Saturday, November 12, 2005

Why Thanksgiving Beats the Hell Out of Christmas

Several years ago, I watched a so-called Christmas special that nearly served the purpose I thought it meant to fulfill. It came so close. The half-hour animated program centered upon the fictional town of Whoville, whose denizens were aptly called the Whos: willowy, slightly furry creatures who were busy preparing for Christmas. They were all doing the decorating thing and the singing thing, which was OK, I didn’t mind that too much, but they were also jacking up their credit cards and putting themselves deeper into debt at exorbitant interest rates in a pathetic, desperate attempt to slake the unquenchable thirst of their greedy, materialistic children — who in turn lived only to acquire more and more expensive electronic gadgets and overpriced designer clothing, caring nothing for the perilous state of the family finances. The grownups put up a brave front, wearing bland smiles to hide the stress churning within, while the children also showed happy countenances, lit by an unmistakable avaricious glee. It was sickening.

The hero of this tale was a fellow called the Grinch. From his mountaintop lair, he saw all too well how the meaning of Christmas had been perverted, and, being of an altruistic turn, he conceived a plan to teach this modern-day Sodom a lesson in spiritual morality. So, very early Christmas morning, he dressed himself like the false god Santa Claus and, with the aid of his remarkable dog, relieved each household of this soul-harming junk (all of it, by the way, cleverly concealed in colorful, harmless looking packages — poison with a perfume scent). It was a truly Herculean effort, and I was on tenterhooks to see what effect it would have.

And this is what I saw: the Whos awoke Christmas morning, immediately perceived their liberation from this terrible, longstanding habit of grasping piggishness, then contritely gathered in the town square to sing a paean celebrating their spiritual recovery. It was so beautiful, so moving, my eyes grew misty as I watched.

But then everything turned sour. The Grinch, who watched all of this in amazement, suddenly suffered a bizarre cardiac episode. His heart immediately enlarged several sizes too big for is his anatomy to handle (a strange accelerated form of dilated cardiomyopathy, no doubt). The unwonted torrent of blood that resulted from this must have traumatized his brain, because, in a hideous moment of mental collapse, the Grinch inexplicably returned to Whoville all the materialistic crap he had earlier saved them from! The result: no lesson learned.

I suppose this was one cynical writer’s idea of realism: you know, avoid the fairy tale ending and prove yourself some kind of genius (apparently it was a doctor of who wrote it — although doctor of what I can’t tell you). I was so disgusted it took all I could to keep from throwing the remote through the TV screen.

But let’s face it, Christmas is the most overrated, costly, and stressful of all the holidays. So much money, angst, and planning for one day out of a calendar of 365 makes absolutely no sense. If people would just try practicing a little mind over marketing, perhaps they could see it. Please tell me if this is or is not true: isn’t Christmas meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Is not “christ” the root word of Christmas? Well, yes or no? If the answer is yes, then let me ask you this: are flying reindeer and happy, industrious elves part of the iconology of the Christian Church? I only ask because I’ve never seen them on any stained glass window. And granted, though it’s been a while since Sunday School for me, I don’t remember Santa Claus in the manger with baby Jesus, unless he was traveling incognito as a wise man. Pursuing this line of thought, did Bethlehem have a Best Buy or Walmart? Did Joseph and Mary use Frequent Flyer Miles for their trip to Egypt? Did Mammoth Multi-Media Megacorp own the naming rights to the star that guided the shepherds and the wise men? This enquiring mind wants to know.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: Christmas is way, way over-commercialized. It’s a monstrosity, a burlesque of what it should be, a holiday turned unholy. Don’t even call it Christmas — call it Crassmas. It’s about shopping at the last minute for stuff you can’t afford for people who will look at it once, shake it twice, then put it down and forget about it. It’s traffic jams and fighting over parking spaces in mall parking lots. It’s writing the same hackneyed phrase on a million Christmas cards to people you hardly ever talk to. It’s a careful gift wrapping job ripped to shreds and the thoughtful card accompanying it cast aside unopened. It’s four page statements with your Visa and MasterCard bills and a credit card debt that stretches from the south to the north pole. It’s Christmas spirit in the form of rude hand gestures by drivers reacting to your protests when they cut you off in standstill traffic to advance their progress exactly one car length. Ho ho ho, you ho, ho, ho! Oh, yeah. Jolly, all right. Boil ’em with their own pudding, I say, and bury ’em with a stake of holly through their hearts!

Ahem.

