To the Editor:
Once a year, during the onslaught of the darkest and coldest of times, the collective spirit of humanity kicks into all encompassing high gear, spinning, lifting, pressuring all onto life’s higher road, the one where philanthropic, good-willed, mindful, generous spirited souls walk lonely the rest of the year.
By this time, Christmas cactuses have already run their course, poinsettia, green wreaths and red bows abound, and delicate pine trees grown for the purpose are slaughtered along with prime beef. All are offered up in delicious company, delectably bedecked, to create the most delightful, nostalgia-filled evenings one can imagine.
This uniquely seasonal blend of heathenism, religion, and philanthropy is called the Holidays, and this most powerful of phrases evokes mysteries and memories, joys and fears, past and present, along with magical expectation at every decoration-laden corner. For some, favored animals are even incorporated into this collective dream and endowed with the gift of speech after midnight.
At this time, I become both philanthropic and myopic. I contemplate giving to individuals and organizations I rarely consider at any other time of the year. My reasons for giving are, for the most part, dictated by opinions either subjective or societally correct.
Seasonally unique labels such as helpers, donors, and objects of affection, are assigned to friends, family, and acquaintances, and judgments and money are doled out accordingly.
On one evening, perhaps precipitated by a light snow, around the end of November, I take all that I have gathered and stored over the year in the name of gifts and presents, shake them from a huge fur-trimmed, ruby red velvet stocking onto my dining room table. I am always surprised and bemused to see the most amazing, yet oddest assortment of clocks, clothes, ornaments, and goodies. Once each object is assessed for its individual worth, rather like a winter stash pondered by a squirrel for distribution among its family, I wrap, label, and tie each with ribbons, sprinkles of cheer, and smiles of simple mirth.
All during these events, however, beside my merry, generous, good self there stands a darker self waiting to be satisfied, rather like a slighted second cousin shamefully hidden the rest of the year and now allowed to appear.
Marked as the selfish, self-serving, greedy, accumulative one on ordinary days, this other me is now encouraged to wish, dream, and covet all that may have come to mind in the previous 12 months as desirable. These desires are now fair game to be captured as bequests, gifts from others for personal, materialistic fulfillment.
Why do I go through these rituals annually, predictably and without interruption, I ask myself. It not only takes effort and money, but invokes an emotional toll when disappointment and lack of fulfillment inevitably ensue. In the end, I believe all this holiday spirit actually belies the struggle of angel and devil. Both good and evil are rubber stamped with approval as actors on a stage for humanity’s ultimate assurance and amusement, proving good will finally overcome evil, even denying death itself.
This yearly merrymaking in the face of nature’s certain northern depravity is a death-like dark season called winter, when we, the people, attempt to prove we are indefatigable, able to leap over skyscrapers that clutter our street the rest of the year, in one big, team-spirited, unanimous, flying jump for joy.
This is symbolized by reindeer, and our one flawed reindeer, Rudolf, is transitioned from victim to hero, turning his red nose into a beacon of light for all mankind. The manifestation of this miracle has persisted now for 74 years.
So, this year, when you and yours ultimately raise your glasses or mugs at a table full of fellow sufferers to spit in the eye of winter or perhaps wish for the perfunctory White Christmas, with or without snow, pause to ponder all this holiday stuff along with your reason-for-being.
Consumer driven as it may seem, rise above, and give a bright toast to counteract all the insanity, “‘Holiday Cheer to you and yours, and to the whole world, and after the hubbub holidays are over, peace on earth — until next year.”