Tis the season to be crabby. At least when it comes to Christmas music. Especially when it starts playing just seconds after Thanksgiving. Friends, for the next few weeks the radio is not my friend; not even NPR. The musical holiday cheer is everywhere, to which I say, Humbug.
I mean come on; turkey’s still in the fridge; the horn-of-plenty hasn’t been boxed up yet; the good china’s still out. Where’s the recovery period? Can’t my stomach settle and reset for the next holiday?
And don’t let me turn on the TV. Charlie Brown Christmas, Mickey Mouse Christmas, that Red Ryder air rifle kid… the overload is coming. In fact it’s already begun. Just look at all the commercials. Target and Best Buy and Kohl’s, oh my! It feels like that movie Groundhog Day. Here we go yet again with all the sounds and images pumping up the impending holiday. It’s Yuletide gone postal.
You know, once upon a time I used to absolutely love this time of year. Really enjoyed it; even the music. Like back in the day when I was a kid and polar vortex weather was the norm rather than the exception. Snow drifts blocking doors seemed to happen with great regularity. And snow days? Fuhgetaboutit; the phrase hadn’t even been invented.
Back then there was no mall to go to. Downtown was it. There and Columbia Avenue. During those times, going to the West Main Mall or Maple Hill Mall in Kalamazoo was a treat, something special. Do those places still even exist? I feel myself slipping into a vortex of nostalgia.
It wouldn’t be so bad, the length of time I must endure listening to Christmas music I’ve heard for more than 50 years (half a century, y’all), if the songs they played didn’t have the hypnotic ability to continue for hours after hearing them.
Ever been to a Disney theme park? You know how the “It’s a Small World” music stays in your head long after the ride? How it infects your very psyche? Over and over and over again in your head? That’s Christmas music to my ears.
Don’t get me wrong; I like Christmas as much as the next person. Sometimes. When it comes right down to it, it’s not the music I’m railing about. What really chaps my hide is the commercialization of it all.
It’s a condition to which I freely admit I too fall victim, despite best intentions. Matter of fact, this year, the pressure for me to buy presents was so great that I began my shopping before (cue the suspenseful organ chord) Thanksgiving! What’s worse, I enjoyed the process. Yes, my wife, there is a Santa Claus.
The problem: my early gift-buying had less to do with the meaning of Christmas and more with the internalized pressures to buy. It’s an unwelcome mantra that nevertheless has been drilled into me by retailers. So much so that it doesn’t just drive the economy, it’s become central to American culture.
Let me be clear: none of my friends and family ever squawk about what they want for Christmas. If anything, their “I don’t know” and “it doesn’t matter” can be worse because it tends to leave me wandering store aisles and surfing retail sites aimlessly for what feels like hours on end.
Still, some folks, younger and older than me, love the Christmas season. They are all in, as festive as can be this time of year. With that realization, who am I to play Scrooge? Better I cast myself in the role of someone more like George Bailey. After all, it’s true I have a wonderful life.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.