Today the crush of human beings here seems to have decimated my focus. I keep looking up from my work to gaze at the throngs of people surging beneath me. There are so many people here today. I see familiar faces moving through the crowds here and there. More are unfamiliar. None familiar enough for me to break from my tasks.
What strikes me most is the apparent unhappiness of most everyone here. No one is smiling. The mall is full of impassive, bag toting zombies. This humongous space is almost completely devoid of laughter. Loud, but more of an angry buzz than a happy chatter. I see people carrying bright bags of what I assume are gifts, given the season. They spill over with ribbons and tissue paper. The most smiles I see dot the line to sit on Santa’s lap. Smiling expectant faces, waiting to see the big guy. Also irritated harried faces that want to hurry and get more shopping done. A few fearful faces worried about getting so close to that strange guy. A few more faces still young, but wizening to the truth about the jolly face behind the beard.
Tis’ the season, right?
I came up in a household that did not celebrate Christmas. I, somewhat ashamedly admit now, that when I was a child I was the slayer of Santa Claus for many elementary school aged children. I thought that they should be freed from the lies told them by the parents their whole lives. Curiously, none of them were as grateful as I expected them to be. Unless they were sobbing with gratitude. The truth is the truth and the truth is – There is no Santa Claus sucka’. You’re being lied to, bamboozled, hoodwinked! The man is keeping you down with the big lie. Naughty list indeed! I call bull-puckey on the naughty list. Show me my name! I mean, to kids, that is the big lie. What a revolution I wanted to lead. Kindergarteners for the Liberation from the List! KLL for short.
Even through all of that I was always slightly envious of what seemed to be the whole world’s happiness at Christmas. Most of the world seemed so brighten at Christmastime. I guess looking back on it that it might have just been that as I was surrounded by Children, most of the people in my life were free from the most stressful parts of the season. Gift giving had little or nothing to do with shopping and more to do with what crafts could be cobbled together from the stores of the art supplies at school.
“Oh, a macaroni sunset on blue construction paper, WITH cottonball clouds – thanks son. What a masterpiece?! Can never have too many of these!”
“Another ash tray, paper weight mug … thing! It wonderful baby! One day you’ll be rich turning these things out.”
Gift receiving on the other hand…
Relatives coming to stay were a welcome diversion. You got to see cousins you missed and had so much fun playing with. You didn’t have to worry about feeding more mouths or making a place for people to stay.
In that depressed coal dust saturated town, we kids never realized that most parents dug a pit of debt that it would take till just about next Christmastime to dig out of to make the holiday happen. They never grasped what they were truly being given. So they were happy. Parents worked and sweated and suffered and some fat dead guy got all of the credit.
Knowing the truth, I still used to dread that question, “What did you get for Christmas?” The heat of shame would flash under my collar immediately, creeping up my neck and across my face.
I always replied that I didn’t get anything because we didn’t celebrate, but that it didn’t matter to me because we got presents year round instead of just once a year. That was a lie, which I know was wrong, but it was the only way to avoid the gasps of shock and the pity that would come when I didn’t elaborate.
I didn’t want my parents to be looked at as bad parents, because they weren’t. “But don’t you miss Christmas?” – How do you miss something you never had?
Well, now that I’m all grown up, I see things a bit differently. First, I could care less about what most people think of what I do and don’t observe. I still don’t “celebrate” I suppose , but I do… participate. I’ll never put up a tree or decorate my house. I won’t go caroling (though I might from time to time be swept up into singing one of those catchy tunes that soak into the fabric of the society at this time) and I won’t be asking any kids what Santa’s bringing him/her this or any year.
I also won’t be ruining Christmas for anymore little kids or encouraging anyone else to do so. I don’t think parent should lie to their kids but it doesn’t involve me. (But really, wouldn’t you rather take the credit for all the work and money you spend. Wouldn’t you rather your kids fear your naughty or nice list?) I also will buy presents for my friends and loved ones that do celebrate. I don’t see the problem with putting a smile on their faces. I’m a great gift giver I think. I’ll even enjoy the presents I get! (PS3, PS3, PS3!)
This far along, there aren’t many people left that have the illusion that Jesus’ birthday was December 25. Some people know about the pagan origins surrounding the date and the way that it was chosen to placate Christians and ease the marrying of disparate religions and unite people. Long ago the reason for the season was one to celebrate the winter solstice and at least three pagan Gods. I’ll always be happy to have been on the leading edge of that knowledge. I think people should know the origins of what they do. They should understand to the best of their ability what they revere.
To me that makes it all about something else completely. To me it’s about people. The people I love. It’s time for me to demonstrate my love for them in some way. I guess how I do that depends on my situation. It could be the time I lavish them with presents and gifts thoughtfully and painstakingly selected. Mostly, it’s the time that I carve out time to spend with them and let them know face to face how much I care about them.
I’ll hope that the massive crush of people at the mall will as they walk from store to store searching for gifts to give, take a moment to think about the people they are shopping for. Not just about what they want, but about who they are shopping for, I mean the real person – the smiling face on the other side of the box. I hope they think about what it means that they are spending all of this time to pick something out for them. Man, how much love do you have to have for a person to fight these crowds. To get up at three o’clock in the morning to stand in line to buy a gadget for them. To save money all year to have that feeling wash over you when you hand them that pretty, bow topped package. I hope they realized that others are spending the same time thinking about them. Maybe if they do, they’ll have a reason to smile, because with all of the time and money spent, it really is the thought that counts.
Maybe they’ll take a few minutes and think that even though this might not be the Calendar day for it, the reason for all of this is because a long, long time ago, we were all given the most precious gift anyone could ever give.