Why I Hate Christmas

Today is December 18th, which means we’re a week away from the 25th, the two-month anniversary of Christmas. So now seems as good of a time as any to explain why I hate this “holiday” with a fiery passion.

It probably doesn’t come as much of a shock to you to hear that I hate Christmas: For one, I like hating things that are popular. More substantively, though, Christmas combines two of my least favorite things in the world: religion and consumerism.  At Christmas, people are encouraged to buy a bunch of stuff that they don’t need in order to celebrate the birth of a god that doesn’t exist.

Whether or not you’d like to admit it, it’s hard to deny that Christmas brings out the worst of both of these already-pretty-bad things. Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on Christmas, plenty of it horribly misallocated; advertising and the general holiday spirit inspire a sense of “rewarding yourself” and “remembering others” that can only be done through a commercial transaction.* As for the “religious” element of the holiday, Christmas cloyingly spoon-feeds us sweet and formulaic messages about the value of family and generosity: It translates moral and religious dogma into clichés and after-school specials.  

*And I really shouldn’t have to sell anyone on the evils of Black Friday, which occasionally kills people. Black Friday, a completely nonsensical and suboptimal way of selling products, inspires a frenzy of purchasing and consumer madness, all acting as a hitman on behalf of Christmas.

Christmas manages to do something special, though: The two great evils—God and commerce—combine to work together to produce a synergy that is more pernicious than the mere sum of its parts. It’s not merely that people spend money and believe in God during the “Christmas season”—which now begins, apparently, shortly before Halloween—since people do those things all year long. No, it’s that these two elements, when combined, create something so omnipresent, controlling, and one-dimensional that it borders on totalitarianism.

What is so disturbing about Christmas is that it’s everywhere: When I turn on the TV in the morning, the logo in the corner reminds that it’s Christmas (even though it’s not; it’s December 18th); when I open up my computer, Google’s logo or MSN’s homepage reminds me that it’s Christmas; when I turn on Z100, the deejays remind me about “Jingle Ball”; when I watch TV, every single show has to do a Christmas episode; when I walk through stores, restaurants, or practically any public venue, Christmas music—which is, with few exceptions, the worst music ever created by humans—plays in the background; when I watch the news, I see puff pieces with Christmas messages (or, if I’m lucky, Yule Log); when I read a newspaper, magazine, watch TV, go to a movie, see a billboard—basically any activity that requires the use of my senses—I encounter an advertisement telling me what would make “the perfect gift.”

Even things that really have nothing to do with Christmas, like snow, the colors red and green, and the emotion of happiness, have been co-opted by the holiday. Hell, even Hanukkah has been co-opted by Christmas.* The fact that Christmas has now been secularized, both explicitly and implicitly, means that the phenomenon of Christmas covers more than merely the holiday itself. When someone says, for example, “Happy Holidays,” we generally interpret that as “Merry Christmas…unless, that is, you don’t celebrate Christmas, in which case, enjoy all the fuss about Christmas and stuff, and buy gifts for your friends and family for whatever totally independent and equally valid reasons you may choose.”

*The fact is that Hanukkah only exists, in its current form, to compete with Christmas. As a result, it is impossible to think of Hanukkah without thinking of Christmas: It’s like trying to imagine Family Guy without The Simpsons. At the same time, though, comparisons between the two ultimately miss the point. Complaints that Hanukkah is not as “good” or as “fun” as Christmas—while true—ignore the fact that they are both part of the same religio-commercial phenomenon.

Christmas, then, has a life of its own, with powers to do things it was never meant to do—it’s like Frankenstein’s monster or the atom bomb. Even the mere reaction against Christmas is a vaguely political act. I’d love to quietly ignore Christmas and let others enjoy the holiday, treating it the same way I treat Glenn Beck, Entourage, and the stand-up comedy of Dane Cook. Alas, such luxuries are not possible in our time. As Orwell originally said, one cannot be neutral on the subject of totalitarianism. You are either for Christmas, or you are against it.

So, why exactly, should one be against it? After all, the holiday is really only about inspiring cheer and goodwill. Well, that is precisely the problem.

It’s not, as you are probably thinking, that I hate happiness, cheer, and goodwill. What bothers me is that Christmas seems to own these emotions; during the Christmas season, in fact, the implication that anything good—generosity, good movies, sales, happiness, family—is somehow Christmas-related. As Christmas manages to ensnare all good things, though, it inevitably perverts them by making them bland and meaningless.

