Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, from the Grinch!

Well, it’s Christmas time, and that means many, many things.

First of all, it’s a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, one of the most pivotal religious moments in human history (the Creation, the Exodus of the Jews, and the Death and Resurrection of Christ also being on the list. Possibly the 95 Theses of Martin Luther should rate a mention. Try as I might, though, the release of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on DVD doesn’t quite rank up there). I’m not sure why nobody thinks it odd we celebrate what was almost certainly a springtime or summertime event at the winter solstice, but once a tradition starts, changing it is nigh on to impossible.

Most of the Christmas traditions are very meaningless to me. But the Christmas Hymns are very precious to me (most of them. The one about seeing three ships doesn’t do much for me. Nor the one about playing the oboe and bagpipes merrily. And the one about the little drummer boy – where exactly in the Bible does that come from, again?). I love “O Holy Night,” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice.” There are very few Christmas hymns that I haven’t arranged for choir at some point in my musical career. I’m not saying I arranged them well, or that I don’t have a special level in hell reserved waiting for me for what I did to those holy songs… But it was very enjoyable.

This is the second year I haven’t been involved with a church choir. I began singing Christmas music in the Youth Choir of the First Baptist Church of Pleasanton in my teenage years. Then I was church pianist at various churches, and then for a few years I was Choir Director of the First United Methodist Church of Pleasanton. During that time, I wrote my own cantatas. I still miss that. Months of preparation, writing, rehearsing… By December, it would always seem hopeless, but somehow, it always worked on the day of the cantata. And no nervous breakdown was ever necessary. Though it got close.

Christmas lights never really excited me. My mom would go nuts for them – she loved to go to places with a lot of them, and just drive up and down the streets. I know a lot of people like that, but again – nothing for me. They’re just lights. I’m thinking “You want lights? I live in Vegas, baby! I’ll show you lights!” Not that anyone ever asks me whether I want lights. But if they did, I’ve got an answer! I do like candlelight, but for some reason, people don’t put candles all over their houses and trees.

I’m not much for the gift giving. I think there are two reasons for this. First of all, I think I’m a hard person to shop for. Most of the time, I either get gift certificates, or a present that I smile, nod, thank them for, and think “What in the hell am I going to do with this?” Also, I’m not good at shopping for other people. Most of the stuff that I know people want, I know they want it because either they bought it already, or because they’ve told me they want it but can’t afford it. And if they can’t afford it, I probably can’t, either. (Yeah, the truth comes out – I’m a cheap bastard! What do you mean, “tell me something I don’t already know…”?) This year, I was going to buy everybody box sets of “Firefly” and “Serenity.” Not because they wanted it, just because I think everybody should see it. But then, being rather broke precludes that. Much to the delight of the people I was going to foist said DVDs upon, I imagine.

I hate most of the secular holiday music. It’s not that they’re bad songs (though most of them are), it’s that they’re played over and over and over and over again for a solid month. Even beautiful ones like “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire)” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas” lose their sentimental meaning after the millionth time hearing the Muzak rendition.

I hate the crowds. Shopping for food (which is the only type of shopping I can stand to do during this month) is a pain. Everybody is in a bad mood, people are inexcusably rude (and then they’ll mutter “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” like it’s a curse), the lines are terrible, there’s no parking… Not fun at all. If they were all naked, it might be more interesting. Not necessarily more appealing, considering who does most of the shopping. But I imagine it’d be a lot less rude. And I’d take a lot more girls Christmas shopping, too.

I did love the family getting together (different topic – nothing to do with nudity – not an Arkansas family). I loved the meals. To me, there’s something very social about eating together. If I ever have a family, we’re going to eat supper together (prepared by my master Chef, Andre. Hey, when I dream, I dream big!). It’s a very bonding experience, and I think the few people who grew up with that tradition will agree. And having the extended family over at my Grandma’s, all eating, joking, laughing, snarking… I’d play on her piano, the kids would play video games. It made the Holidays a very warm and fuzzy time.

Perhaps the warmth and fuzziness is why I hate this season so much. The original meaning, the celebration of the birth of Christ… A very dim thing, lost in the madness. Instead, it’s about a frenzied mass of buying. It’s about strange traditions, songs and tales, involving fat men in chimneys and reindeer with phosphorescent noses. And most of all, it’s a time to repeat over and over again how great it is to be with your family, and with your loved ones, and to be with the one you love… Everywhere, over and over, that’s the message.

I don’t get to be with my family this Christmas. I didn’t get to be with them last one, either. I don’t know if I’ll get to be with them next one. Even if I wasn’t living in another state, we don’t have a big get-together since my Grandma passed away. I could go visit my mom in Texas, my dad in Missouri, my brother in Colorado… That’s if I could get off of work, which isn’t always possible.

And I’m okay with this. What sucks is the non-stop barrage of people asking “well, you’ll be with your family at Christmas, right?” or “You DO have somebody special to spend Christmas with, right?” And these questions are always accompanied with pitying looks when I respond in the negative. Why am I supposed to miss them more now than the rest of the year? What makes this a more special time to feel warm and fuzzy? I don’t get it.

I wouldn’t mind having someone to go the candlelight Christmas Eve service at church. I’d love to go caroling with family. But other than that, it just feels like any other time of the year, except that I’m surrounded by grouchy and rapidly-going-into-debt people who look upon me with pity because I’m doing what they do.

So, I guess…

Merry Christmas, from the Grinch!

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