A winter wish

If there’s one thing I look forward to when the Halloween season comes to a close, it’s discount candy.

But when you step into your local Shoppers Drug Mart or dollar store this November, you might just be greeted by one of the most terrifying and bewildering sounds—the Christmas carol. Even worse, a display of tacky, plastic light-up things might begin to sing as you walk by.

Oddly enough, I often wonder how I would describe the holiday season to an alien. I’d probably mention something about Santa and the North Pole, sugarplums, reindeer, flocking to various places of worship and how, when it snows, people think the holiday season is infinitely better.

I’d advise the alien to watch It’s A Wonderful Life and stay away from eggnog. I guess I would also have to mention something about the importance of family and how we assemble together to binge. And something about childhood innocence and how the driving force behind the holiday seems to revolve around children—and our collective memories of youth.

But to fully explain the holiday season, I would have to answer another question about the December ritual that becomes harder to understand as I get older. How do I explain why holiday traditions and memories translate into massive robotic consumption? What does all of this buying, wrapping and credit card-swiping have to do with anything? When did we become programmed to buy? Who actually likes gingerbread?

I’m not trying to get all TV-movie special on you. It’s not that I think our immodest consumption is in some way distasteful in lieu of all those grand hymns—it just seems unnecessary. Last holiday season I was in a shopping mall and realized I desired nothing in any of the stores. I felt sick because of the lights and desperately needed air. Someone once told me that not wanting anything is a sign of depression. Thankfully my desires aren’t limited to the boxy stores in a shopping complex.

This holiday season my family and I have decided not to exchange gifts. This could all go terribly wrong because we’ll have to actually talk to one another, instead of frantically opening presents while on sugar highs only to crash into turkey comas a couple of hours later. We’ll need to come up with some ingenious way of passing the time.

Personally, I’d like to start a new tradition where, instead of A Christmas Carol, we watch George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. If I were to explain this to an alien, I would say it reminds me although the zombies in the mall might engage in their relentless pursuit of brainless, monster consumption, there’s a metaphorical helicopter with enough fuel left in it to carry my family and I away from the horror.

I’m only half-kidding. I’ve been listening to Bob Dylan’s most recent album, Christmas in the Heart, and it’s pretty, well, catchy.

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