Every year about this time, people wrap up their Christmas shopping, attend uncomfortable social functions and worry about New Year’s resolutions they have no intention of keeping. It’s a stressful time emotionally, financially and socially. In the end, Darwinian Theory incarnate enables one to reach the finish line of January 1st without a nervous breakdown – survival of the fittest, beginning with Christmas parties.
Between family gatherings and holiday office parties, we spend about half our free time in December enduring the company of people we don’t necessarily like or want to be around the rest of the time. The point of all of this unwarranted schmoozing varies depending on your particular position in society.
If you’re a corporate exec hosting an event, you’re expected to make a good show of the holidays, pretending that you’re generous and thoughtful to those whose backs you stepped on in order to get where you are today. As an underling, you’re required to fain some misplaced exposition of loyalty to people who neither appreciate your hard work and long hours nor identify with your problems just trying to make ends meet. Of course, the ridiculous doesn’t stop there.
I debated whether to even mention fruitcake. It seems like a trite and highly over-dramatized topic, but still may warrant some scrutiny. It’s not the actual fruitcake that should be considered, but what it represents. Along with the late Twinkie, the fruitcake has been touted as one of the few sources of food, if you can call it that, which might actually survive after a nuclear disaster.
In truth, the fruitcake is a symbol of the requirement bestowed on today’s society that we give – and give a lot – to people we don’t even like. Now there are people out there for whom fruitcake is a genuine treat, they may be in need of some psychiatric help, but they do exist. But giving the fruitcake because it’s an easy buy in fulfillment of the gift requirement is just ridiculous.
Along with the requisite gifts comes a host of holiday cards clogging the mailbox from people you don’t talk to any other time but to whom you are now suddenly obligated to return the gesture in a never-ending cycle of artificial sentiment. The constant worry over whether to send a “Christmas” card or more generic holiday greeting is maddening. Get over it already. How offensive could it be to receive a note that wishes someone good cheer? Apparently it offends a great many people, but not enough for me to worry about.
Outdoors, we inevitably decorate the house in hopes of being noticed by some neighborhood committee arbitrarily voting on who shelled out the most for new LED light strings, to say nothing of excessive electric bills. In a variation of the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, each house along the street progresses with increasing gaudiness, ranging from a lighted reindeer whose flashing lights on its legs make it appear to be running, to two-story, inflatable representations of the Nativity which look like they would be more at home at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And the list goes on.
Now all of this might seem a little cynical and, at some point, everyone thinks about this stuff but most people would never admit to any of it. We’re generally happy just going along with everything and continuing in the repetitive traditions of our families or friends. In the end, the holidays were meant as a time of celebration but for many they can bring depression, anxiety and frustration. Recognizing the causes of these feelings can be a first step in easing them a bit, before they thoroughly take over.
Some things you just have to accept. There are the haves and the have-nots, along with those who don’t care one way or another. Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or whatever you celebrate, don’t forget the point and, like the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”