Take, for example, the gifts, which are really the essence of Christmas. In general, gifts are good: They provide us with something we want and, even if they don’t, they offer a sense of reward or validation. If I get a gift as a return for a favor, or for graduation, then I realize that I did something worth rewarding. If a gift comes apropos of nothing, then it is a reminder that someone cares enough about my needs and wants to get me something. But what is the value of a gift given merely because of the time of year?

Indeed, Christmas perverts the entire concept of gift-giving. For one, Christmas breeds the expectation of getting a gift. Now, this is also true on your birthday (but we should be switching to Life Days soon, anyway), but at least then you’re the only one (or one of two, if you’re a twin) getting a gift; the gifts given are still personal, and the reason for giving gifts is still you. During Christmas, however, any gift you get is inevitably part of someone’s “Christmas shopping”: There may be thought behind it, but it may just have easily been purchased because it fit into the giver’s budget, or because he happened to see it while he was out shopping for someone else’s gift. Either way, it’s given primarily out of expectation, habit, or reflex.*

*And this barely broaches the surface of the anxiety caused by modern gift-giving, particularly the mutual, simultaneous giving of gifts at Christmas: If I get a gift for this person, does that mean I need to get one for that person? Will Person X be offended if I only give them a gift certificate? Will spending too much be seen as garish? Too little seen as cheap? What is “too much” or “too little”? What if I’m seen to put too much time and effort into my gift? Will I look stupid if my gift to Person A is bigger than A’s gift to me? What if A doesn’t plan on getting me a gift AT ALL? Am I allowed to ask someone what he wants? Does that ruin the thought? What did she mean when she said “something small”? What kind of gift precisely approximates the nature of the relationship I have with the person, or the nature of the relationship I WISH to have? Should I wrap it? Do I need a card? Etc. etc. etc.

The elements of expectation, habit, and reflex infect and corrupt every positive emotion and good thing associated with Christmas. Time spent with family becomes something to be arranged, not something organic and enjoyable. Vacations become something to be taken advantage of, and not something to be savored. The stories and narratives associated with Christmas—no matter how sweet and pleasant they may have originally been—have become predictable, trite, and boring.

In short, Christmas takes everything that is good, pleasant, and fun, and manages to make it ordinary, irritating, and boring. If you ask me, this is the very definition of evil. Sure, it seems harmless and uplifting, and likes to portray anyone opposed to it as a Grinch/Scrooge who only needs some cheering up. But this is how all totalitarian regimes start: They appeal to our basest instincts, make us happier in the short-term, while ultimately undermining the values we hold dear. And they make any opposition seem irrational and misguided.

So over the next week, the last week of Christmas (well, kind of: There’s usually a fair amount of spillover from Christmas into the last week of the year), do not get sucked in by its ebullient spirit and zaftig mascot. Don’t buy into the hype of commercialism, excess, one-dimensionality, and dull religion. Do not allow Christmas to corrupt the way you view the world, to dull and institutionalize the finer things in life. Stand up to Christmas! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

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11 responses to this post.

  1. This was excellent….! I agree with most everything you said.. and, as an adult, I feel like Christmas is a huge depressing hassle more than anything else. But, I loved it when I was a kid. So.. I feel like next year.. I’m not buying presents for anyone over 18.. and I want to make it special for my kid… that’s about it.. screw all this other non-sense.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jen on December 18, 2009 at 8:49 PM

    So John, do you buy any holiday gifts for others? While I agree with you, I would feel uncomfortable attending an obligatory gift exchanging event (most likely a family one) without bringing gifts. Damn expectations. I will, however, only select very personalized, meaningful gifts for others that express my appreciation for the gift receiver and not for the holiday. I guess I treat Christmas & co. as the winter birthday that all of my close friends and relatives have…or, as “the cold weather sucks, cheer up with some presents” period.

    Reply

    • Posted by John S on December 19, 2009 at 3:16 PM

      I mean, I don’t refuse to buy gifts as a matter of principle. But I also try not to get gifts for people merely out of social obligation: If I can think of something someone would particularly like that I can afford/acquire, then I’ll get it. If not, I don’t beat myself up about it. I’m not saying I’m immune: I generally reciprocate gifts and I would probably bring a gift to any “obligatory gift exchanging event”…but I don’t attend many of those.

