21 December 2007

Merry Humbug - sort of...

Christmas... The time of year where merchants lick their collective lips at the chance to go into the black for the entire year, people hang lights - some gaudy and over-the-top, some tasteful - around their houses and yards, little plastic statues standing in the middle of the lawn become acceptable decoration, and for some reason, a big fat guy in red gives presents to people who celebrate the birth of a guy supposedly born 2000+ years ago. Personally, I really do find the whole ritual disturbing. I can understand if you celebrate the religious aspects of it but the rest of it seems outlandish to me. How on earth do celebrating the birth of your lord and decorating a pine tree with glass balls relate? The history about it is, well, history and you can read about it if you want. I'm sure Wikipedia has a bunch of topics on it but what I really want to talk about is me. Me, myself, and I... and how the three of us feel about this "holiday" plus some other stuff.

I despise this "holiday". Yes, you read it correctly. I DESPISE this "holiday". My feelings are partially based on the fact that I am not a follower of any of the religions that celebrate this "holiday" but it also goes beyond that. I hate how something that is supposed to be a religious celebration has turned into a marketing frenzy without any means of avoiding it. It bothers me that advertisements and public decorations with Christmas themes show up before Halloween, and ESPECIALLY before Thanksgiving, a NATIONAL holiday. I know what you're going to say (at least those who know me best do): How can someone who is studying marketing hate this "holiday"? I'll tell you. I HAVE PRINCIPLES. One of which is to respect other people's religious beliefs. By using someone's religious beliefs to influence their purchasing is deplorable. If you don't think so, reexamine your logic. It's pandering at its best and blasphemy (if you are a believer of that religion) at its worst.

You'd think that out here in the heart of the Islamic world, I'd be free of it but you'd be wrong. It's everywhere. Well, everywhere ON base. Off base, with the local population, you don't see this at all which, surprisingly, makes me more comfortable these days. Stars and Stripes, the newspaper we get out here, prints advertisements from companies hoping to sell their wares during this "holiday" season.... Since when did a holiDAY become a season??? We'll leave that one for another rant... Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah... Not only does the newspaper print ads but the exchanges on post have decorations put up. It's enough to make me a little sick. If I didn't love the Red Bull Slushies so much, I'd be tempted not to frequent the exchange during this time of year.

I know it's supposed to make the soldiers feel more at home but it really just irks me. With every blink of those gaudy little lights, with every jingle of every little bell, with every movie about Christmas on television, my heart rate quickens and I search for a place to hide until December 26th when it's all over.

I don't know whether it's the forced exposure to it, especially as someone who doesn't follow those religious beliefs, or what but I actually dread December. I used to LOVE December because it meant snow, skiing, and time off from school. Now I relish the time after December more. For one, the days start to get longer and colder, more snow falls, and this year I come home for R&R after December, all the more reason to be excited for January. Also, the Dee-dee-deedle-ee's (as my grandfather calls them) are 12 months away, not even on the horizon. Another year of Christmas free days and reality before it happens all over again.

The people out here who I interact with regularly all seem to be keeping away from Christmas talk but as a collective, the military tends to treat this "holiday" as the most effective day for improving morale. In that regard, you can understand their reasoning. Something like 95% or more of the military (don't quote me, it's just a guess based off my experiences) is Christian and Christmas is traditionally, one of the two most sentimental holidays for American Christians - Thanksgiving being the other. It's a time when families tend to gather and spend some real quality time together. When you're out here away from your family, this time of year can be very tough emotionally. Suicide rates are highest around now and leaders are especially vigilant for signs from their troops. So what does the military do? They try to give everyone something from home to hold on to in order to boost spirits. This is where Christmas comes in. It's a valiant effort for sure. Sometimes, it's just what a soldier needs to keep going and sometimes it's too little too late.

What does it do for me? Bubkus. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Nothing... well, nothing positive. This isn't a traditionally sentimental time for me. Yes, I have a lot of fond memories from my childhood during this time of year but they didn't revolve much around this celebration. If these memories happened in February instead of December, I'm sure the differences would be transparent and nothing would be lost from my psyche.

For those of you who celebrate the holiday, I hope it is a joyous occasion. For the rest of us, have some scallion pancakes for me. I'm not going to make it this year. And for the most important person to me,


See you in 3 weeks!


terp330 said...

Nice rant!Typical Vermont Christmas -- RAIN!

Noreen said...

I could not have said it better! This coming from a Catholic Italian. December really is the worst. Wait, make that October when all the decorations start appearing in the stores and the anxiety begins! Bah-humbug!!

God Bless you,
Noreen from Bill's office

PS: You are a terrific writer! I enjoy your blog very much.