Fair warning: I am sometimes accused of being a humbug, so if you come from happy Hallmark land where everything is cheery and bright, you're just reading the wrong damn blog, and that should have been obvious to you about six months ago and if you're still here you're either a masochist or a slow learner.
So, the holidays. How do you celebrate? It seems like most of the people I know, Jews and Christians alike, whip themselves into a consumerist frenzy, blowing ridiculous amounts of cash on gifts that symbolize a monetary ideal in a "can you believe I bought you this?" kind of way, not demonstrating a kind and generous spirit. People at shopping malls and Targets nationwide, in their zeal for grabbing bargains (that they still can't really afford), will thoughtlessly push strangers out of their way, ignoring their fellow man in service of the consumerist beast.
At the risk of blowing my image (such as it is) and coming off like a sincere person I have to say: the holidays is always a time when I seek quiet reflection and the company of friends. It's a major effort to get either. Why is that? Because we let ourselves get caught up in the holiday storm of all the obligations society tells us we need to fulfill: holiday parties, holiday dinners, holiday movies, holiday music, holiday shopping, etc.
Despite what I look like on the outside, or the date on my driver's license, I've still got a raging teen inside me, with all the anti-social tendencies that go along with that. When people tell me I have to do something, I take it as a personal challenge to prove them wrong. So when magazines, cards, tv commercials, and radio announcements all tell me I MUST be happy and buy something, my first reaction is to scream "Fuck you! And your little credit cards, too!"
I also don't subscribe to the "Pretend you're feeling happy to fit into society" method of getting through the holidays. The fact is that this time of year is difficult for me: work deadlines are crushing, school obligations with my kids are non-stop, other family pressures reach an all-time high. I'd like to kick back with a glass of wine and listen to the Messiah, I mean really listen, not just scan through to the hallelujah chorus, but there's very few moments for reflection and relaxation. That makes me a tad grumpy. If I see you at a party, I won't deliberately try to bum you out, but if you ask, I'll give you an honest answer.
Don't misunderstand. I like giving and receiving gifts (especially receiving), but that shouldn't be the center of anyone's world. At the end of the day, it's how you treat people all year long, not the guilt-ridden gift you lay on them in December, that is the foundation of a relationship. I'd rather have a little bit of your time than all your money. And if I give you some of my time, be aware that it's the most precious thing I have to offer.
I'm off now, for the holidays. I'm looking for a little peace and quiet and a bit of spiritual renewal. Celebrate the holidays in any way you see fit, but do it for your own reasons, not because some company is telling you to do it. Ho ho ho.