Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I love Christmas! But so many people find so much about Christmas so upsetting. I fall into that category of people who catch themselves loathing so much about the holiday, who realize their criticism curbs the joy of others, and who then backpedal furiously -No! I love it! I love the holiday! I love the music! The presents! The time with family! I love decorating the tree!- and then denying all the misguided gaudiness that surrounds them.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, THE PEACE SIGN, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw THE PEACE SIGN, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him...

So Pottery Barn just doesn't get it, so what? So what if they want to decorate their trees with the symbol of the British nuclear disarmament movement? What's wrong with that? Sheez. Relax. Peace on earth, good will toward corporate marketing.

I was going to make a big deal out of it, but then I saw that one of my sisters bought a big peace sign for the top of her tree, and so I shut up. Because she loves Christmas, and possibly even more than I do. It's just that I love the subset of "Christmas" that has to do with religion and family and tradition and history and that Ultimate Gift that both blessed and confounded the world for the ensuing millennia. The peace of it all, actually. She, on the other hand, loves a mostly different subset of "Christmas". The one that includes shopping, wrapping, partying, and large, inflatable snowmen in the yard. We're all happy. What's wrong with that?

But you're doing Christmas wrong, you know.

What kind of crazy family opens presents on Christmas Eve, for example? And what nut spends Christmas morning dishing out turkey at a homeless shelter? Don't you know we're all supposed to shuffle downstairs in our pajamas and dive full-bore into the plunder at the fireside? If there were ever a confluence of elves and pirates, it would manifest on the American Christmas morning.

But, ahhh, Christmas! It's the most wonderful time of the year! I got some of the lights up on the house the other day, and plan on spending a few more days to trim the remainder of the roofline later this week. And we got a tree. A good tree. So many of the trees in the lot reached out at odd angles and had bare spots without branches. I jokingly commented to Mrs. Ditchman that I guess God had made those trees wrong, and I realized then that that's the way so many people treat the holiday: they're all busy looking for the perfect tree.

Find the perfect tree. And then cut it down, bring it inside, and decorate it. (Of course, Charles Schultz knew all this.)

It's so distinctly human to miss the point of everything, that I can accept it all blithely and cheerfully. What choice do we have? That the Prince of Peace would come amid the shame of two unmarried young adults, that a genocide of infants would soon follow, that the world would change by the eventual gruesome sacrifice of the miracle-maker that was born among some dirty farm animals...

And we celebrate that birth like this! And here in Southern California the fantasy is layered on the miracle, since there's no winter wonderland, no ice skates, sleighs, or snowmen, no certainty of what a reindeer really looks like. It's sunny all day! We'll be lounging in deck chairs on New Year's!

It hardly makes sense. It's confusing, like a lot of things in life. But the Little Ditchman gasped at the neighbor's lights as we drove by last night, and she has learned the lyrics to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and right now she is downstairs with mommy gluing some glitter on home-made Christmas cards. The Little Digger is wearing felt antlers with little bells on them that jingle every time he turns his head. Holiday music is playing. We're together. Have a cookie. This is great. Don't ruin it for me.