Satire Non-Fiction posted December 12, 2011

This work has reached the exceptional level
No, Scrooge did NOT help me write this...

The Ghost Of Christmas Overhauled

by another jim

I love the Christmas holiday—the one I celebrated as a kid, not the one that currently haunts my dreams like Freddie Krueger in a blood-spattered beard and Santa suit. I swear, what used to be my favorite time of the year has morphed into something I no longer recognize, even on my good days.

Like most sensible people, I've gotten sick of listening to "Little Drummer Boy" at Walgreen's while waiting in line to pay for my Halloween candy. Landing a decent Christmas tree? Fahgeddaboudit. All the good ones will be snatched up before the World Series starts. And in case you haven't noticed, that out-of-control shopping day after Thanksgiving is what everyone's dreaming of now; I guess you could say Black Friday is the new White Christmas.

The straw that broke the reindeer's back was when I tried to buy some five-watt bulbs for the lighted candles I display in my windows each year. You know the ones: they give off this pleasant incandescence—as they should, since they're called incandescent bulbs. That's right. I'm a desperate scofflaw who doesn't give a damn about the environment, as evidenced by my preference for the warm glow of a tungsten filament over the ice-cold sterility of light emitting diodes, or LEDs as they're known among the tree-huggers.

Anyhow, when I asked the pimple-faced cretin behind the counter at Harold's Hardware for some help... Well, here's the gist of our conversation; you be the judge.

Me: Got any incandescent Christmas bulbs?

Kid Behind Counter: [blank stare]

Me: Christmas lights. Got any?

KBC: It's almost Christmas, duh, so yeah, we got Christmas lights.

Me: Don't get smart with me. Where are they?

KBC: Where are who?

Me: The Christmas lights, goddamn it!

KBC: The Christmas lights...

Me: Listen, you little shit—

KBC: You kiss your wife with that mouth, mister?

Long story short, I ended up at Home Depot, where—Surprise!—I discovered what had to be the largest cache of LED candles in the Western Hemisphere. The ones on display gave off this other-worldly blue-white light; when I made the mistake of staring directly at them, my retinas were quickly and efficiently burned to a crisp. Good thing the help at Home Depot is more competent than what Harold's had to offer, because I needed assistance finding my way back to my car.

I did stop at Harold's on my way home and bought a fire extinguisher, though, because we'll be using real candles in the windows this year, thank you.

My point, if there is one, is that Christmas needs a major overhaul. So, at the risk of offending everyone I know, and with no regard for your political leanings, religious beliefs, or musical preferences, I'd like to share my five-point plan for restoring sanity during the Christmas holidays.

Point One: Giving Trumps Getting Every Time

Christmas—or more specifically, the gift-giving associated with it—is for kids, whom I define as anyone under the age of sixteen. Sorry. If you're old enough to drive a car, be tried for a crime as an adult, and (in some states at least) marry your first cousin, then you're also old enough to earn money and buy your own damned stuff. Do you think your elders enjoy standing in line at the Apple store, waiting to buy you some overpriced piece of technocrap that you don't need in the first place? Well OMG! They don't.

So attention all grownups (as defined above): No more asking for presents. If someone gives you one based on the ridiculous notion that generosity and mindless gift-giving are synonymous, you have two choices: Give it back, or donate its cash equivalent to a family in your neighborhood that's lacking life's basic necessities. Look around—they're pretty easy to find nowadays.

Point Two: Let's Keep the 'X' in Xmas

Listen up, all you put-upon Christians who are feeling persecuted because your local government won't allow you to display a living crèche on the front lawn of city hall: This is America, a nation of laws—and the biggest law of them all, the U.S. Constitution, frowns on state-sponsored religion. On the other hand, our laws allow you to freely express your religious beliefs nearly everywhere else, which includes your own front lawn. Why isn't that enough for some of you? Maybe you don't like mopping up after the camels and donkeys. Is that it?

No Christmas carols exalting the birth of your Savior in your child's public school holiday recital? Tough noogies! Not everyone who chips in tax dollars to pay for their kids' education wants to subsidize a platform expressing someone else's religious dogma.

Keep in mind that freedom from religion carries just as much weight in this country as the freedom to worship as we please. My advice to anyone who struggles with this fact? Check out the track records of some of the world's great theocracies, and rejoice in the choice...

