I am the War on Christmas

December 1, 2023 — Welcome to the OTIS Christmas Season Blog! I haven’t done one of these since 2010 when I was trying to “content market” myself to a successful first book, The New England Grimpendium. It was also the first year of my Halloween Season Blog, a tradition that continued over the next thirteen years, but I never tried another Christmas blog. Not because I didn’t love Christmas. Just because I couldn’t do that much blogging back-to-back from September through December—aka, the only time of year that mattered.

In fact, I used to tell people that my favorite holiday between Hallowmas and Christween is whichever one we’re in at the time. Then, over the years, the annoying obligations of Christmas took the shine off its balls, while Halloween remained as care-free as a broomstick ride and I had to admit that Halloween has always been better than Christmas.  

But I still loved Christmas. And now I’m bringing the OTIS Christmas Season Blog back. Because I want to destroy the holiday. To red and green smithereens.

That’s right. I want to be a Scrooge who can ball up all three ghosts of Christmas, and then toss them into the nearest chute like soiled laundry, and then dock Cratchit half a week’s pay for using an entire piece of coal to warm his stupid hands. Why? Because things are bad with me? Of course. That’s exactly why. Christmas is the worst time of year for many people. And now I’ve been red-rovered to that side of the playground with them—the lonely, the bereft, the rejected, the forgotten, the aching, the taken advantage of. That’s me. I might also have a victim complex. But I’m taking Benadryl for that.

However, I also think, even aside from the landmine of my life, that Christmas-haters have an objective point. Christmas sucks, man. It’s a communal exercise in willful ignorance and desperate pretending.

I mean, peace on Earth and good will toward men? That’s a fantasy. It’s not even a practical aspiration or a goal. Half the world’s at war right now. And even if worldwide goodness were attainable in some far-off evolved future, we won’t get there through presents and tinsel. Not through Bing Crosby and eight tiny reindeer. Not even through holding hands and Fah Who Foraze-ing. Christmas is us pretending.

And what’s true of the world is true of many families. All pretending this time of year. Like we all really do believe in Santa Claus and are trying to make up for an entire year of being selfish jerks who spend more time eye-to-screen than eye-to-eye.

Meanwhile, we pretend that a tree dying in the corner of our living room is a joyous decoration. That covering our mantels and bannisters in plastic boughs and glass baubles makes life beautiful. So much fake silver and gold, everywhere, you goddamn Burl Ives Snowman.

And I’m not talking about the consumerism of Christmas. That is certainly something awful (and I say this as a guy who walked through the Times Square Macy’s last week and then had to take a seven-hour shower afterward). But I’ll also opine that it might be the inevitable outcome of a fundamentally fake holiday.

Christmas is a lot of pretending.

That’s why Hallmark can make a million Christmas movies every year with cardboard people and dental-floss plotlines, and jolly jackasses lap them up 24-7 from their electric easy chairs. Fake is fine for fa-la-la. It’s pressuring kisses under poisonous plants. It’s lying to children to constrain their behavior. It’s forcing an awkward smile for a present you don’t actually care about.

I blame a lot of this on you, Dickens. 

Halloween, on the other hand, is honest. Oh, you don’t want to think about the inevitable death of you and your loved ones? Well, here’s a bunch of skeletons hanging from your roof, some tombstones staked in your lawn, a corpse or two on your porch. Try to ignore it now, you decaying conglomeration of ticking cells. Oh, you don’t want to meditate on the vulnerability of your children and your ultimate inadequacy in protecting them? Just shove them out into the night to interact with strangers. Afraid of monsters under bed, are you? Well, not only are they there, but they’re in your closet and in the grocery store aisles and on your TV and coming right to your door.

Christmas is the opposite. It’s covering everything in white, pure-seeming snow when everything is actually mud and dead leaves and worms beneath. Halloween gathers up all that death and decay into a pile and commands us to jump right into it, sucker in hand, Linus-like.

It’s why we have to work so hard to give family and friends and children a “good Christmas.” Because it won’t happen by itself. It’s not a natural state. You have to fake it. To go through the motions. Otherwise, if your Christmas sucked, you have to admit life sucks. And that you probably suck, too. I sure do.

So this season, Christmas will be ours—the prostrated, the cynical, the pessimistic, the debased, the humbled, the impoverished, the little children pointing at naked emperors. Let’s destroy Christmas together, you and I. Like Jack Skellington almost did. Doesn’t mean I’m boycotting. The opposite. I will defiantly partake of its shenanigans. You can’t throw fruitcake on the ground until you ask for a slice.

But you don’t have to join me. You can just grab a tin of caramel/cheese/butter popcorn and watch me do it. I figure it’ll take me ten-ish articles.

Oh, and kids? There is no Santa.