Monday, December 9, 2013

Fear Not, Little Whos, Your Roast Beast is Safe . . . A Christmas Manifesto

Image result for grinch cartoon looking
It's that time of year again, when everyone I know becomes a red and green-colored whirlwind of stress and I am reminded of how glad I am that I quit Xmas. Not long ago it was brought to my attention that some people might not understand exactly what I mean when I say I quit Xmas. I had always thought that if people wanted to know more, they would ask instead of listening to long diatribes they didn't request. However, it was also pointed out that some might not feel comfortable asking. So, I bring you a Written Explanation! (Yes, it's long. Settle in.)

First, I would like to clarify a few common misconceptions:

1. I am not a Grinch. I am not jealous of Xmas, nor do I have any immediate plans to steal Xmas. Your roast beast is safe.
2. I am not a Scrooge. While I am a budgeter, I am not cheap and did not quit Xmas because it meant I had to buy things for my loved ones and this is my clever way of getting out of that. And I try very hard not to further the plight of tiny, crippled children.
3. I am not an Extremist. You can talk about Xmas in front of me, Xmas did not kill anyone I know nor did it enslave my ancestors (I'm looking at you, elves). If you wish me a Merry Xmas, I will not climb onto a soapbox I keep conveniently stowed in my bag and rant in detail about how offended I am. I understand it still goes on all around. I am not trying to end Xmasdom.

I just don't want to participate.

That's why I refer to it as "quitting," it's just not for me.  Like taxidermy or organized sports.

Here's the soapbox breakdown:
*Xmas spirit - Let's face it, people struggle with showing "Xmas spirit" around the holidays.  They are stressed and tired and hot.  I hear, "Merry F**king Xmas!" (said in a tone meant to shame you into deeply regretting parking in what was obviously THEIR spot at the mall on this, their most sacred holiday) more than I hear just regular "Merry Xmas!" (said in a tone wishing you general goodwill). If you disagree, I'd like you to reread this after coming home from shopping anywhere the week before Xmas.
*Present Giving - Yeah, there's the commercialism, but I'm American and pretty used to commercialism. I hate how the present giving never ends.  Do you buy for family if they're adults? What constitutes an adult? Do you buy for people you work with? If you buy for people you work with, do you get something small for everyone, or something personal for the people you work closely with? Will the mailman be offended if he gets nothing even though we've never met? How many cookies can one person really be expected to bake?!? Of course there are those people who tell me that in their wonderful, perfect family they avoid ALL Xmas present-related stress by having a very specific rule, like Secret Santa (so you only have to buy for one person) or Only for the Children (although how young is often unspecified), but I doubt those people then go to work or to their friends and say, "Oooh, thank you for the gift but our family is doing Secret Santa this year," so I am unconvinced it's as simple and stress-free as they try to make it seem. Not to mention there's always THAT relative who doesn't stick to the price limit or breaks the rules "because it's Xmas." And even when you think your shopping is thorough and complete, there's always someone who gets you something, but you got them nothing . . . The present giving cycle of obligation never ends and it's TOO MUCH STRESS. (Of course, this does not apply to you people who do not care about others' feelings. You keep on merrily and obliviously treading on toes.)
*Present Getting - I am not from wealth. I do not, personally, know anyone who has a lot of disposable income lying around. It makes me feel very guilty when people that I know do not have a lot of extra money buy me something that I don't need/want/even know what it is. I get more pleasure from the thought that I am easing a friend or loved one's stress, even by just a little, by eliminating my name from their Xmas to-do list than I will ever get from opening a present at Xmas. Xmas is rough enough, let me save you that little bit of time and money.
*Religion - I am not religious so I don't need to celebrate Jesus' conveniently scheduled winter-solstice birthday. (Ditto for Easter, but NO ONE cares that I don't celebrate Easter.)
*Santa - Santa Claus is a lie I don't agree with telling. And if you're one of those people that insist that tricking children into believing in Santa is good for them because it brings magic into their lives ("because children need magic!"), I am one of those people that would like to point out that all "magic" is a lie, that's why they're called magic "tricks."  And I don't know about you, but I hate being tricked (i.e. lied to).
*Volunteering - It is unfortunate that people only really focus on helping the needy at Xmas and then they feel set for the year. I guess if you're only going to do it once a year, the dead of winter is good, but volunteering is something you should do consistently. I also don't like that organizations incessantly guilt people into helping the needy at Xmas. People are already over-extended and they're always being pushed to buy one more unwrapped toy.

