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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Christmas: the illness

No, I don't mean Covid. I mean Christmas itself AS an illness, a mental illness. 

For years between the 70's and 80's, my parents would take the whole family to Lincoln Center in NYC to see The Nutcracker. Now I love classical music but tend to prefer opera to ballet. Still, as saccharin as Tchiakovsky's holiday romp is, it is as forgivable as opting for slightly sweeter cocktails around the tree. But there's still a difference between being an adult and enjoying a seasonal cookie with some extra sugar sprinkled on top and opting instead for a cupful of sugar with a couple of cookie crumbs on top. One is an indulgence, the other is a sign of a problem.

The Christmas Party scene at the beginning of The Nutcracker.

The ballet begins with a magnificent Christmas party, which also reeked for me a bit too much of disproportionate wealth....(but let's not get distracted with class wars for now, LOL).....but whose decor, while lush, was decidedly adult. When the children enter, they are still awed by the magnificence of it all. The children are AT the party, but it is still an ADULT party. And while the adults indulge in some seasonal fun, they remain adults. I see this as normal. 

What I have seen for a long time now is another symptom of our society's juvenilization (something I have written about before). It seems to me that too many adults see Christmas not merely as an opportunity to celebrate, but to age regress. Just look at the popularity of inflatable lawn decorations. 

I tend to doubt that a kid lifted his dad's credit card to order this......but that at least would explain it. 

I love to decorate. I love celebrating. And while I may not be the biggest fan of Christmas due to too many years in retail, I can still muster enough spirit to enjoy it.....or at least make the best of it. But, while I may overindulge in food or drink to a degree....I do so AS AN ADULT. I don't need Christmas to be a holiday scripted by Hallmark and produced by Disney. 

Even religious advocates are a bit guilty, despite their seemingly anti-commercial stance. The modern interpretation of the proposed birth of a god on earth is equally juvenile. It's not theology as much as a comforting fairytale. Religion in general has been accused of the same juvenilization that I see in other areas of society ( See link on the juvenilization of religion) And if you want to take a misinterpretation of a supposedly significant event in Christianity and juvenilize it even further, how about this?

Juvenilization is not the only illness that Christmas illustrates. There's also the excess of adults behaving like greedy children with their Christmas wish lists. Men behaving like underage brats wanting more and more and more. Women acting like spoiled little princesses. How are their kids ever going to learn moderation? Christmas is famous for prompting high hopes and then even if achieved, resulting in a depression when the "gift high" doesn't last.

Piles of excess gifts are not the only symptoms of illness though. Excess decorations have always triggered a dual reaction in me. One is the initial shock, disbelief, and amusement of overdone decorations. But before the smile fades from my face, I am also hit with a feeling that perhaps what I'm snickering at is not merely bad taste......but a problem. (And then I feel a little when a mishap initially triggers a laugh and then makes you think: oh shit, I think that person just got injured.)

Christmas spirit, or a cry for help?

And to conclude, here's a combination of both juvenilization AND excess. 
"Dude, spend less on another inflatable, and use the money for a good therapist."


  1. The excess Christmas gifts have been a bone of contention between me and Anne for years. Her response is that a lot of it is clothing, which we would need to buy anyway. But, that doesn't explain all of it. There have been years when I thought the number of presents under the tree in poor taste and very unnecessary.

    And, if I can add one peeve to your list -- gift cards. What the hell is the point of people giving each other gift cards. It's like us each taking a $20 out of our wallets and exchanging the bills with each other.

    1. The excess is often a sign that people are compensating for something else. Or it's guilt. Or maybe even some outward sign of something they feel needs to be backed up with proof in material form? It may come from a good place filled with the best of intentions or be rooted in simple greed. But whatever motivates it, it is not entirely healthy in and of itself.

      Now, as to gift cards? I think I might be able to offer an explanation and maybe even change your mind. (Actually I think if you were someone with me on your gift list, you'd need no convincing. You'd embrace gift cards as a godsend. LOL) Our household and extended family are huge fans of the gift card and here's why: none of us are well off. I believe my daughter and Ana might well be one day, but not now. I certainly am not and yet I tend to like things of a certain value. I don't spend a lot on myself through the year but when I do want something, it is probably inexpensive and I just get it. I think of a 'gift' as something special.....not something I can just get all the time for myself. But special things come with a special price tag, so if 5 family members each give me a modest gift card to somewhere I like, I can add them together and get myself something I never would buy myself. And as a result I am thrilled to get them! I also enjoy eBay very much but items there come and go. I truly love knowing I can go hunting through the year and get something because I have a gift card sitting in a drawer to either pay for it or at least knock a chunk off the total. And my family is very much the same. They all have quirky tastes and subjecting someone else to find the perfect item seems cruel to us. So? Just get us a gift card. We'll love it. And lastly for me in particular I have the unfortunate luck to have both my birthday and Christmas in the same month......and I'm not a cold weather person. Things I would really like would be easier to get in the warmer months. So a gift card lets me do that.

      And given how I am, like I said, if you had to buy for me? Dude, you'd run to the gift card kiosk! LOL

    2. For me, I think part of the issue is that I am more well off than my parents, siblings and extended family, so when I *get* a gift card from them, I feel like they are giving me money even though I really have more money than them. On the other hand, when I can't find a gift that seems to really fit the receiver in some way, I feel like a personal failure; like I didn't put in enough effort to find something they would really like.

    3. I can see how finances coupled with a "personal challenge" philosophy would lead to the way you feel. Makes sense. Hopefully though my explanation made the practice more understandable in terms of how others might feel. I read it to Rosa and she agreed with my explanation.

  2. I have had a $50 gift card for the Cheesecake Factory in my wallet for at least five years. It's probably expired, which from my understanding is what happens to a significant portion of gift cards. So ...

    1. Interesting. Rosa and I are not big fans of Cheesecake Factory, but if we had a $50 gift card for it, we would have definitely gone (pre-Covid)......and probably invited a couple we know who loves the place. Come to think of it, we did get one of those once, and we did go.

      I guess the gift card issue is very personal and individual.