As I’ve advanced to a certain age in life, I’ve found the need to define within myself the kind of person I am, and choose to be, when fumbling through the holiday season. This time of year between Thanksgiving and January 1 provides copious opportunities to prove oneself as an arrant grouch with a distaste for brotherhood and festivity, or a lighthearted redeemer whose cup runneth over with merriment and charity. One must know where one stands on this continuum of holiday joy.
When confronted with Salvation Army supplicants jangling their bells outside the grocery store, do you scowl and push your way through as one of society’s extreme grouches? Do you smile humbly and politely before averting your eyes and dropping your head as you journey forth toward the automatic doors plastered with red candy canes and green mistletoe which you hope to god will open for one with such a piteous soul as yours, joining the middle-ground majority who endures such abasement one month out of twelve? Or are you among the charitable Messiahs who greet the bell-ringer with a smile, a handshake, and a hug; one of those gregarious redeemers who open their pockets in repentance for the rest of our selfish lot and reside at the extreme reveler end of the spectrum? Where do you stand?
How do you react when the woman rings up your groceries, a grandma with grey hair, immaculate makeup, and a decadent sweater says “Merry Christmas” through her dentures, especially emphasizing Christmas while thinking of herself as a soldier in the army of Christian preservation in the increasingly heathenized battleground of America?
Do you reply: “Happy secular holiday celebration of your own choosing indeed” with a righteous and smirky smile while the bag boy loops the plastic handles around your fingers?
Does she answer: “May God bless you, sir” with raised and ostensibly cheerful eyebrows shadowed with Christmas red, while the corners of her mouth shrink in and betray an underlying disgust for your kind?
After which do you say, “I wasn’t aware that I had sneezed” and body check the Salvation Army supplicant as you barrel toward your car?
You really ought to know these things about yourself.
If you attempt to go about your life’s normal routine during the holiday season—shopping for groceries, putting gas in your car, attending satanic cult gatherings—without a firm grasp of your holiday personality profile, you’ll encounter people who demand from you a certain holly-jolly demeanor, and instead of responding with a self-respecting reaction of your pre-choosing, you’ll find yourself awash in a sea of societal expectations and may feel like Dylan’s Joker who says, “There’s too much confusion / I can’t get no relief.” Conversely, if you’ve defined yourself along the continuum of holiday joy, you’ll maintain your integrity in those build-up days of normal life and requisite sacrifice to the capitalist machine of consumerism, and (please excuse the Christian exclusivism here--I can only write what I know) thrive in those climactic moments of holiday festivity: the Thanksgiving dinner, the company holiday party, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve, each celebration demanding you be on your game as the most compelling version of your festive self. You’ll follow Bill Shakespeare’s impertinent counselor’s directive, “To thine own self be true,” as you don a consistent comportment to endure the season and wield a game-plan for the big events. No longer will holiday expectation catch you off guard, because you'll know for yourself just how much to grouch, and how much to revel.