Here are the top questions I get when I reveal that I don't participate in Xmas, and the subsequent answers I give:
"What about the importance of the joy of giving?" I get that at birthdays, when I can focus my attention on one person, which I feel better about.
"What about getting together with your family?"  That's one of the reasons that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Family, food, good times, little stress.  Plus, I'm a teacher and I have 2 weeks off at Xmas time.  I still see my family, I don't hide in a cave (see: 1. I am Not a Grinch).
"What about your husband?" We've talked about it. At length. He took time and thought about it. He agrees with me. Yes, of his own accord.
"What about your children???"  (This is usually asked with wide eyes and in a tone that implies the questioner is contemplating whether or not to preemptively call Child Services.) I don't see how it's any different than families that raise kids with different religious backgrounds.  We'll raise our daughter doing Japanese New Year traditions (see below), which I think make a lot of sense.  When she visits her grandparents, they'll do whatever traditions they want to set up - Xmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, whatever. ALL houses have different traditions, decor, etc.  My daughter is smart and adaptable, she will figure it out and be working the system to her advantage in no time. And when she is an adult, she can decide which traditions she wants to continue.

When I tell people I don't do Xmas, they are often mortified, shouting, "But it's CHRISTMAS!!! I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!" I will admit, Xmas is a pretty sweet deal . . . till you're about 7. However, people are so used to doing things because "that's the way it's always been done" that I honestly don't think many people stop and ask themselves if they really still like Xmas. (Except when they learn that I quit Xmas around December 20th. Then people are a LOT more reflective and accepting of the idea.)

I quit Xmas a long time ago, way back when I was in college. This is not a phase, I am pretty comfortable with my choice. And seriously, I have never been more relaxed in December . . .

If you're interested (and still reading), here's what my family DOES - Japanese New Year. When I was teaching and living in Japan, I learned about their New Year's traditions and they make a LOT of sense to me.
1st - It's the same date as our New Year. (You're thinking of Chinese New Year.)
2nd - There's no party on New Year's Eve, the tradition is to spend it with family (and let's face it, partying on New Year's Eve is only fun till the day you realize that you can't stay up past 10pm anymore. Ha! Did I say 10? I meant 9pm . . .). They eat traditional good luck New Year's food (like long soba noodles for a long life) and some families go to shrines at midnight to pray for good luck in the coming year.
3rd - Otoshidama! Adults give children cash money in a fancy envelope on New Year's Day (the amount is usually dependent on their age). When kids are 18, otoshidama stops. Simple. Kids can buy the things they actually want, learn important lessons about how money works, and when they are officially an adult they just get a postcard like an adult.
4th - Families can gather and play games together on New Year's Day, which is chill and fun.
5th - People send out New Year's postcards rather than Xmas cards, which are cheaper to send, easier to make, and just as pretty! Bonus - they don't offend anyone because it being a new year isn't religiously affiliated! (PS - That doesn't mean that I don't want to get a Xmas card from you; I would still love to hear how your family is doing. Just know that you will get a New Year's card back.)

Anyway, that's it. If you have more questions, ask. If you don't agree, don't worry about it, I'm not trying to recruit. Mostly, I just want people to stop trying to find loopholes. This time of year, I often feel like a vegetarian at that aunt's house who keeps saying, "Just try the casserole, it's vegetarian!  Well, yes, there's ham in it, but it's just ham . . . " It's not just one thing like presents or Xmas music or religion or sweaters, I really just don't want to participate in the holiday.  If I quit a soccer team and you came to me and said, "You should come to the field!  We painted the ball pink because you don't like soccer!" I would still not want to play Kick the Pink Ball into a Goal with you because I don't like kicking or running or competition or being outside when it's wet. That doesn't mean I'm not aware of soccer or have to change the channel if it's on TV or will run shrieking into the street if I see a soccer jersey, I just don't want to play.

This said, I will continue to teach my students about Japanese Christmas, because it's hilarious . . .