It's like clockwork.
Every year, right along with the weepy encomiums to some Jewish schmoe who got nailed up for trying to get people to be nice to each other and the kitchy, dippy foolishness that drips from every tree, building, and television in these United States, come the nattering nabobs of negativity.
"Christmas is too religious!" "It's too secular!" It's too commercial!" "It's unfair to atheists!" It's unfair to people without families!" "It's unfair to me!"
Any more it's really just part of the season. Suicides rise. Families split. Hospitals fill up with busted legs, busted lips, and bitter husbands full of spite and too much eggnog. In fact, even in years where the pundits don't crow about some fatuous "War on Christmas," its almost fashionable to talk the season down like we're all super cool teenagers trying to distance ourselves from our oh-so-humiliating parents.
Personally I mostly dig Christmas. Sure, I don't so much love the six-week shopping season and all the glitter and chintz, but I guess other people do so live and let live is what I say. But do I love spending time with my family, opening mystery boxes fulla loot, and gorging myself on turkey, cookies, and wine. C'mon! That's a good time!
Nevertheless I am in the habit of being deeply negative about Christmas music. In general, I hate it. Aside from a few beautiful classics (mostly hymns) Christmas music as a genre is the cloying and nasty auditory cousin of cat pee, of puke and disinfectant, of unwashed old ladies wearing far too much perfume crammed into a tiny hot room. Worse yet, I can't just block it out. My mind doesn't work that way. If it's playing, I'm listening, and if I'm listening, I'm suffering a little. Poor me, right?
It's easy for me to get worked up about this; I just ride in on the surf of everyone else's bitterness. But even as I can get carried away in paroxysms of fury at "Little Drummer Boy" and techno editions of "Sleigh Ride," I think it is also worth remembering (for me and you alike) that Christmas means more things than fatty rum drinks, crammed full malls and caterwauled carols. You've got to find the good and try to ignore the bad.
In his faux-memoir Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor writes about the town's Catholic priest, Father Emil, who foregoes a second finger of brandy on Christmas eve because
[e]ven on Christmas Eve, one finger is the correct portion, by him, and it's a miserable mistake to think that two would be twice as good, and three even better, or putting both hands around the bottle and climbing into it. That's no Christmas. The true Christmas bathes every little thing in light and makes one cookie a token, one candle, one simple pageant more wonderful than anything seen on stage or screen.
Christmas is indeed more special the more simple things are kept. If you're a Christian, better to focus on the simple beauty of Jesus' life work, and celebrate the joys of family and friends. If you're not, it is a season to find solace in friends or family, or the simple pleasures of solitary contemplation and silly Santa headgear.