Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shame for the Holidays

There's a lot to be said for starting the festivities on Christmas Eve, keeping your decorations up through Twelfthnight, and wrapping up the whole shebang (so to speak) on January 6th.

You get to take advantage of after-Christmas sales to do some of your Christmas shopping, for one. And you get to act all snotty to anyone who asks why you haven't taken your lights down yet. "Oh," you can say, with just the faintest superior curl to your upper lip. "Well, naturally, I wouldn't dream of taking down my Christmas things until Epiphany. Are there people who actually take them down before Christmas is over?!"

The more your neighbor professes Christianity while you yourself do not, the more supercilious you get to be about celebrating Christmas properly. Pedantry over piety, that's what I always say.

Happy Solstice! Now we enter the longest night of the year, unless that was last night. I can't be bothered to look it up. I just know that today was the shortest day. It will be a long night in any case. Tonight is a night for fighting off cats who think my hair might have milk in it and contemplating my innumerable failings with regards to my family.

Do you have a family of some kind? If the answer is yes, chances are you're harboring a vague and indefinable sense of guilt, unless you're lucky enough to suffer specific pangs about your particular wrongdoings, in which case you might try Catholicism.

Religion has an important purpose. That is, one assumes it must, because otherwise it wouldn't be so widespread, would it? Aside even from the fairly selfish need to believe that those we love, and we, won't cease to exist forever when we die (and I'm sorry, but being reabsorbed into the everythingness of the universe and dissipated throughout existence in the form of cultural consciousness, cosmic dust, and plant life isn't really what I had in mind), it's important to feel that your role on the great stage is not merely a walk-on with no lines, just as easily filled by anyone else who can get into the costume with two hours' alterations. You, and the things you think, say, and do, must make a difference. Otherwise why bother?

The flip side is that it leaves the non-religious out in the cold every now and then. Existentialism plagues us all. Not being religious, I don't have many easy answers to toss back against the cold unimportance of my efforts towards a meaningful existence. Everything has to be framed within a context, which is of necessity pretty limited.

That's why, if you aren't plagued by existential questions, and you take down your Christmas lights on December 26th with a peaceful sense of another Christmas well-celebrated, well! Shame on you.

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