I Hate Christmas*

Thanksgiving is next week, in case you didn’t realize that. Maybe you thought Christmas was coming any day now because the decorations and merchandise have been up in your local Target (or Wal-Mart, depending on your particular level of discount store snobbery – I’m Target all the way) for a month or so already.

Hell, I think I saw one kid dressed as Santa Claus for Halloween. Way to cut to the chase, slugger – have an extra handful of Smarties; nobody wants them anyway. Or maybe I just imagined it.

Trick or Treat!! Give us some figgy pudding!!

But you know what’s more annoying than three months of Christmas every year? Two months of listening to hilarious people blather and whine about how much earlier the Christmas decorations come out every year. Yeah? You noticed again this year? I can cut the irony with a butter knife. Mind if I spread some on my cinnamon toast? I had no idea that having to look at shiny red and green baubles was such a violent infringement on personal freedoms, but to hear some folks tell it, early-onset Christmas amounts to signs eight through 21 of the impending Apocalypse.

Allow me to divulge my dirty little secret. I love Christmas. I left Christianity behind a little while back, but I still look forward to the Christmas season every year. For me, Christmastime starts the day after Thanksgiving and lasts through about the evening of Christmas Day. And I do my best to savor every second of it.

I love the cheerful music, the colorful decorations, the shopping centers full of people – even if they’re not enjoying the Season as much as I am. I love Christmas in the movies. Bridget Jones’s Diary, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle; if you’ve got a romantic comedy, chances are you’ve got a Christmas scene or two (and Meg Ryan, apparently), and I dig all of it.

But it keeps slipping past me quicker and quicker each year, so if it comes a little early, I can handle it. I certainly won’t bitch about it.

It all goes back to my childhood. Christmas was a big deal in my family. My folks were Catholic, so the season started when the Advent Calendar went up and the first candle was lit at church. My parents had an old wooden console stereo with a cabinet in it full of LPs. Several of those LPs were Christmas collections. They had worn covers adorned with faded pictures of crooners like Frank Sinatra in heavy coats and top hats, braving the snow for an extra swig of Holiday cheer.

Christmas-themed coffee table books appeared in our living room, and a manger scene replete with baby Jesus came out of storage. As teens, Steve J and I slipped a small Elvis figurine into the manger scene to see how long it would take my mom to notice. It was days before she caught on, and when she did, he got to stay. He is the King, after all, so he belongs with the Three Kings and the King of Kings, right?

The house smelled of cookies as care packages from my grandmother arrived, and the scent of my mother’s mulled cider held sway from about mid-December on.

The Grinch was a fixture, as was the red-cheeked dude who rode up on the Norelco Razor snowmobile during the puppet-animated Rudolph special.

And what’s not to love about the music? Sure, the one with figgy pudding is a clunker that I’d like to never hear again, but even if it’s not your bag, how can you hate on songs with lyrics like, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and “it’s that time of year when the world falls in love”? I guess I’m just a romantic at heart, so it’s hard to fathom being upset by such positive sentiments. I might be the only person you know who has a favorite spiritual and secular Christmas song (“O Holy Night” and “The Christmas Waltz,” if you must know).

When I was a kid in school, Christmas break was two weeks, but here’s the thing: time CRAWLED by as I anticipated the arrival of that boundless joy on Christmas morning (my mother was generous with gifts, and kids like gifts – even those who know the Season is about more than that). Two weeks felt like about two years, and looking back it seems glorious. Two weeks can slip away from me in what feels like minutes now as adult responsibilities pile up and demand my attention. So, again, I just try to be in it and enjoy it when it gets here. And if it comes a bit early, I welcome that, too.

My wife has a good attitude about it. She thinks Christmas time feels just right. We decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving, and when Christmas day is over, she’s had her fill until next year. I can appreciate that point of view, but what I can’t appreciate is bitching about the coming of Christmas like it’s some sort of prison sentence. I can’t fathom people getting so upset about a celebration of Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Man.

Not many things are so good in life as those things that make you feel young again, and Christmas makes me feel young again every year. I suspect it makes a lot of other people feel similarly. So back off a bit, and let us have our fun, and we promise not to say a thing when you pull the barbecue out or hit the beach in early April.

Repeat the sounding joy, indeed. Repeat the sounding joy.

* As you might have noticed, the headline is a lie …