Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas I Hate

I know what you're thinking: I'm not a religious person, so when I start off an entry with "the part of Christmas I dislike", you may leap to the conclusion that I'm not going to be too keen on the whole "birth of baby Jesus" thing.  As the sign on the way to work in rural Kansas says, "Jesus is the Peason for the Reason".  I should mention that sign has seen lots of years and is not entirely legible.

I actually don't mind the Jesus portion of Christmas.  It has his title in the name, for Christ's... sake.  Yes, people get uppity.  Yes, Jews put up trees.  Yes, evangelicals attack anyone who mentions holidays. Yes, the White House puts out a Christmas card with a dog in it.  But whatever - I can empathize really well.

When I visited the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh, I was moved to tears.  I'm not Scottish.  Or a soldier.  I don't even believe the chapel was a consecrated religious location.  But I'd go again in a heartbeat and cry some more, because it's a beautiful place.  And it is dedicated to a tradition that -- while not mine -- is still something I understand.  I respect that and, as instructed, I made no speech upon entering.  It is a social crime to disturb that solemnity.

So if I'm "down" with "the JCrizzle", what's the part I scorn?  It's the music.


Well, not ALL of the music.  That was just an over-declaration to get you to turn the page.

Some of the music I'm quite fond of.  Like this tune from Nat King Cole.




I love that the brass section is trying to upend NKC's mellow delivery with increasingly bombastic trumpets, culminating in a massive exiting flourish.

To a certain extent, I didn't realize how much I hated some of the music of Christmas until this year.  For the years I've lived here, Kansas City radio stations have started their non-stop Christmas music at various times (one time the morning after Halloween).  And I usually turn those stations on and leave them on, because I'm a sucker for Christmas music and am starved when arriving from the rest of the non-Christmas year.

But I'd often roll my eyes at various songs.  It never duplicated the pinacle of all Christmas music experiences: A Classic Christmas, put on by the now-defunct classical music radio station in St. Louis.  Albert Pujols bought out the station and turned it into a contemporary Christian radio spot, which is a bigger cultural betrayal than leaving for the "Did we mention we're near Los Angeles?" Angels of Anaheim, near Los Angeles.

But I digest.

Some of the songs are bland, some of them are super cheesy, and at least one of them is not-so-secretly about date rape ("Say, what's *in* this drink?").  But none of them are as bad or scornworthy as "Christmas Shoes".

The song almost single-handedly ruins Christmas for me.  It is SO manipulative that I feel like I need to pay someone called "Mistress Witchhazel" when it's over.  It's about a fellow who is busy and not feeling super Christmas-fresh.  He's waiting in line and not really caring, but there's a child in front of him, dressed in shabby clothing, who doesn't have enough money to buy shoes for his mother, who has cancer, and is dying THIS VERY NIGHT.  Also, they use the euphimism "Momma meeting Jesus" to imply that the kid is too impishly sweet to understand death-by-cancer.  Eventually GRUMPY-narrorator pays for the shoes, and as the child walks away, the guy realizes the kid has taught HIM the true lesson of Christmas: it's not a scam if you make people do it voluntarily.  Or something.

Anyway, I think it's supposed to be a commentary on how people have lost the "true" meaning of Christmas.  But if I as an atheist can comment on the true nature of Christmas, it isn't about giving gifts.  It's about how faith is rewarded.  In the darkness of the night, a savior is born.  One who will act as the Mighty God to all nations.  This is the time of the year to focus on the birth of hope from sadness and drawing near the manger to give thanks.

It is not at all about making sure cancer-mom has sufficient shoes to pass the muster of a Jesus who apparently has a sideline pursing his lips next to Tim Gunn on a fashion show and saying. "I died for your sins, but it's these old pumps that need to be crucified!"

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