Point Three: Let's Keep the 'Merry Christmas' in Merry Christmas

Listen up, all you politically correct, empty-headed, secular curmudgeons: If I wish you a Merry Christmas, try not to take it personally, okay? I'm not trying to convert you, or help you find Jesus (he's over in the produce section, if you're interested), or score brownie points with The Almighty at your expense. I can't speak for everyone, of course, but for me it's nothing more than a simple expression of good will...kind of like Happy Hanukkah (if I were Jewish, which I'm not), or Happy Kwanzaa (if I were African-American, which I'm not), or Happy Halloween (if I were pagan and this were October, which I'm not and it isn't).

If you prefer to wish everyone a Happy Holiday instead, knock yourself out; that's your prerogative and nobody should care one way or the other. But please, don't take offense when I exercise my right to free speech during these weeks leading up to the holiday...oops, I mean Christmas. Or Hanukkah, if I were Jewish. Or Kwanzaa, if I were African-American.

In the same vein, if that store clerk acknowledges your "Merry Christmas" with a "Happy Holidays", please don't assume an insult where none exists. He or she probably just works for a politically correct, empty-headed, secular curmudgeon of a store owner.

Point Four: Do You Hear What I Hear?

If you do then you're probably as pissed off as me, because Christmas carols and fireworks in July just don't mix. Fine, I'm exaggerating (sort of); but can't we save the Christmas music for, oh, I don't know...Christmas, perhaps?

We have dueling FM radio stations in our area. This year they did battle over the bragging rights for who could play the most Christmas music the soonest. It was a tie: These assholes began spinning their holiday disks at 12:01 a.m. on All Saints Day, also known as the day after Halloween. For the past six weeks, then, I've had access to the best variety of holiday classics (their words, not mine) twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Lucky me.

The discount stores and supermarkets are no better. Something's definitely amiss when "Frosty the Snowman" plays in the background while I'm shopping for sunscreen. And hearing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" on the PA system while purchasing grass seed? Strange, yes, but not as disconcerting as listening to "Sleigh Ride" while I pull out of the parking lot in my convertible.

How bad has it gotten? I made the mistake of asking my wife's family if they'd like me to put on a little Christmas music during Thanksgiving dinner. They threatened to get up and walk out if I did, so I offered them an antidote to what they'd been listening to for the past few weeks. And it's funny, because I didn't think my mother-in-law would care that much for Marilyn Manson. Go figure, huh?

We don't hear "Easter Parade" in December. Why should we hear "The First Noel" in August?

Point Five: Ecologically Unfriendly and Kinda Stupid

My parents wrote down the name and address of every person they ever met over the course of their lives. This impressive thirty-page compilation, scribbled on odd pieces of notebook paper and held together with a rusty paper clip, doubled as their Annual Christmas Card List. My job, when I became old enough to read, was to scan the newspaper obituaries, seeking matches among the names; a match led to a scratch-off and subsequent shortening of The List. Okay, I lied about that last part: There was no shortening of The List...because they kept adding names to it.

My older sister's job was even more daunting. She was in charge of checking the return addresses on all the Christmas cards my parents received. If any of their friends/family members/vague acquaintances moved, she would cross out the old address and enter the new one.

See, if I made a mistake, the worse that would happen is that some stiff would get a Christmas card from my family; but if my sister screwed up, and the card never made it to its intended recipient...well, that would cause said recipient to feel slighted enough to strike my parents' names from their list. Bad feelings ensued, and vague acquaintanceships were frequently terminated. Oh, the humanity...

I'm not saying my parents' mindless addiction to their habit made me the card-hating person I am today, but it surely helped. Beyond that, however, the wastefulness this quaint custom entails in terms of cost, landfill usage, and cruelty to trees makes my head spin like a dreidel. (Hey, maybe I am Jewish.) Thankfully, my wife feels exactly as I do about Christmas cards. Birthday cards, anniversary cards, and Valentines? Not so much.

I'll confess, I send out one Christmas card each year. It contains money and it's for Janine, the woman who delivers my daily newspaper. The Santa hat with reindeer antlers she wears at this time of the year, and the "Happy Holidays" scrawled in red ink across the front page of the Christmas Eve edition, identify her as an unabashed fan of Christmas. She also happens to be very good at what she does, and my sources tell me she's paid very little for doing it.

So yeah, Merry Christmas, Janine! And don't forget to recycle.

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Thanks for reading my (mostly) tongue-in-cheek essay! All of it's true, except the parts I made up...
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