My good friend Uncle Dan likes to remind us every December, in between sips of Busch, that Christmas is for the kids.
Its a simple offering from a wise and respected Hermosan sage, but it got me to thinking: Would there still be a Christmas in 2011 if it were left to the grown-ups?
There are many reasons to think not. As a blissfully childless bachelor, I am far enough removed from the childhood magic of Christmas to look at this holiday objectively. And this isnt another Bah, humbug or Christmas is too commercialized, rant Im not Eeyore, and I am capable of joy. In fact, my Christmas memories are so nostalgically joyous that I keep expecting to see a picture of my family in an old Norman Rockwell print.
So I get it, really. But what has occurred to me, something that may have escaped many parents who went straight from extended childhood into parenthood, is that Christmas is incredibly silly. As I see it, theres a golden window maybe six years, 10 tops when Christmas is both real and magical. Its made me re-examine mundane recollections like every year at Christmas wed load up the station wagon and pick out the tree. In this case, every year really means a period of five or six years until my dad realized he no longer had to waste a Saturday afternoon with the wife and kids haggling with a Boy Scout over the price of a blue spruce because the kids simply didnt give a damn if there was a blue spruce in the living room or not. He certainly didnt care.
Nor did he likely care about the TV fare in the weeks leading up to the Big Day. Another annual ritual of the holiday season that wears thin after just a few years, Christmas entertainment really is the worst kind. Its a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street are just bad movies. The Nutcracker is incomprehensible. And the trite claymation classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolphs Shiny New Year and Santa Claus is Coming to Town butcher myths that are already so inaccurate we might as well just tell the kids Jesus was born in 1954 in Hoboken and hung out with his disciples Fred Astaire and Burl Ives. Its amazing what can pass for tradition when its sold to an 8-year-old waiting for a visit from Santa. And yet those movies and programs and whatever the hell The Nutcracker is are a part of our national collective memory because they were forced down our throats as children.
So Uncle Dan is right; Christmas is for the kids, but only because theyre the only ones who can appreciate something so utterly childish. And Im all for keeping it going because Christmas is an invaluable part of childhood. But eventually childhood ends, and so should Christmas. Im not naive; I realize that Christians would renounce their savior before the retail industry relinquishes its grip on the holiday shopping season, and neither is likely to happen in this millennium. And inane or not, its the duty of every red-blooded American parent to keep the magic alive for their kids, too.
But for us rational, free-thinking adults who are reasonably certain that Western Civilization neither hinges on the birthday of a 33-year-old unemployed carpenter from Nazareth nor generates its wealth from an obese WASP from the North Pole, we just ask for a semblance of normalcy. Leave the banks, post offices, restaurants and stores open, schedule a decent concert or two for Saturday night (which is what many of us call Christmas), and Ill go back to writing about more sophisticated topics. Like Transvestite Balls. And the Follies. Merry Christmas.