Whether you call it Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Thanksgivukkah, Advent, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s Day . . . they are all holidays . . . and, we are in the thick of the holiday celebrations. Feels like we have been celebrating them since the day after Halloween when all the stores started putting out their holiday decorations . . . it has been a blur, a confusing blur at that . . . and, I am tired of it already. Yeah, I know . . . but you are a minister! Well, bah humbug! I did not sign up for what society now practices as the “holidays” . . . a commercial, gluttonous festival of celebration of anything and everything that smells of good cheer. I need a break and we are still nearly three weeks away from the BIG DAY!
I live in a family where the female side love to celebrate holidays . . . especially the daughter who has a natural calendar marking the days between each and every holiday known to humanity . . . and, a wife who cannot start the Christmas celebration soon enough each year. Luckily the daughter got married and is no longer a problem . . . but, the wife, that is another story. Thankfully, after over thirty years of marriage, we do have some ground rules about the holidays—especially Christmas. For the most part the wife honors these boundaries . . . she does not decorate until the day after Thanksgiving, nor does she play any Christmas music—non-stop, I might add—until Thanksgiving dinner is done. She honors those boundaries, but has gotten sneaky . . . instead of playing all of her Christmas CDs, she hums . . . she hums all of the Christmas classics for days before Thanksgiving; but, as she reminds me, she is not playing Christmas music!
Which brings me to my gripe about the holidays . . . traditions that drive me crazy! Non-stop Christmas music . . . everywhere and anywhere a person goes, there is non-stop Christmas music. I feel like I am stuck in some low budget movie of my life with a soundtrack of Christmas music . . . and, it is not the good Christmas music. No, the music I get bombarded with is seems to be all the cheesy music . . . Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer . . . All I want for Christmas is My Front Two Teeth . . . I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus . . . or a bunch of dog barking Jingle Bells. There are moments in my life when Christmas music just does not fit my mood during the holidays . . . there are times I need a little rock and roll or even a little heavy metal . . . anything but rap . . . to get me through the day. Sure, Christmas music serves as a prompt to remind me of the season, but I don’t need to be reminded endlessly.
Next on the list of complaints is the annual holiday letters. Now, unlike some people, I do not mind receiving these literary classics each year . . . mainly because it is about the only time I ever heard from those people. I can put up with the over-exaggerated writing about the writer and his or her family . . . at least it is not some boring slide show I have to sit through. I don’t mind receiving these holiday letters. What I do not like is having to write them . . . oh, I write some really good holiday letters . . . I can exaggerate with the best of them. But, they rarely change from year to year since the kids have become adults; plus, they should be doing their own letters. But, I have toyed with the idea of doing a holiday letter that is like one of those books that you can pick your endings . . . you know, at the end of the paragraph you pick one, two, or three with each part taking the letter in a different direction depending upon the reader’s mood. I think this would put the zing back in holiday letters, and remove the dread of receiving them each year like the plague.
I am also not too hot on premature decorations. They make everyone else look bad. No one likes over-achievers. We have one neighbor who whips everyone by at least two weeks . . . always made me jealous. Then I found out that they weren’t overzealous . . . they were just lazy. They never take down their decorations and leave them up all year round. Hopefully this year they will climb up on the roof and change the “Happy New Year 2001” lights to “2014”! Also, I am not too thrilled with those blow up holiday characters . . . kind of creepy . . . the way that they sway in the wind . . . the way that they are huge during the night and then just a big pile of material in the morning. Over-decorating is a bit too much too. Keeping it simple is the most beautiful . . . so, at the Keener Homestead we have white lights on the roof and a lit-up, mechanical moose (the wife’s choice) . . . the roof lights are buried under a foot of snow, but they make the snow glow . . . and, the moose is only half lit up. It only has lights working in its torso area with a lightless rear end and head . . . kind of our tribute to the Headless Horseman of Halloween. My advice is . . . keep it simple.
