Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas
One of the really annoying parts of the War on Christmas season in the information age is the lists. Now, I love a good list. I have my list of favorite songs, favorite bands, favorite beers, favorite books, and any number of other things that I could rattle off if you cared to hear them. But you don’t, so I won’t. So lists in and of themselves aren’t so bad. But at Christmas time we get the dumb lists. Case in point, this list of things guys want I found over at Yahoo. Now, they had an extremely scientific method of having a bunch of random guys say what they really wanted, then extrapolated from that a list of random items based on the desires of these guys. So let’s take a look at what I, as a guy, apparently want for Christmas: Nike Air Pegasus +26 ID Running Shoes: I already own shoes, thanks… Xbox 360: Seriously? I bought my 360 a year and a half ago and was already a late adopter. Who doesn’t own an Xbox 360 and actually wants to play console games? Oakley Battalion Ski Jacket: I already own a winter coat, thanks. I bought it in August. Funny story: two months after buying a brand new winter coat in preparation for another Chicago winter I found out my job was being moved to Dallas. That’s some irony right there. I mean, yeah, it’s “rain on your wedding day” irony, not real irony, but, um, shut up! iPod Touch: Hell, no. Gucci by Gucci Cologne: I don’t wear cologne more than twice a year. Don’t likethe stuff, don’t want the stuff, don’t care if it smells of patchouli or pepparoni. Although, to be fair, this stuff seems to contain the essence of bergamot, which is what gives Earl Grey Tea its scent. And I think I would wear Earl Grey as a fragrance. So I guess the lesson here is that I’m insane. Kindle Wireless Reading Device: You know what’s better than Kindles? Books. With paper. That don’t need batteries. GAP Loose-Fit Jeans Vintage Wash: I wear jeans I buy at Meijer for $13. I don’t much care for designer anything. Or GAP anything. I, um, I do most of my clothes shopping at Kohl’s or Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers shows. In a completely unrelated story, I’m single. Stub Hub Gift Card: Eh, I’ll let this one slide. iPhone 3GS: You buy me an iPhone and I cut you. I cut you so bad you wish you hadn’t been cut so bad. Best Buy Gift Card: I’ll let this one slide, too. Mizuno MX-700: I don’t golf. On the rare occasions I do I use my old set of hand me down clubs. Anything else is a waste of money. Aqua Di Gio: Yay. More cologne. Note the lack of exclamation points. There’s a reason. The thing is that there’s nothing at all wrong with the things on this list. For the people who were asked for their opinions. My Christmas list? Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 for the Xbox 360, this deeply, deeply awesome shirt, and some form of gift card action so I can get patio furniture and a grill when I head south. And I’m not exactly expecting anyone to give me enough to buy an entire grill. I just ran out of ideas, but remembered I’d just traded in a crapload of rewards points from my debit card for a Lowe’s gift card with that purchase in mind. Also, you could spend less than a hundred bucks on me this Christmas and I’d be happy as a clam. Kindles, iPod Touches, and iPhones approach $300, as does that golf club. I could buy four pairs of my awesome Falls Creek jeans from Meijer for $2 less than those GAP jeans. There’s nothing personalized in that Yahoo list. And I’m only singling it out because it’s the one I happened to be reading when I decided to bitch about this. There are hundreds of other lists just like it out there on the interwebs, all purporting to help you shop for your loved ones. But the thing is, your loved ones probably don’t like the same things that the people who make those lists do. You’d have a 1/6 chance of getting something I’d find useful and a 1/12 chance of getting something I already own if you went off that list while shopping for me. You’d also save yourself a lot of money if you just got me what I wanted instead of an iPhone 3GS. It’s stupid. Fortunately the folks behind the War on the War on Christmas are here to remind us that it’s possible to make things even dumber. That’s right. It’s the CHRIST-mas tree. I’m sure many of you saw it on Colbert last night. This is what I like to call “symbolism for the sake of symbolism.” It’s like that time some people in Aurora, IL wanted to protest Planned Parenthood by marching around the new branch office seven times. Like Jericho. But when the town authorities wouldn’t let them they had seven different groups march around it once. Like Jericho. The CHRIST-mas tree is even more ridiculous. But let’s allow it’s creator to speak for himself: "When I became a Christian a few years ago," says Boggs, "I was appalled by the secularization of the Christmas holiday. When retail stores started substituting 'Happy Holidays' for 'Merry Christmas,' and schools began calling their Christmas programs 'Winter Plays,' it all seemed ridiculous to me. That's why we have created products that remind people what the Christmas season is really all about - the birth of Christ." Oddly enough, we have products that remind people what the Christmas season is “really” all about. They’re called Nativity Scenes. Because, y’know, the Christmas season is all about the birth of Christ. Not the death of Christ. There’s a totally different holiday for that. It’s called Good Friday and it often does contain crosses. But take all of that away for the moment. Christmas isn’t really all about the birth of Christ. For some it is. For some it’s about bringing the family together. For some it’s about taking toys from all the Whos down in Whoville. For some it’s about making as much money as possible through over commercialization. And for some it’s about scoring cheap political points against their enemies in the name of their particular faction. The fact is that if my neighbor wants to buy a CHRIST-mas tree and set it up in his living room I can do nothing to stop him. I wouldn’t do anything to stop him. I’d probably laugh at him and say, “Hey, look at the stupid fucking tree that guy put up,” but it’s his right to set a dumb symbol up for the sake of some sort of symbolism he thinks of as being deep and meaningful. Christmas, the War on Christmas, and the War on the War on Christmas are completely overblown. I mean, yeah, it’s fun and all when random shit like the CHRIST-mas tree comes out, but people seem to think that it all really matters. We’re told that atheists shouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas because it’s a Christian holiday. We’re then reminded that Christians stole Christmas from earlier traditions and that they have no more right to December 25th than anyone else does. But the fact is that those arguments miss the point. Atheists or people from non-Christian faiths who picked up Christmas as a tradition will (and should be able to) celebrate a holiday on December 25th. Christians will (and should be able to) celebrate the birth of their savior. And everyone can make of the holiday what they wish. The simple fact is that the beginning of winter when the days get short and air gets cold is the ideal time for a celebration of life and light and to be reminded of the things that matter most. And those Christian and non-Christian remembrances probably all look pretty much the same. Families gather together and count their blessings and hope for a good year to come. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus, Santa, or Mithras is involved. Gods, fairy tales, and mythological figures -- and, hell, those $300 electronic doodads wrapped all in red paper -- tend to take a back seat to the real people sitting across the table. Which is exactly how things should be.