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Christmas: A Few of my Favorite (and Unfavorite) Things

A classic John Lennon Christmas song that I still hear on the radio several times every Christmas season.

In honor of the holiday season, I decided to compile a list of the things that I enjoy the most about Christmas. Also, in the interest of being fair and balanced, and to get a few things off of my chest, I will list a few things that I find somewhat annoying about this time of year. To ensure that this post will not end with me sounding like a scrooge, I will start with the negatives:

1) Christmas music saturation. As you will see shortly, I actually like a lot of the standard Christmas music. Old songs, like familiar smells, can instantly connect me to memories of Christmases past. The problem is that the Christmas season seems to get extended each year, so the songs start to play by early November. So by the time I have heard the 25th different singer break out into “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” I have had enough.

2) Advertisements that start too early. This is closely related to the previous complaint. Since Christmas has evolved into a materialistic orgy, and the American economy cannot survive without a healthy dose of winter shopping, the holiday advertising blitz starts earlier each year. So as soon as the Halloween decorations disappear, Christmas trees pop up in department stores everywhere.

3) Taking down the decorations. This made my list for a few reasons. First, I like Christmas, so it is always depressing to see another one pass. Second, I don’t like excess work, and taking down decorations, unlike putting them up, feels like a chore. This pain was especially acute when we still got real Christmas trees. Needles would end up all over the place when you moved the thing out, and there is something inherently depressing about sticking a dead tree out on the curb. When we switched to plastic a few years ago, it made the whole process less painful. At least we know that we get to see our old friend next year. (Although I miss the smell of pine needles in the house.)

4) Stressed out people. Being a guy, I may not be qualified to make this complaint. My wife, after all, is the one who fulfills all of the duties that make our traditional Christmas possible. I still find it funny, however, when I hear people talking about how stressed out they are trying to get ready for Christmas. If the shopping, Christmas cards, cooking, decorating, parties, and all the rest of it are so stressful, then why not drop a few of these activities? There is no law than I know of commanding, “Thou shalt mail Christmas cards” or “thou shalt buy Christmas presents for every friend and relative that thou knoweth.”

5) Shopping. See explanation for “stressed out people” above. I don’t like shopping for any purpose, and gift giving, especially for adults, is the worst. If adults want something, and they have at least as much money as I – which is most Americans, by the way – then they will go out and buy it. So in some cases, what we call gift giving is merely the fulfillment of someone else’s shopping list, a glorified form of running errands for them. And if the shopper has no list to work with, then it is a crapshoot that more often than not wastes money and leads to the accumulation of excess crap in the recipient’s garage. Adults should save themselves the time and stress and limit gift giving to kids. You can’t go wrong with toys and video games.

6) People offended by anything associated with Christmas. People offended by Christmas are usually bothered by Christianity in general. Given the various ways that Christianity has been connected to some horrific events in history, including intense conflicts between Christians and followers of other religions, I can somewhat understand their feelings. It is important to recognize, however, that so much of what is currently associated with Christmas – Santa Claus, wreaths, lights, trees, gifts, even the date of the holiday – is essentially pagan or secular. If not for these non-Christian elements, Christmas would involve little more than some manger scenes, a few religious Christmas songs, and another day on the calendar where people felt obligated to go to church. Christmas is not even a big deal in the Bible. Only two of the gospels mentioned Jesus’ birth, and they can’t even get the story straight. The manger scenes that we see today are a strange amalgam of the contradictory Christmas stories told in the books of Matthew and Luke. So if the phrase “Merry Christmas” makes you cringe, you might want to consider getting over it. The person who said it might not even be a Christian anyway. And when people say “Happy Holidays,” we know what most of them probably mean.

7) People who think that only Christians have a right to celebrate the holiday. See previous item in list. Holidays take on a life of their own, and the secular/pagan traditions have as much validity as the Christian ones. Since Christianity co-opted some pagan elements when the Christmas holiday was established, Christians should not complain if non-Christian traditions often take precedence over their own.

OK, I’m glad that I got those out of my system. Truth be told, the following things that I like about Christmas far outweigh the negatives. Underneath it all, I am a sentimental old sap:

1) Decorating. I like all of the traditional Christmas decorations: lights, trees, wreaths, etc. I do admit that they can get a bit gaudy at times, but I can even live with that. I’d hate see what the electric bill must be on some of these excessively decorated homes. We never go too crazy at our house, largely because I don’t want to put in the time. The tree decorating party, however, is one of our favorite family traditions.

2) Cold weather. Like a guy complaining about shopping, many would argue that a Southern Californian has no right to say anything about cold weather. I love the feeling, however, of sitting inside nice and warm when the weather is cold, wet, and/or snowy outside. If I lived in Montana, of course, I might not be romanticizing bad weather. Of course, if a person in Montana gets tired of the cold, then maybe they should consider getting out of Montana. It’s like me, a resident of Orange County, complaining about an excessive number of Republicans, gated housing communities, breast implants, or mega-churches.

3) Vacation. Winter break is my longest extended vacation of the year. Because I work every summer, the longest continuous break that I get at that time of year is a couple of weeks. In the winter, I get at least a month off, and some of my schools have an even longer break. I like my job, but it’s always nice to recharge the batteries. After teaching for so long, I don’t know if I could ever move to a nine to five job all year round.

4) Watching kids open presents. When I was a kid, Christmas was the highlight of the year. I had a lot of sleepless, Christmas Eve nights, waiting in anticipation for what would turn up the next day. When I had no individual source of income, Christmas, along with my birthday, was the only chance to get a mess of stuff at one time. Watching my kids on Christmas morning is a great chance to relive some of that excitement.

5) Classic Christmas music. Most of my favorites are still the traditional Christian hymns and carols. I don’t believe in the literal truth of the lyrics anymore, but I still enjoy some of the general spiritual truths and desires embedded into the music. They also tap in to the sentimental side that I, as a male American, try to keep hidden most of the time.

6) Traditions. Some of the main things that my wife and I try to provide for our kids are traditions that they can fondly remember as they grow older. As I have grown older, memories closely associated with family have become the most meaningful aspects of the Christmas holiday. I could care less about getting all kinds of gifts any more, although I will take cash if anyone cares to donate to my writing fund.

7) Christmas sentiments. Songs like the John Lennon tune included in this post can sound naïve and sappy, but so what. It is highly unlikely that peace on earth will ever be fully achieved, but striving for a more peaceful world will always be a noble goal. We should strive to prevent cynicism from getting the best of us, especially around Christmas time.


  1. I like your lists. Very true. I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas.

  2. You mentioned that someone could complain about Orange County having too many Republicans, gated housing communities, mega-churches, or breast implants. I understand the complaints about the first 3, but the last one? That's God's gift to humanity, and a great Xmas gift to a loved one (husband to wife, or wife to husband).


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