Now, people, please review the illustration below. That’s Norman Rockwell’s famous painting Freedom from Want. A nice Thanksgiving dinner, isn’t it? The family is all assembled. There’s Ma and Pa working the turkey, Jim Bob laughing at something Granny just said. Brother Billy Joe’s hot wife, Maybelle, is exchanging a pleasantry with Aunt Clara, while Uncle Elmo laughs and thinks, “Ain’t she a peach!” Little Juney is peering around Jim Bob, checking to see if Pastor Lundquist appears too tipsy to say grace (he’d been hitting Ma’s cider punch pretty hard earlier), and Pa’s hired hand, Ernie, looks back at us as if to say, “We’ll be bustin’ some buttons after this one, folks!”



That’s Thanksgiving. Simple, clean, very little pressure. See, no one has to break open their piggy banks or put themselves into hock for this holiday. If people are fair about it, they each will bring a dish or two to help out the hosts. And then what else do you have to do? Sit around, talk, over-indulge a little bit (what the hell? it’s Thanksgiving!). Let the kids hang out with their cousins, watch some football, maybe play some cards. Then, after a few hours, pack everyone in the car and head on home. That’s it! Simple!

Giving thanks for what you have beats losing half of it on a few unappreciated trinkets purchased in an overcrowded department store. Sharing a joke and helping yourself to more mashed potatoes is far more desirable than holding up a loud tie with a frozen smile on your face. Raising your hand in a toast is infinitely preferable to massaging it after addressing your hundredth Christmas card. Do you want to know what symbolizes Christmas for me? The trash of Christmas: a dead tree lying in the snow, its needles turned brown with bits of tinsel clinging to its lifeless limbs, stirred occasionally by a cold breeze, crowded by bags upon bags of discarded packaging. Just what the hell’s so merry about that? Huh? Huh?

Bah! Humbug!

The editors wish to point out that if Mr. Schprock’s wife reads this, he still wants the Lionel Elvis Presley Train Set with Fastrack and the G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip.

19 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

Another brilliant post Mr. Schrock. There are some theories out there about how the tradition of decorating the tree started from, something about magic mushrooms and monks from the middle ages. It's a fascinating read if I can find it to pass along.

Once again you have astounded me! I love the whole Grinch segment. So original.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

As I read in the greatly acclaimed ...er, novel, The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown, little of the holiday traditions -- ANY of the holiday traditions -- celebrated by first the Catholic church and afterwards by the offshoot Protestant faiths, is rooted in Christianity, but rather in pagan earth observances. Christmas is celebrated awfully close to the winter solstice, Easter close to the vernal(?) equinox. This was done to acquiesce the pagans into joining the Cult of Christ and making the Christian holidays more palable (read: pagan-like) for them, because The Church had not yet thought up the more physically exhaustive, yet more effective, Crusades.


dassall


P.S.: What level of quality do my posts have to reach in order to be included on your links list?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Farrago said...

"palable" = "palatable." Sorry.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Flash said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Christmas is really overrated. I hate the whole gift giving idea. It's the togetherness and the false idea that for that one day. the world is at peace.

I know it's not true, but it keeps me happy in the little glass world of mine.

As for decorating the Christmas tree, I know how the Angel ended up on top of the tree.

See, one day, Santa was in a really bad mood. The elves were striking because of all the unpaid overtime from last year, they toys were a month behind schedule, Mrs. Claus burnt most of the holiday cookies and ended up shrinking his red suit. And the reindeer got drunk and crashed the sleigh into a tree, needing thousands of dollars in repairs. Well Santa just had it at that point, until a little angel showed up at his front door with the annual Christmas tree. Santa was in no mood for that right then and there, but the angel was determined to drop the tree off. After Santa refused a few more times, the angel got mad and screamed "Well, where the hell would you like me to put it!"

And this the tradition of the angel on top of the tree.

2:38 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I love the whole Grinch segment. So original."

What? I was merely recounting what I saw.

I want to learn more about these magic Yuletide mushrooms.


"As I read in the greatly acclaimed ...er, novel, The DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown…"

Wait a minute! Novel? You mean, like, fiction? Are you kidding? I read it myself, but I thought it was a college textbook.


"And this the tradition of the angel on top of the tree."

It might also explain why it's easier for them to fly instead of walk.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

I saw that same Thanksgiving image in a newspaper ad for Smith's Beans or some such. I got a chuckle from that. Still searching on the shroom theory.

