Tag Archives: commercialism

A Christmas Carol, Redux

Thanksgiving was over, to begin with.

For some reason, my sports watch alarm went off at midnight, waking me from a strange dream, in which I was unable to run from a monster, molded from leftover stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy dripping from its outstretched arms, due to the weight of my own enormous thighs.

I started to drift off again, when a form suddenly appeared at the foot of my bed. She wore a floor-length polyester red and green plaid skirt, a white ruffled blouse with huge tab collar, a crocheted vest, and a Christmas tree pin.

“Hi, like, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past, and I’m here to take you on, like, a pretty decent trip back to the 1970s,” the apparition said while twirling a segment of her long hair. No sooner did I grasp the ghost’s braided macramé belt than we were whisked on metal roller skates to the home of my youth.

It was about two weeks before Christmas 1974, and my mother was preparing her shopping list while my brother and I decorated the Christmas tree with silver tinsel, careful not to rest the tiny plastic strips on the bubble lights, which might burn the house down if we were not careful.

My mother’s list included the names of our little family, along with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. She had saved enough in her Christmas account to buy fruitcake, tea towels, Avon perfume, Barbis, Tonka trucks, and decorative tins of ribbon candies.

Although my brother and I loved to go downtown to see shops decorated with lights and mechanical elves, we begged to stay home so we would not miss the new Rankin Bass special, “The Year Without a Santa Clause,” which our console television might pick up if the antennae were turned just right.

My mother agreed to put off shopping one more day. Instead, she wrote out her twelve Christmas cards and served us cocoa in Santa mugs with cookies, which we were disappointed to find contained prunes, raisins, molasses, mincemeat, anise, or some other objectionable ingredient. Nevertheless, we lay contentedly on the green shag rug listening to a Burl Ives record, gazing up at our tree and its Styrofoam egg carton star.

I reached out, trying in vain to re-experience my youth, but was wrenched from my trance when a bubble light scorched my arm. “Ouch!” I exclaimed, and was abruptly heaped upon my own bed, surrounded by nothing but the dark night and a faint tapping sound.

There, seated on my bed, I saw the second apparition, her thumbs poking away at an iPhone. She glanced at me and said, “Hey, how’s it going. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Present, but hold on a sec, I have to answer this.”

Finally, the specter finished texting and proclaimed, “Alrighty, touch my yoga pants and let’s do this thing, because I’ve got carpool duty in a couple hours.” I grabbed her spandex waistband and was transported to scenes of unimaginable Christmas chaos.

First, we saw the three-page Christmas list I made right after Halloween, which included gifts for the school lunch ladies, Anna’s ukulele instructor, the seven neighbors we like and the three we don’t but can’t leave off the list for fear of inciting neighborhood drama.

Next, we joined a stampede of Black Friday shoppers, all poised to pepper spray each other over the last X Box 360 at Walmart. The Spirit took me to Starbucks, where we paid $5 for a Mocha Peppermint Chai Tea and $300 for gift cards for the kids’ teachers. Then we dashed home to type, print and mail out 150 copies of the annual family Christmas letter, replete with exaggerated superlatives about the kids and the daily activities of our dog.

Then, we ate, and ate, and ate. Everything from gallons of hot dip to platters of cookies packed with peanut butter chips, candy chunks, marshmallows and M&Ms. We washed it all down with cartons of egg nog which, according to the sell-by date, would still be edible come Valentine’s Day.

Finally, the Ghost dropped me in front of our HDTV virtual fireplace glowing beside our artificial tree with its economical LED lights. Exhausted, I pleaded, “Have mercy! Haunt me no more!”

Just then, a figure approached from the shadows. “Are you the Ghost of Christmases yet to come?!” I yelped in fear. The apparition only nodded and handed me a small high tech device. With a swipe, I activated a life-sized holographic Christmas tree. A second click started microwaving a frozen Christmas Tofurkey dinner with all the vegan fixins. In mere nanoseconds, I sent personalized Christmas video messages to friends of friends of friends on Facebook.

But then, the Spirit pointed a long finger at the futuristic device. On the screen appeared countless images of people sitting alone in the dark clicking buttons on Christmas. “Oh, no Spirit!” I cried, “I will heed these lessons and honor Christmas in my heart!”

I awoke in my own bed, and rushed excitedly down the stairs, shouting to my daughter, “Turn off that virtual fireplace before you dot another i, Lillian Molinari!” To my husband I demanded, “Off with you to the Winn Dixie for the fattest turkey in the freezer case!” I ripped up my three-page shopping list, put on my Sinatra holiday CD, and resolved to keep Christmas well.

