My pre-emptive holiday post

OK. As many of you may already know, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas. The precise theological details can be obtained by making clicky with the ‘Personal’ link down and to your right.

In re: a question I see a lot around these cyber-parts, yes, it’s entirely acceptable to give the Witnesses in your life a card along with everybody else. Just make sure that a) you know them well enough that they’ll understand the motive behind the gesture is friendly, and b) the card is appropriately non-denominational (a lovely winter scene, say), and you’re set.

Honestly, you needn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for us this time of year. Because meanwhile we are staring around in frank awe, trying to figure out just why you-all enjoy it so much. Seriously.

I’ve worked major retail outlets many a Christmastime, people – another side benefit to our stance, lots of overtime on stat holidays! – and I’m here to tell you, the jolliness, from all appearances, it is a myth. Or at least, a wistful long-shot, rather like the precise sprinkle placement Martha Stewart gets on the cupcakes.
In terms of sheer guilt-induced looniness of expectation it can be topped only by the wedding industry. Maybe. When you’re a bride, you at least get the consolation that it’s all about you. At Christmas, by contrast, you get to run yourself ragged trying to meet the fondest needs of everybody else. Which as far as I can tell, even if you love them dearly, does not quite compensate for the loss of dignity inherent in screaming at the poor bookseller because she has just sold the last copy of The 25 Greatest NASCAR Sponsors of All Time. Or whatever.

Then, of course, there’s the post-event afterglow. In the one case, snazzy vacation, lotsa hot sex; in the other, eighteen avant-garde cheese graters and that Elmo toy that when you walk past it, goes ‘Awww, you don’t wanna play with Elmo?” in that sad-clown way you have always hated and feared. You can’t do anything about it, either, because this was little Suzy’s gift from your in-laws. So you also now have confirmation that the big family dinner is going to be really tense.

The whole situation is best summed up by the bizarre movie Christmas With the Kranks, in which a random couple’s desire to exercise their basic frelling free will is relentlessly steamrollered by an entire neighborhood of self-appointed Santa’s Little Helpers. As far as I can tell, this thing was marketed without a trace of irony. (Neither was Fred Claus, but I think that had more to do with specific latent sadism on the part of those particular film-makers.)

The only defense – not unlike the one recommended for Martha and/or wedding plans – is to raise a wall of cynicism real quick. Thus the ‘Carols I Hate’ articles, the commercials based around how nobody ever looks forward to those family dinners…the deep sighs of envy when the Witness in the next cubicle over confesses that they never even heard of mincemeat.
Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen one unironic media mention of the holidays this year. Oh, except that one Hallmark commercial, but they have to lure you into a diabetic coma because that’s the only state in which anyone would lay out $19.95 on a china gingerbread-house that blinks in tune with Jingle Bells.

It all makes for a rather pleasant holiday experience for all the wrong people. The one slight drawback, of course, is that we can’t go near shopping malls past roughly November 15th…in other words, not so much with the possibility of being crushed to death in Wal-Mart. Yeah, tough choice there.

OK, yes, I’m exaggerating. Those who have contrived to keep their holidays focussed on faith and/or the simple joys of family love and togetherness, I salute you wholeheartedly. Know that Witnesses strive for the same – just not necessarily on the 25th around a tree.

For this holiday season, I wish everyone happiness according to their lights, literal or otherwise. Mind, I’ll be a safe distance off on the beach at the time.


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