On my door I will hang a wreath: “In this house lives a grouch. Carolers keep away!”
It used to be that on a cool and a reasonably-timed December day, I would sit and listen to Christmas music. I would listen to the traditional carols sung by at least one full choir and a full orchestra. I would start with Handel’s Messiah.
Now, the air does not cool because of climate change. And I am sick of carols by the time December rolls. As early as September the stores are blaring inane ditties at us, sung in frenetic tempos. The Merry Christmas Polka, sung ala Stars on 45, played loudly, in the sweltering heat. Gee. What fun.
In the words of Tom Lehrer: “Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy.”
Materialistic, frenzied and impolite
And let’s not fool ourselves. That birth in the humble manger meant to “raise the sons (and daughters) of earth” has given rise to some materialistic and elitist rituals.
“What!? We can’t give a mere Christmas card to our high-status godmother!”
In my head, I am thinking, “But you must! Your wealthy godmother’s house looks more overladen than the bazaar in Istanbul. Please do not burden her with another expensive and ornate item to display.”
Because my University has shifted its calendar, the usually frenetic season is made even more so because teachers are rushing to check papers, pass theses and dissertations and submit grades.
“Ah, er, peace be with you, my dear, but I did give you a failing grade. Have to go to my next academic disaster, so please don’t expect me to give you comfort and advice. Who has time to mentor? Bye now and MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
And then there is the Metro Manila Christmas traffic gridlock. There is something in the air indeed. It’s called smog.
There is also a meme going around saying that because unbelievers have managed to get people (department stores? the government?) to use secular greetings like “Happy Holidays,” that Christ has been taken out of Christmas.
Well, poo. I greet my Christian friends, “Merry Christmas.” I greet my Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, Hindu, Pastafarian, agnostic and atheist friends, “Happy Holidays.” After all, when I greet people, it really is about wishing them well. I have no intention of recruiting them to any faith or non-faith by the way I greet them. As an adjunct to this, if I am not sure whether you are Christian or I am greeting the public, I do not presume upon you and politely say, “Season’s Greetings.”
Shouldn’t Christians emulate Mary and Joseph who graciously accepted the shepherds and the drummer boy (who were probably all Jews) to their Christmas festivities and let them come to the party and jam, without asking if they were going to play properly?
Nor did they drag anyone to the party.
Here is the real reason I grouch, rant, sneer and snivel.
Christmas is very hard on my grieving, depressed or otherwise troubled friends and counselees. In a sense, our unthinking, shallow and often insincere
Christmas behavior is like dragging them to and making them stay at an endless party they would rather skip.
It is difficult when you are sad or grieving or lonely and all the world seems joyous. It is more difficult to deal with the depression demon who will allow you no joy when others seem to find crazed enjoyment in the most shallow and fake aspects of the season.
The thing about the depression is that it makes the person suffering from it an automatic BS detector. Even when the depressed person wants to turn off the BS detector it keeps clanging. During Christmas, the sad and the alienated see so much more of what is false and are not always gifted with the capacity to benefit from that which is uplifting and sincere.
I suppose I need not have risked the ire of some if I had just appealed to celebrate the true meaning of the season. But that too has become a trite and empty trope. Such appeals haven’t stopped the onslaught of falsity and materialism. Given this, even that kind of message is depressing.
I suppose that I need not have risked the ire of some if I had merely appealed for sensitivity. But the last thing that the depressed, the grieving, the alienated and the lonely want is that they be made to stand out. That, your spastic smiles suddenly turn into looks of concern, when they round the corner.
What we grouches need is an equal affirmation of our own reality in this period of madness.
I am throwing a party for my fellow grouches of all faiths and non-faiths. When you enter you will be met with absolute silence. The place will have muted colors. Tinsel and glitter will be banned. You are then allowed to lie down on comfy mattresses where you can complain and wail until properly soothed (or not).
You may choose a private cubicle or a sociable room where you can exchange complaints with others. Statements like, “Good cheer, my foot! What I really want is to strangle my sexual harasser!” will be accepted non-judgmentally. Perhaps some of us might even respond, “Now there’s the spirit!”
This story was first published in Rappler.com, a Manila-based social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.
Photo by JD Hancock