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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ah, that old Christmas spirit. Where'd it dash off to?

Ah, it's Christmas (and yes, of course, Hanukkah and Kwanza, and while I don't personally celebrate these myself, a happy one to those who do) and so, naturally, the television airwaves are filled with images of the Baby Jesus, the magi, trekking their way to Jerusalem under the natal star, the shepards, bewildered and joyous at the sight of Heaven opening up before them and angels pouring forth, proclaiming the birth of Messiah and Lord.

Well, maybe if you're watching Vatican T.V. or the lovely scene at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, where Linus correctly captures the real meaning of Christmas by daring to actually quote scripture. Somewhere a television writer is watching that special and exclaiming, in all honesty, "That's ridiculous! Who does THAT anymore? When do they get to the scene with the flying red-nosed reindeer?"

Yes, for much of the world, Christmas has come to mean nothing more than a frenzied orgy of purchasing, from cards to presents to motor vehicles with gigantic red bows on them (at least according to the latest Lexus commercial.) Coupled with this consumer spirit on steriods AND speed, is the quaint notion peddled by today's media outlets that nothing else says Christmas like fanciful animated characters, chief among them Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Ol' Saint Nick, Kriss Kringle, Pere Noel, Befana, Santa Kuroshu, The Jolly Old Elf in the Big Red Suit.

If the real Saint Nicholas were with us today, I suspect this gentle and noble spirit whom the Roman Catholic Church pronounced the patron saint of all children, would grab a DVD copy of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and stomp it into plastic glitter with his bright red boots, before proceeding to Mickey Rooney's home to dump a pitcher of egg nog on his head.

Is it any wonder people get depressed by the holidays, when among the highlights Hollywood has to offer us of this joyous season is a battle of wits between a daffy untalented magician and a magical snowman in an ostentatious top hat?

The modern Western media simply do not get Christmas. They have managed to squeeze almost every last drop out of what is fundamentally a religious holiday. Why? For the money of course, aided and abetted by those Scrooges who find all religious holidays to be an annoying distraction from their deep and constant devotion to the happiness of themselves.

Christmas is a cash cow these days and Hollywood and business have conspired to milk it with all the subtlety of the way piranha nibble at a piece of floating prime rib.

Whereas the faithful gather in houses of worship to sing hymns in praise to the baby born in a manger, for some in television and the music industry, the spirit of Chirstmas is best summed by elderly matrons being run down and trampled within an inch of their blue-haired lives by a reindeer-driven sleigh.

Whether you celebrate or even understand the central meaning of Christmas or not, I'd hope this would be a shame. The attitude has already spread to Easter, where death and ressurrection have been symbolized by a large, anthropomorphic bunny handing out decorated eggs and chocolate. (Obviously, the world's bunnies and chickens have formed a secret alliance with the Swiss. Neutrality, my eye!)

Soon, the Fourth of July in the US will be marked by Uncle Sam travelling from home to home and leaving large boxes of flags and Whip Inflation Now buttons, in sparkling red, white, and blue. Guy Fawkes Day in Britain will have the dusty ole' spirit of Mr. Fawkes himself, leaving large packages of firecrackers, barbecue lighter fluid, and dynamite under elaborately carved and lighted figurines of James I. St. Patrick's Day will be exactly like the Guiness commercial, where three, college age alcoholics run downstairs to open wrapped six-packs of draught and bitter, only with additional brands of beer added and greeting cards that proclaim "They're magically delicious!".

All the beer companies will want to get into the act. I can see the ads now: "Nothing says St. Patrick's Day like Dos Equis Special Dark Lager!!! Beseme!! Soy irland├ęs!!!"

We need a holiday away from merchandizers and wacked out songwriters and television producers. If only Christmas could be that holiday.

In the meantime, and I'm sure I'll write it again, Happy Christmas. Make the most of it. I may sound grumpy right now, but there really is a reason to be joyful. Something wonderful happened on Christmas Day, and no one's grandmother got run down in the process.

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