It is profoundly uncool to like Christmas as much as I do. Look — I am as offended by crass commercialism and institutionalized religion as the next liberal Gen-Xer. But when you combine the two, something magical happens. It’s like mixing Bailey’s Irish Cream and lemon juice. Both are pretty unremarkable on their own, but put ’em together and POW! — you’ve got a mouthful of delightful sludge.
I’ve loved Christmas since I was a kid. It started every year around this time, when my family would listen to “Jim Nabors’ Christmas Album” while decorating the tree. I remember being totally mystified at how that effete, seemingly half-retarded man I had only ever known as “Gomer” could sing in a such a rich, magisterial baritone. It made me uncomfortable at first, but I grew accustomed to it. After a while, no Christmas was complete without it.
Decorating the tree was a great pleasure for me. I was especially fond of what we called “icicles.” They were these strands of cheap, metallic tinsel that resembled the streamers that hang from the handles of children’s bicycles. My parents always bought icicles, because they had no taste. So every year, after covering the tree with all manner of gaudy lights, bulbs, and ugly, asymmetrical decorations made during elementary school art class, my brother and I would begin draping icicles on the tree with wild abandon. We would grab handful after handful and throw them on the tree with an upward motion of the arm — not unlike the gesture an old, grouchy woman might make while shooing a pesky cat. There was no such thing as “too many” icicles. We would heap them onto the tree until the package was empty. Afterward, the tree would look like a monochromatic, gleaming, cone-shaped weeping willow. Beautiful.
I no longer festoon my tree with cheap garbage. But I relish decorating it just as much now as I did back then. Forget that Amy and I bought our current tree from Big Lots for only $29 dollars, or that it bears several of what can only be described as “bald spots” that no amount of rearranging of the fake branches will cover up. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree suffered from similar flaws. But as Linus and the rest of the gang taught us, it’s not the fullness of your tree, but the fullness of your heart, that matters during Christmas time.
In seriousness, though: I love Christmas. And I don’t exactly even know why. Isn’t diagnosing love pointless anyway? Even if I were forced to acknowledge that Christmas celebrates the birth of of a man I do not worship, and that its conflation with mass consumerism is inappropriate at best and blasphemous at worst, I still don’t think I could shuffle off my affection for it. I have been indoctrinated by years of wildly entertaining cartoon specials, heartwarming movies, office parties, family gatherings and radio serenades. That Christmas is the best of all holidays is as much a basic truth to me as is the superiority of NFL football over all other professional sports.
So retails stores, keep rolling out your decorations and tuning your Muzak stations to the holiday station earlier and earlier. I won’t mind. In fact, if you could manage some Jim Nabors, I may even spend a little extra time in your store. My judgement — which has always been suspect — is at its worst when it comes to Christmas. And I wouldn’t want it otherwise.