It’s as good an excuse as any (when you’re looking for one). I don’t know why everything stops while consumers try to get through a day at work, so they can run out to shop before the stores close at midnight.
On weekends, they can start shopping at 7:00 a.m. (and, of course, if they don’t have a job, they could start at this ridiculous hour every day of the week). The closer it gets to Christmas, anxiety is palpable everywhere. It’s as if there is some specific goal which must be attained in a defined period of time.
Frankly, the shoppers really don’t look as if they are enjoying the journey; it’s just a means to an end; which is, of course, giving and receiving these hand-picked gifts to our loved ones – and those whom we cannot “forget” this year… and every year… perhaps an old aunt or uncle, or a sibling we haven’t spoken to in a couple of years.
While I enjoy shopping as much as anyone, I am exempt from the tradition of buying gifts for the family, other loved ones, the office crowd, friends and clients. I don’t celebrate this holiday, although I do respect the source from which todays’ Christmas is many light-years away.
Being born Jewish, I have always been in the minority. When I was growing up, my family (mother, father, younger sister, middle sister and me) were always “outsiders” as Jews in the community. Most of the time, this fact didn’t really concern me – until Christmas came around. Then, and only then, did I really feel like an “outsider.”
From the time I was five, we lived in an apartment in a neighborhood known as “Austin,” which was on the west side of Chicago. When I was about to enter eighth grade, we moved to another apartment in “West Rogers Park” which was considered to be the north side. Christmas trees and lights shown through all the windows except ours. All my friends’ homes were decorated for the Holidays and smelled from freshly baked cookies. Apple cider and sugar cookies were my favorite.
The drugstore on the corner had a beautiful tree outside their front door; it was decorated in red and green balls and lots of gold bells. On top stood a glorious angel, all white with silver sparkles on her dress. I loved to stand there and look at this tableau. Mistletoe hung over the door and it was impossible to get in without passing under the evergreen with yellowish flowers and shiny, white berries (which I learned later were poisonous). I was 12 1/2 years old and had my first boyfriend. We made sure to meet at the soda-fountain at least a couple of times a week – a very pleasant memory.
I can see here that I am wandering hither and yon, which was not my intent. The point is, even though I’ve experienced this “holiday alienation” most of my life, it’s still not easy to stay the course without succumbing to the marketing melee which makes everything from pajamas to 40″ LCD TV’s look exciting and awaiting my purchase; of course, if I bought something, I would be blessed and part of the larger community who celebrate this extraordinary holiday. I would twinkle, wink and drink my eggnog with a passion. I would give gifts to my “important others” and smile as they recognized my munificience.
Sometime ago, I had the honor of attending midnight mass at a local church in Warminster, England. I remember feeling I had stepped into the past, glorious and loving.
This, I thought, is “Christmas.”