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the united states of holiday blues

It's funny how infecting the Christmas spirit is, even for someone who isn't supposed to be moved by it. I can't help it, it's just there. A yearly secular force that changes the tides of economies and the emotional states of entire cities. It's unlike anything else.


Growing up, I was jealous of my friends with the trees and the songs and the eggnog. Every Jewish kid knows that Chanukah is just a cheap knockoff, a tiny holiday celebrating an ancient military victory that was never meant to be celebrated with gelt and dreidels and eight days of presents. We all know we're getting leftovers. Consolation prizes.

I was a Jewish kid in the land of Christians. Later in life I would buy a Macintosh instead of a PC. I would buy a Nintendo 64 instead of a PlayStation. If I'd been old enough, I'm sure I would have owned a Betamax. Every Jew learns to love the underdog in this way.

So once again it's December 24 and I'm telling myself that I should be feeling nothing. It's just a Monday night, after all. And tomorrow is only another Tuesday, in a long line of Tuesdays, at the tail of a very hard year.

But I've always been a sucker for a community event, a watershed. I want to get swept up in it. I want to wake up and run downstairs in my pajamas to a tree full of presents. I want the perfect pornographic American Dream. In moments like this, I want to be just like everyone else. Just for a moment. Just to know what it's like. And I hate myself for wanting it.

But I know the truth is, no one gets that perfect vision of Christmas. Tomorrow families around San Francisco will find a white Christmas made of fog, not snow. They'll quarrel as families always do, and for the truly unfortunate, something extremely bad will happen – an illness, a divorce, a death – that will forever cast Christmas in the pale green glow of fluorescent lights in places where no one ever wants to be: hospital waiting rooms, rain-soaked taxicabs, airport corridors.

Almost all the Christians I've ever known have carried around the pain of a Christmas gone wrong. I guess they all had the same visions of the perfect holiday I have. The difference is, I've always known that vision was not really for me. I never belonged. I can only imagine how hard it is to know that that's what your holiday is supposed to be like, and the reality always falls short.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, we all get fucked in December, one way or another. No one gets out alive. So maybe the best thing we can do is celebrate this unity, this solidarity, this United States of Holiday Blues – a new multi-ethnic, multi-national tradition that welcomes everyone into the Holy Church of December Fucking Twenty-Fifth.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, let's all just go be with the people we love today, whoever they are. Let's laugh and drink and tell each other I love you. Because life is too short to waste time keeping score.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, Merry Christmas.

-- Derek

{ 11:05pm }



» hallelujah and

~a  { 12.25.01 @ 7:14am }

» ('Cuz I can't remember that danged dreidel song... ;-)

You know baby...whooh ohh ohh
Merry Christmas Derek
Merry Christmas Derek, you sure do treat me nice
Merry Christmas Derek, you sure do treat me nice
You got me rockin' on your website
Feels like living in paradise.

TheBrad  { 12.25.01 @ 9:31am }

» Derek, as you know, I'm a spiritual person, but not a religious one. In some respects, it's almost hypocritical to call myself a Christian, since my true beliefs take into account parts of not only Christianity just about every other religion or major belief system out there. I have become, through my own development, a religious mutt.

And yet, Christmas still means a great deal to me. It means the same thing to me that Easter does, or the Fourth of July, or Burning Man, or my birthday or yours. It means spreading of love and joy and soaking up the good vibrations from those around me.

You're only an outsider if you look at this as some historical Christian holiday, and even then, you are the only one who would consider you an outsider. Everyone else it too full of good cheer (or eggnog) to even think about excluding others.

To me, you are certainly not and outsider. You and Heather are part of my celebration of life and love and friendship. Please don't ever forget that.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

Jay  { 12.25.01 @ 10:33am }

» Seems fairly spiritual at Kottke's place with a bit of a feud between friends.

– George Alderson-Wyatt  { 12.25.01 @ 12:36pm }

» .... Oh.. there "is" something oddly wonderful about this day...

– Kevin-John  { 12.25.01 @ 5:28pm }

» For once this year, although I am not Christian, I almost had the urge to say "amen" at the dinner table. And my thankful thought last night, at Christmas eve dinner, was that we were all home safe...

Merry Christmas, everyone.

– amy  { 12.25.01 @ 6:40pm }

» Life is too matter what religion you are,it takes to much time and effort to hate someone. It is so much easier to love someone. Jew, Christian, Muslim whatever faith you may be Happy Holidays and have a safe New Year.

So return emails to those who email you!?!?

– Michele  { 12.25.01 @ 10:21pm }

» I like to view Xmas as "Thanksgiving II: the Gifting. "

Basically it's another chance to tell my tribe that I love them. And it is so close to solstice and the new year that it makes a great year marker.

Conversely, a spiritual guide of mine posted a refreshing look at Christmas.

– Halcyon  { 12.26.01 @ 10:56am }

» Sorry to barge in 2 cents are coming out of my pocket anyways ;)

It does take a toll on people...some for the good, and some for the bad. I, myself, have no clue what to think anymore. But Happy Holidays anyways!

– Kitty  { 12.26.01 @ 2:29pm }

» "I want the perfect pornographic American Dream."

Well, now I know what to get you for Chanuka/Christmas next year: vivid's "Best of Hardcore #3" video.

BTW: Halcyon -- love the "Thanksgiving II: The Gifting" title. What does that makes new year's eve?
"Thanksgiving III: Explosion!" ?

– Christian  { 12.28.01 @ 1:53pm }

» Random tangent but slightly related - it's always amazed me that most people don't get that the whole "12 days of christmas" thing was a teaching song and those 12 days are the days between christmas and the epiphany (when the wise men showed up). Gifts came 12 days later.

back on topic:

I personally like the secular side of christmas more. People hold doors. People (sometimes) let you merge on the DC Beltway. People smile back. People say hello on the street.

I always thought that Christmas is about a metanoic shift in the way people treat each other. They should think of others first, give without wanting in return, etc. Of course, this only seems to last a day or two, when the ideal is to attempt to have this attitude every day of the year.

Presents are great, but to me, I always enjoy seeing that my sister got over her paranoia of LAX and made it back to Virignia, that all my friends from High School all head to the same local tavern on Christmas Day night to get away from the close confines of parents still thinking they are 12, of reconnecting with people that have slipped away. It's a joint recognition of a year in review, a rest stop on the road of life, and a moment where I can look back and say "yeah. that was 200x."

I can't directly identify with your feelings, as I was raised Catholic, but friends of mine who are Jewish have expressed similar sentiments this year.

I guess I wonder: is there a way to celebrate the spirit and secular, if not the religious meaning of Christmas?

And in a non-christmas sentiment, have a kickin' and wonderous 2002 Derek.

John Athayde  { 12.30.01 @ 1:33pm }


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