7:19 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Medieval monks on magical mushrooms. Suddenly this Christmas gig doesn't sound half bad. Makes you take a second look at Frosty the Snowman, if you know what I mean.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Well, since I can't find it, let me reproduce it from my crusty memory banks. The idea is that Shamanism is the most ancient religion on earth, from which sprang all modern religions, such as Islam, Christianity and Hinduism (for example). Shamanism was one of the targets of the Inquisition, the religion of the pagans, or country folks, who took mushrooms in order to connect with (God, the earth, whatever). The mushrooms they took grew under pine trees in Siberia, where St. Nicolas has his origins. Presents under the tree could be a morph of the mushrooms, and flying reindeer because of the shrooms they ate under the trees.

I just read too that Santa Claus wasn't depicted as wearing red and white, the coincidental color of these psychodelic mushroom caps, until Coca Cola created that perception around 1920-30 (from memory, I can't remember). Rudolph is another marketing creation.

I read also that mushrooms were strung together on a string over the hearth to dry them out, like the modern day popcorn strings.

There was more, but that is the gist of it.

9:10 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Well, I don't celebrate the holidays, but it's amazing to me how much money goes down the drain at Christmas. I read an article once that said the average American is just finishing paying off Christmas debts by the time the next Christmas rolls around. Our town started putting up decorations the day after Halloween. I think they forgot about Thanksgiving completely.

9:49 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I read also that mushrooms were strung together on a string over the hearth to dry them out, like the modern day popcorn strings."

Wow, man! Far out!


"I read an article once that said the average American is just finishing paying off Christmas debts by the time the next Christmas rolls around."

I definitely believe that.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

AT LONG, LONG LAST!!! A KINDRED SPIRIT! Someone who agrees with me that Thanksgiving is a better holiday than Christmas. I love Thanksgiving. All the warm, fun family togetherness and none of the stress of Christmas. But the best part of Thanksgiving is the FOOD! Mmmm....Thanksgiving memories....

Hey Trina, just being nosy, sorry, but why don't you celebrate holidays? Is it a Church thing?

11:55 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I've always said that Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday (still, even as a vegetarian for 20 years) because the whole family gets together w/o the hassle and stress of Christmas.

And to avoid some of the Christmas stress this year, one group of friends of mine have chosen charities to which we want money given in our name instead of gifts.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Oops, I feel the need to point out that I posted my comment before reading the others, so I didn't really copy Michele...it just looks like I don't have an original thought in my head. ;-)

6:35 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Ah, Michele and Kathleen, the sweet sound of sanity! And, Kathleen, I'm sort of a semi-vegetarian (I eat fish), so I usually have a tofu product or two with my meal instead of turkey.

7:25 AM  
Blogger :phil: said...

Very good post. Thanksgiving is the best. I't about giving thanks for what you have. It's taken a new meaning for me over the past two years. I do love Christmas too, but mainly for the look in my kids eyes when they see their gifts. I'm getting Dylan a subscription to Playboy this year. For the riviting stories of course

10:43 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

And the cartoons. Yep, those are the only two reasons for subscribing to Playboy.

10:55 AM  
Blogger John said...

Pssh! Christmas has Thanksgiving in a cross arm choke hold and is about to give him the people's elbow. But what's this? St. Patrick's Day is running towards the ring, and he's got a folding chair!

Where was I? Oh yeah. People complain about Christmas being comercialized. Boo-fricking-whoo. Everything is comercialized. Maybe you noticed that over the weekend when you where watching highlights of the Colts whooping Houston at the RCA dome on the Nextel halftime report. And almost all of the traditions that we keep are rooted in paganism. But when you get down to the core of it, Christmas is still a celebration of the birth of Christ, and remains so to all those who care to remember.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a joke. Hey, let's hang cardboard cutouts of native Americans in our windows and pretend like we never stole all their land and gave them all kinds of diseases and pretty much wiped them off the face of the Earth (except for Nebraska, apparently) Whee!

Bah humbug indeed.

11:44 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"But when you get down to the core of it, Christmas is still a celebration of the birth of Christ, and remains so to all those who care to remember."

It's a little difficult to see past the product placement in the manger, but, yeah, it's still all about Baby Jesus — along with Baby John the Baptist and the Baby Apostle Squad, with Super Holy Spirit Dude and his realistic Shootin' Tongues O' Fire (buy ’em separately or as a set).

12:58 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I have a lovely mushroom gravy and veggie stuffing recipe, if you're interested. It's what I usually end up eating for T-giving since tofu isn't big in my family. I had tofurkey one year with a friend and I have to say that I was not impressed.

6:58 AM  

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