived.
I tried sending their own presents back to them. They sent them back to me. In desperation, I sent them pictures of me hiding in the bushes outside of their houses, wearing a tee shirt that said “I Hate You!” All to no avail. As I have learned, there is really no way to stop a confirmed Christmas-holic from mailing you unsolicited merchandise, no matter what you do. They are just too high on holiday cheer to behave rationally.
Some will try to justify the gift-giving part of Christmas by saying, “It’s for the kids. They love it!” Oh, I see, it’s not enough to house, clothe, feed, educate, protect and raise our kids for 20-plus years; we also have to grant them a special season for their primal greed to run wild. Of course they love Christmas — for the same reason your pets love YOU — because they get fed! We pry open their little beaks and shovel tons of toys down their gullets. What’s not to love?
Okay, I’m getting myself all worked up here. I need to calm down, put on the radio and relax. Oh no, is that Nat King Cole?