It seems like November 28 is my day to “do” Christmas. Facebook memories told me that last year and the year before, I DID Christmas. I woke up yesterday with the same urge and pushed until the packages were wrapped and the cards written, all the while telling Bear, “I hate this.”
Christmas always makes me feel like something is expected of me and I have to stop everything and DO Christmas. That’s a lifetime of training, childhood, of plane trips home, of this and that and the expectation that everything would change and presents and then? Dry pine needles all over the carpet and putting the lights back so they won’t tangle next year. I dunno… My Christmases as a single, family-less adult have been much better, sweeter, shorter, less predictable, but it is still something that has to be done.
I like Christmas cards, though. I saved that task as a reward for doing all the rest of it yesterday.
The reality of Christmas here is that it is Vvvvveeeerrrrrryyyyyy long. My friend’s boutique is the first weekend in November. The show at the museum happens at the end of November. The big (I use that term in a relative sense) parade is this coming weekend — the first weekend in December. Seriously by the time the actual DATE of Christmas rolls around I’m over it, or like, “What? You mean it hasn’t happened YET???”
I read a blog post last night about Black Friday and yeah, I don’t get it, either. My ONE experience with that nightmare was with the Evil X who was not one to layabout when there was money (mine) to spend. He decided he had to go to a particular (popular and immense) electronics store in San Diego on Black Friday. It was unreal. People were lined up for MILES to get into the store. I was a little happy (comparatively) to learn that it’s called Black Friday NOT because the forces of evil are making one last earnest attempt to capture souls, but because stores that have been in the red for months have a chance of operating in the black. It’s a major day for the US economy.
That’s sad. And I go back to my forces of evil comment. It’s not that no one needs to buy stuff or the sales aren’t good — I definitely benefited from them in my purchase of surfaces to paint on. But what’s the deal? What if prices were that low all the time? Would stores make money or lose it? I have no idea.
I had a little conversation with a friend recently about the question of wealth. He’s been out of work for a while (he has savings so it hasn’t killed him) and now he has a really good job that he likes. He was about to buy a computer. He asked me which one. I’m not the person to ask. I’ve been a Mac user since the 80s and while I’ve used PCs a lot, I am not likely to buy one. No special reason other than personal preference. “Buy the best you can afford.”
“But how do I know what I can afford?”
Then I tried explaining that the computer is REAL wealth while the money he buys it with is symbolic wealth and its value isn’t constant while the computer — as long as it works well — continues to have the same value over time. I told him I was exposed (??) exposed to that idea in my college ethics class. Our professor was an Anglican priest and one of our books was Alan Watts’ Does It Matter? I explained that idea was a major force in forming my adult values. I’m glad of that because I never went into a field that was going to bring in a lot of symbolic wealth!
So are all those rabid Black Friday sales an attempt by stores to be sure people have more REAL wealth in exchange for their symbolic wealth? I don’t know. I do know that people have bitched about the commercialization of Christmas at least since 1952 when I was born. And then they talk about the “true meaning of Christmas” as if that discussion would compensate for all the shopping? I don’t know or really care. For me Christmas is a quotation from the Bible that I’ve loved all my life and which (it seems) I did not properly understand until a few years ago — apparently. More on THAT to follow.
It’s a strange thing for a person who’s written four novels centered on Christianity that I’m not exactly a Christian. As Goethe said of himself, “I’m not anti-Christian, I’m not unChristian, I’m simply not Christian.” I’m just grateful that the people around me are OK with that. And why not? For the very reason I’m not sure about the quotation any more. It’s the scene (Luke 2:8…) where the shepherds are out there with their livestock guardian dogs and their sheep. The angels show up and scare the shit out of the shepherds, but it works out in the end. Here’s the King James Bible:
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
I read a newer version of this verse that implied that God’s gift was ONLY for the chosen people, not all men and, since I don’t have my fancy-schmancy English Hexapla (six translations of the Greek into English, headed by the Greek; greatest book of my life) any more (Ariel — my wolf dog — destroyed it when I was traveling and she was angry) I can’t check the Greek. Christian or not (in the normal sense) I love those shepherds and how they rushed over (with their sheep, of course) to check out the doings in Bethlehem. Really a peace offering from God is no small thing. And, I have chosen (since it seems people can change/reinterpret the meanings of words in the Bible at will) to believe that light in the darkness is offered to ALL people of goodwill. And why “people of goodwill”? Synonyms include compassion, kindness, openness to others. It’s not all that elitist, still, it’s elitist. The way I learned the verse was, “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.” I’m sticking with it.