The Spirits taught me that Christmastime needs balance. I shouldn’t go overboard and complicate the holiday with obligation, commercialism, and stress. I should spend less time at the stores or in front of the computer, and more time with family and friends. I must never allow the gifts, food, and decorations to overshadow the real reason for the season.

And lest I forget, God Bless Us, Every One!

Commercialism? Humbug!

As I put my skeletons back in the closet (literally) and threw the gnat-infested jack-o-lanterns in the garbage, I was seized by the desire to dig out my ceramic light up Christmas tree and plug it in.

WHAT? Start decorating for the winter holidays before Thanksgiving?  Have I been brainwashed by the evil retail industry? Isn’t it gauche and simple-minded to succumb to the influence of premature in-store displays and television advertising?

But, but… I really want to plug my ceramic Christmas tree in and see the magical glow of its tiny plastic lights.  I don’t care if the kids are still rationing their Halloween candy. I don’t care if I haven’t planned my Thanksgiving side dishes yet.

Christmas is coming soon enough, so should I wait until after Thanksgiving to celebrate just because elitist social commentators say that we are being conditioned by commercialism?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for toning down the Christmas shopping frenzy, which has become replete with obligation and thoughtlessness (a whole other topic) but what’s so bad about celebrating a little early? I say not a thing, and I’ve come up with an impressive list of reasons why:

First: The Sights. Let’s face it — Thanksgiving décor leaves a little something to be desired. This season’s dull browns and golds benefit from a little cheering up with Christmassy cranberry and green.

And who doesn’t like a twinkling light? Unless you have an LED lighted cornucopia or plug in pilgrims with moving parts, you are going to need a few strands of lights and a velvety poinsettia to brighten up your Thanksgiving anyway.

Second: The Tastes. While serving egg nog in November may arguably be taking things too far, turkey and all the trimmings are traditional for both occasions in many households; dishes can be mixed and mingled while respecting the individual holiday customs.

Moreover, I’d bet my Cuisinart that your family won’t protest if you start baking cookies now. Sure, you might gain your holiday weight a little early, but those bulky Christmas sweaters are a great disguise. And besides, the prolonged disgust you will have with your plumpness will give added motivation to stick to your annual New Year’s resolution to lose ten pounds.

Third: The Smells. Indian corn and gourds don’t have much aroma, so unless you are willing to wait to smell the roasting turkey on Thanksgiving day, I suggest baking a little gingerbread or dropping a few cinnamon sticks into your hot toddy. If the tree farms haven’t opened for business, why not light a pine scented candle to awaken the spirit of Christmas?

Fourth: The Sounds. As far as I am aware, there is not a catchy compact disc compilation of Thanksgiving songs by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Neil Sedaka or Barbara Streisand. The only traditional Thanksgiving song known by most Americans is “Over the River and Through the Woods,” a song adapted from a poem by Lydia Maria Child in 1844.

What most Americans don’t know is that the song actually contains six stanzas of which only the first two are widely known.  In order to get to the line containing the word “Thanksgiving,” one would need to know the last four stanzas which include virtually unknown phrases such as “To have a first-rate play” and “Trot fast, my dapple gray.”  Most of us start out robustly singing the first two stanzas, then trail off mumbling when we can’t recall the rest of the words. Why suffer that non-crescendo when you can all sing a rousing uninterrupted round of “Jingle Bells?”

Other than the sizzle of the roasting turkey pan juices, I think we can all agree that the Thanksgiving sounds could use a little supplementing.  So slip in a good Christmas CD and tap your toes while you cut the veggies for the relish tray.

When it really boils down to it, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become intermingled in such a way that they can no longer be completely separated. So I say to heck with it. 

The real reason we won’t climb into our musty attics or descend into our moldy basements to retrieve our Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving is because someone has said that doing so would mean we were being indoctrinated by the commercial advertising media. Whether it be some snooty social commentator or the advertising media, we are being told what to do any way you look at it.

Phooey! Not to bring Independence Day into this too, but I say hang your stockings and bake your Russian Teacakes when you damned well please.  Besides, would it be so bad to get your shopping done a little early and actually be able to relax when December rolls around?

Today, I plugged my 1972 ceramic tree in and let out a little gasp as the tiny pegs glowed in all the colors of the rainbow. I stared a while, as my brain tapped into a bank of dusty but fond memories of holidays past. “Oh Christmas Tree” popped into my head and I began to hum. Call it gauche, simple minded, brainwashed or indoctrinated. I call it fun.


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