Fruitcake . . . nice doorstops. Do people really eat this stuff? Too sweet for me . . . too hard to eat . . . and has green cherries—who ever heard of green cherries. Fruitcake seems to be the one Christmas gift that keeps on giving . . . you can’t destroy it. Our Dachshund, Dora, who eats anything and everything, will not eat fruitcake. Now, my mother’s Jam Cake—where you take all the jam and jelly jars that are half filled, mix them up in cake batter, and bake a cake—I can handle that. Especially since she soaks a tea towel in bourbon, wraps the cake in it, and lets it age when she sends it to us. Yes, the cake is as sweet as fruitcake, but the bourbon kills the taste. Kind of puts me in the Christmas spirit after a couple of slices.
Secret Santas . . . whoever came up with this punishment for those of us who work with others to make a living, out to be made to eat a whole fruitcake. I have a tough time choosing gifts for the people I love, how in the world am I ever going to get a gift for someone I get paid to work with? Thankfully, the wife makes bourbon balls every year as my gift to my fellow workers. After a couple of bourbon balls, everyone loves everyone else! Sure beats the heck out of having to buy a gift for someone in my office . . . I am the only male in the office of nine people. Most of my co-workers do not care for a six-pack of beer . . . but, they really, really like the bourbon balls.
Charitable giving . . . from the Salvation Army ringing their bells on every street corner to the mail campaigns that rival an election year, ‘tis the season for hitting up the masses when they are feeling good. It is blatant manipulation at its best. I especially do not like when I am told that I am a “Grinch” when I walk by without throwing a couple of hundred in the pot. I believe in charitable giving, and I am quite disciplined in giving to many causes throughout the year . . . I don’t have to make it all up at one time! Where are these people the rest of the year? Where are they when I get my credit card bill from the holiday season in mid-January and could use a little relief?
Christmas lights . . . anyone who has ever dealt with Christmas lights know what I am referring to . . . who invented these torturous strands of mini-lights in which one bulb—out of five hundred—burns out and takes out all of the other lights with it leaving me to have to test each and every one of them until I find the burnt out culprit. It is cheaper and less time consuming to go out and buy new ones . . . unless it is one of those trees like we have that already have the lights in them. We have a row out at the top of the tree that is not making the wife happy. When the wife ain’t happy, I don’t get to be happy. I have changed the bulbs, changed the fuses, plugged them in every conceivable manner, and the top row still won’t light up. I am thinking going treeless next year . . . or getting a spot light for the tree . . . or giving the wife a really dark set of sunglasses for Christmas that she has to wear every year.
I don’t like dressing up the dogs in cure holiday costumes. I don’t like egg nog. I don’t like turkey for the big Christmas dinner . . . we did that number at Thanksgiving . . . let the bird rest! I don’t care about dressing warmly, hopping in the car, and going to look at Christmas light while listening to Christmas music. I don’t want to sit in front of the television and watch all those Christmas specials that never seem to end just like corny Christmas music. I don’t want to wear a Santa hat. I don’t want to go to the mall and go Christmas shopping. I am tired and there are still three weeks to go!
Christmas starts way too soon for me. I want to be traditional. My favorite Christmas begins with the Christmas Eve service at church. Then it is back home where I slip into something comfortable before we sit at the table for some chili and snacks while we wait for everyone to gather. Then it is opening the Christmas presents . . . each of taking a turn. There is a lot of kidding and laughter as we go around the room opening presents. Then it is quiet conversation once the fury is over before everyone hits the sack for the night. Then, on Christmas morning, it is a big breakfast, lounging around, and then the big meal . . . naps in the afternoon . . . and, more time with family. It is simple and gets the job done.
Kind of reminds me of that first Christmas . . . it was simple. A child was born . . . a gift . . . shared in love . . . unwrapped for all to see . . . there was joy . . . there was laughter . . . it was holy. That is the sort of Christmas I get into . . . it is the one that touches my heart the deepest and keeps on giving. Yeah, let’s keep it simple. Bah humbug to this other Christmas . . . bring on the real Christmas!