      Reply

  3. Posted by James Schneider on December 19, 2009 at 12:55 PM

    Really, Entourage? Cuz’ thats not an easy target…

    Reply

  4. […] my I-can’t-believe-I-still-call-him-a friend, John S, I love Christmas. It is, without doubt, the most wonderful time of the […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by reina4df on December 26, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    Thank God I found other people who feel the same way I do. Christmas disgusts me! I just don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll start with the disgusting, bratty, spoiled little shits who demand presents from everyone they know. Even worse are the zomby-like-mindless-sheep-of-parents who give into to these brats’ every whim. Then there’s having to buy presents for every person you know. I hate it. Last year I had barely gotten myself out of homelesses and didn’t have a butt-load of presents for my child (she understands I love her nontheless because of it). Even more loathesome is the “helping the homeless” idea. All year long people either ignore them or have a “spit-in-your-face” attitude toward them, yet we help them for one week out of the year. These people don’t need presents for their kids. It’s ridiculous. What they need is loving support from the community all year long. Everyone wants something from you – either the relatives who live hundreds of miles away, waiting for the UPS truck to drop-off tons of gifts (whom you haven’t spoken to all year, otherwise). Then there’s the cheesy music in every store. Christmas really isn’t even Christian. It’s roots are in Paganism for anyone who’d like to research this. Or how about this…….going to church on Christmas Eve/Day, when people would otherwise never attend at all! It’s so hypocrytical. I hate ANYTHING popular or commercialized. How I’d like to meet others who are like-minded. I’m a kind, loving human being, and help the homeless all year long, donating food and time to their cause. Christmas is just ridiculous. God, how it makes me fuckin’ sick!

    Reply

  6. I think that you need to separate what Christmas has become from the Christmas spirit which is a beautiful and ennobling thing. The essence of christmas is a time of giving an presents. Religiously, the birth of christ represents the ultimate gift from God, while the nativity story is filled with other instances of gifts such as the gifts of the Magi. As such, the religious story is in place in part to make us appreciative of all that we have and more desirous to impart our substance to others. While its true that people should have this spirit with them all year, I think that human beings tend to be rather seasonal animals and need reminders in the form of celebrations and events to keep us on track. This is something that the Jewish people mastered. Every season and time of year had a related holiday filled with symbolism to keep people on track. While its nice to think that people have moved beyond the need for such external marks, it is also clear from our abysmal, materialistic and selfish culture that we need a reminder of the needs of others.

    Reply

  7. […] don’t mean to make a habit out of posts that bash beloved holidays (watch out, Arbor Day!), but I feel the need to address tonight’s celebration of the New Year. […]

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  8. While I respect your views, and am in no way going to even attempt to sway you, I’d also like to point out that is seems a fruitless endeavor to hate everything popular. Blogging is popular, but you seem to enjoy that, if only as a way to rant. And hating Christmas because of it’s evilness? That’s pretty popular too. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before anti christmas decorations start popping up! Hating christmas because of its lack of any concrete meaning, I can understand. Hating it because jesus wasn’t actually born in the winter? i get that too. Hating it simply to hate it, and because of commercialism, or consumerism? Pointless. Those things are around 24/7, 365. It just seems like more around this time of year because companies, while ruthless, are not stupid. The majority of the country does celebrate Christmas, regardless of their religion. And a commercial done in warm colors, with a classic song, and a cutesy saying involving christmas will get more response then a Chanukah one done in blues, with a song about a dreidel. Unfair, yes. But that’s life. In all reality, all you are condemning is an excess of Christmas decorations, music, and specials. that’s it. And no matter how you try to spin it, it mostly makes people think you’re doing it just to get a reaction. Really, there’s no holiday you can hate safely, no matter what reasoning you give. Except Valentine’s Day. Everyone hates Valentine’s Day.

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  9. Posted by pokemainiabodene on December 23, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Reading this article today, as a 17 year old, this completely sums up many of my views towards Christmas, and also suggests many more things that i did not think about myself. It’s been very difficult for me at Christmas time during my teen years, from when I became aware of Christmas consumerism. I have to go along with things for my family, as they go so angry at my strong desire not too participate, normal people can just not grasp the occurring concept that others of us are so constantly aware of and bewildered by. To make it easier for myself – although there will never be a way for me to escape Christmas music playing in my own household. I try and put a lot of thought into my gifts for people, buying them things they will appreciate, find useful and have been wanting themselves. Although this does not make it any easier that in return I’m the one who receives a whole bunch of crap that was simply a tick on someone’s Christmas present list. I’m receiving exactly what I’m trying to avoid promoting, a whole bunch of crap. As an atheist I do also struggle with the stupidity and obliviousness that comes with honouring religious icons that at any other time in the year no thought would be given.

    My biggest issue with Christmas would have to be that Christmas is the one day that people definitely get off, and maybe a couple of weeks after are dedicated to relaxing and resting up. However I find it completely absurd that the lead up to these holidays and break is the maddest time of the year, weeks about what you’re going to eat on Christmas, what you’re going to wear on Christmas, it’s just so ironic people get the most stressed about the day that’s supposed to be for relaxing!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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