Editor’s Blog – Cynically Christmas


After all of my Christmas experiences, I, unlike most, realize that the “true” meaning of Christmas is commercialism. Before you read any further, take caution, because I’m about to be more honest with you than any claymation movie ever will be. These movies try to get you to buy into the belief that there’s some sort of DaVinci code hidden in Christmas, like there’s more to it than waking up early to oodles of presents surrounding the tree. Your tree, of course, is brighter than your neighbor’s tree, no matter what the old geyser says. In fact, your tree is the brightest tree on the block. It even set off a fuse downtown. Well, that and your house, of course, which rivals Chevy Chase’s in the holiday classic Christmas Vacation. To complete the Christmas card image, a delightfully tacky leg lamp donned in drag-tastic fishnets and stilettos blinds your neighbors across the street at all times.

“Careful,” you warn your dad as he meticulously arranges the leg lamp in the most painfully flamboyant position on your coffee table he dragged to the front window for the “full effect”, “It’s fra-GEE-lay. Must be European.” You laugh at your own stupid pun, which you find to be hilarious, but he barely notices you. He keeps glancing over at your neighbor, who looks as if he’s about to get electrocuted judging by the number of luminescent reindeer lounging in his front yard. You look back at your dad, at the greed overshadowing his eyes, and it hits you like the raccoon that attacks Will Ferrell when he wants a hug in Elf; Christmas isn’t about “the joy of giving”, or whatever Hollywood tries to spoon feed you. Christmas is about seeing who has the most and rubbing it in everyone elses’ faces.

For example, you may remember this common elementary school conversation:

“How many presents did Santa bring you?”

“Thirty-seven, but that’s not including the Playstation and all the games my parents got me.”

“Oh, that’s a bummer. I got fifty-two AND a Playstation AND an Xbox 360!”

How do you think his mom felt when they watched their kid open all fifty-two presents? Sure, she probably felt a tingly feeling in her heart, but it disappeared when she opened a present from her husband. She saw it perfectly perched on a crease in the tree mat, right next to the toy train, an eensy-weeny Tiffany’s-shaped box. Ooh, I wonder what this is, she sarcastically muttered to herself as she brought the present back to her comfortable seat next to her husband on the loveseat. Alright, I’ll play along, she thought. I’ll raise my eyebrows, open my mouth as wide as it can go, and cry out, “I simply had no idea!”

Fully prepared to carry out her plan, she unwrapped the tiny package slowly and dramatically. Suddenly, she spotted the brillant turquoise of her precious Tiffany’s box. She couldn’t contain her excitement any longer, she grabbed onto the paper and yanked hard, and tossed the carefully-wrapped red and gold paper on the floor for the dog. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation as she slowly opened the box and….a Wal-Mart gift card?

“Honey, you like it? They’ve got everything at Wal-Mart! You could buy one of your kitchen thingies and I could get get that Foosball table me and the guys have been wanting for ages! Everybody wins!”

She didn’t reply. She only sat in the middle of her living room, choking back silent tears. She thought back to a few days ago, when she went to Wal-Mart to buy the ham for Christmas dinner. She saw the sign: “Open 24/7”. And the box – why would he use a box from Tiffany’s for a Wal-Mart gift card? It seemed like a cruel joke to her.

“…And I even made it all pretty, I put it in that Tiffany’s box I got your charm bracelet in a few years ago…”

So that was it. Her husband forgot to get her a Christmas present, so he bought her something from the only store open and wrapped it in a box left over from a few years ago. Yes, she ballooned with joy while watching her son open his plethora of presents, but the sting of her disgust felt like a needle stabbing her heart. Oh, how sad to be the only one to wake up without a present wrapped with your name under the tree.

Not real enough for you? Okay, let’s try a real-world situation. My family has a long-standing tradition where all of my cousins and I sit in a circle and take turns opening presents. I only have three cousins: Tiffany and Alexis, who are older than me, and Claire, the baby of the family. Over the years, some ground rules have been understood:

1. It is always Claire’s turn.
2. Even when it is your turn, it’s Claire’s turn.
3. You do not get to pick your turn. That’s Claire’s job, and if you don’t stay on her good side, you have to wait until after dinner to open your presents. (It’s torture, believe me.)
4. You must desperately long for everything Claire gets for Christmas from the very bottom of your heart.

Now pay attention, because I will show you the right way and the wrong way to express this. Let’s say Claire opened a Barbie dream house.
The right way: “Gee golly Claire, I wish I had one of those! I would play with it every day! You’re the luckiest, prettiest, smartest, most athletic girl in the entire world.”
The wrong way: “Wow Claire, when I was little, I really wanted one of those!”

5. Even though Claire is years younger than all of us, you must pretend that Claire is the oldest. You must also pretend that you’re not just pleasing her because her parents make you, but because the universe truly revolves around Claire.

