Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Wishing You A Grisly Death in the New Year

Consider the following thought experiment.

Imagine that suddenly everyone around you begins to act funny. First your coworkers start to ask you what you’ve got planned for the Dark Days. Then you notice that storefronts are putting up decorations of burgundy and black, 10 foot-tall spikes festooned with bones. When you walk into stores, they’re all playing the same strange songs.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, let it bleed from your head to your toes.”

When you buy your groceries, the person behind the counter says, “Hail Satan!” Total strangers on the street say it, too. And every one of them looks at you, waiting for you to say it back.

Then you realize that every house on your street is decorated with what looks like glowing entrails. Every window has that bony spike in the living room window. You go home and turn on the TV and every show has a Satan-themed episode. Characters spreading the festive entrails on the customary spike. All the special movies feature a sad non-believer who ultimately finds joy in the Dark Lord.

Distant family members, old friends, and your coworkers send you cards that say “Hail Satan” and “Praise the Dark Lord” and “Wishing You A Grisly Death in the New Year.” And then, towards the end of the month, people actually roam the streets, chanting in unison about their Great Dark Lord.

And then suddenly everything goes back to normal. The boney spikes are left on the sidewalks to be hauled away, all the magenta and black merchandise is put on sale, and no one talks about it for eleven months, when it all happens again.

This is what it’s like to not celebrate Christmas.

I grew up a middle class reformed Jewish kid in a southern California town of mostly Christians. Every December I was trotted out in front of the class to explain what a menorah was. And every time, it left me feeling more alienated.

So, yeah, I’ve got issues. Don’t we all.

I’ve had this conversation a million times before, so I know what you’re going to say.

  • “Christmas is totally secular.”
    Examine the root word. Christmas is a holiday for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. Frankly, the only people who make this argument are Christians. Fish don’t know they’re wet, either.
  • “The intent is good.”
    Good intentions and a dollar won’t buy you a latté. You can have good intentions and still be insensitive. George Bush probably had great intentions for Iraq, and look what that got us.
  • “Christmas is just a Pagan ritual blah blah blah.”
    Yeah, I went to college, too. Guess what. We’re not pagans. It hardly matters where it’s from. It matters what it means today. Hint: It has to do with someone’s birthday. Nice kid. Daddy issues. Founded a religion.

All this Christmas-ness that carpet bombs our senses every December is totally overwhelming and alienating for those of us who do not celebrate the holiday. It’s no wonder people get so depressed in December. If you’re not celebrating, there must be something wrong with you.

Just look at the holiday movies. Scrooge doesn’t believe, he’s shown his own death, so he believes and becomes happy. Jimmy Stewart is sad, is visited by an angel, and then he’s happy. The Grinch is a grinch until he hears carolers, his heart grows, and he’s happy.

All of these stories are a form of proselytization. They’re metaphors for salvation through Christ, a cornerstone of Christian belief. The meta-message is clear: believe like we do or you’ll go to hell.

As a Jew, I’m as close to the majority in America as I’m going to get. Black people don’t get to hide in plain sight like I do. Gay people have others assume they’re straight every day. I’ve got this one month a year where everyone assumes something wrong about me. Boo hoo.

But every December it still pisses me off. And eventually I hit a breaking point and need to have a good rant. And here we are.

See you next year.

Hail Satan.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.