Since there are only four of us, you would think that the whole process would go relatively quickly, but you would be wrong. Last year it lasted three hours, thanks to Claire. When everybody woke up, the adults sat on the couches and we, the kids, sat on the floor and moved all of the presents into the center of the circle. Claire, of course, opened the first present. And the second one. And the third one, come to think about it. Finally, by the fourth present, my typically quiet grandmother chimed in, “Claire, why don’t you let someone else open one?” Claire chose my oldest cousin Tiffany. At first, she acted vaguely interested in Tiffany’s toaster, but once Tiffany was almost done unwrapping it, she started to open another present. The pattern repeated a few times. I didn’t even get to touch a present until about forty-five minutes in. Tiffany and Alexis were already done opening all of theirs before I even started. The strangest thing was when I finished unwrapping my presents, Claire, who had been unwrapping hers the whole time, was still going. When the clock hit an hour, my cousin Alexis and I started to count the presents. Nineteen…twenty-two…an hour and a half…thirty-four…how long is this going to last, my God…thirty-eight….I want to go watch Elf, it’s been almost two and a half hours…

The present parade lasted a grand total of three hours and fifteen minutes and spanned through forty-seven presents. After that many presents, you’d think that Claire would have a smile as bright as the Griswalds’ house plastered on her face and go play with *insert toy that is played with for an hour on Christmas and never touched again*, but her face was as dark as the Grinch’s basement. She stood up and announced, “Okay, stop. Where’s my snowboard?”

I would describe my face, but it was not a pretty sight. I’m sure it was mirrored on my cousins’, whose jaws almost hit the floor. We scanned around the room, which had more of her presents than people in it. My eyes stopped on a snowboard with some sort of new-age, politically-correct cartoon character scribbled on it.

“There it is!” I shouted. For some reason, I’m always either shouting at her or about her. Most of the time its sarcastic, but not this time. It was more filled with relief than anything, but my relief quickly faded when she turned to me and narrowed her eyes. I could practically see the lasers streaming out of them.

“Not that one, the Columbia-Triple-X-Smorgasbord-I-don’t-know-snowboard-names-so-I’m-totally-making-this-one-up-extreme. Duh, Ally.”

Oh, of course. That one. Duh, Ally. Get with the program. I wanted to say to her, “Oh, you didn’t get it? That’s rough. Why don’t you play with your FORTY-SEVEN other presents?” But of course, I didn’t. I thought her parents would say something along those lines, but that would be a Christmas miracle, and those only happen in movies.

“Alright gang, let’s go to Wal-Mart,” my fun-loving Uncle Matt, Claire’s dad, bounced up from the couch. I thought my mouth was already open as wide as it could go, but I was wrong. Tiffany, Alexis, and I exchanged glances. After opening forty-seven presents, they were still going to get her a snowboard, even though she already had a brand-new snowboard, even though she opened more presents than all of us combined, even though she probably opened more Christmas presents on one morning than I have in my seventeen years of existence?

What was this, some sort of joke? I half-expected Uncle Matt to spin around and say, “Gotcha! Just kiddin’, let’s go snowboarding!” But he simply kept getting ready to endure the harsh Christmas cold. He put his coat on, his gloves on, his boots on, and topped off the outfit with a nice, fuzzy scarf. Then he repeated the entire process with Claire, except she altered it a bit. He helped her put a coat on, (“Daddy, I don’t like this coat! It’s not warm enough!”) slid her little pudgy fingers into her Princess gloves, (“Ew, I don’t like Snow White. She’s ug-a-lay.”) held her boots for her while she slid her small feet into them, (“Ally, my boots are so much prettier than yours. They’re pink. Do you have pink boots? I don’t think so.”) and wrapped her fuzzy scarf around her neck (She didn’t say anything for once, but I wanted to give him props. I would have wrapped it a lot tighter than he did.).

We waited in anticipation for the adults to tell us they were punking us or something, to teach us a lesson that getting everything isn’t what life is all about, but to be honest, they looked as shocked as us. The room was completely silent as Claire and her parents prepped to go to Wal-Mart. About fifteen minutes later, when Claire slightly resembled Randy from A Christmas Story in the scene where he’s bundled up so tightly that he cannot put his arms down, she pointed to Tiffany, Alexis, and me with a Snow White covered finger and said, “I want them to come.”

None of us moved a muscle. We just sat there, mouths agape, eyes open wide, stiff as boards, just like we had been since my uncle announced their little Wal-Mart adventure. Uncle Matt made a pleading face behind Claire. Alexis told me later that our grandparents made the same face behind us, but I never looked. In fact, I never moved. Alexis had to pull me up from where I was sitting and drag me to the door. I was told that Alexis was the Uncle Matt to my Claire, helping me put my coat on and my boots on, but I don’t remember a single action I took during that inkling of time. I just remember being completely and utterly awed.

The next thing I remember is sitting on a bench near the pharmacy section with Tiffany and Alexis. Claire and her parents were checking out her brand-new snowboard (which looked identical to the other one, might I add) and we had had enough of Claire for one day. I still could barely move, but Alexis was getting agitated.

“I just want to go home and watch Elf. That’s all I want,” Alexis, who can recite the whole movie by heart, said. Alexis is a very active person, so she started to pace. Suddenly, a mechanical Santa positioned right next to the cough medicine creepily turned to Alexis and let out a deep, scratchy, “Ho, ho, ho.”

In any other situation, this would have been downright creepy, but we had all been through so much that day that the only thing we had enough energy to do was laugh. We turned to each other and guffawed until our sides hurt. We kept getting very close to each other and uttering in the deepest, lowest voice we could muster, “Ho, ho ho.” And for some reason, it was funny. For the first time that day, I felt really, really good. This whole materialistic conquest closed the gap between my cousins, who live all the way in Montana, and me, at least for one day. If Claire had gotten the snowboard she wanted, we would have never had as much fun as we did that Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Christmas is all about commercialism. Whether I like it or not, though, commercialism brings people closer together, so I guess Christmas is okay in my book.