Just a few short days left before Christmas, and I've been tired of it sense the day after Halloween. The second the last candle flickers out in the Jack O'Lanterns around town, the stores begin their ramp up on our collective wallets/testicles, aching to squeeze every last dollar out of us, knowing that they have long succeeded in tying the amount of money we spend on presents to the amount we love our hateful, vicious crotch-spawn.
However, paradoxically, an inverse dictum has arisen to this rule: the "victory condition" of Christmas is in spending the absolute least whilst simultaneously making it look like you've spent more, and hence the idea of the "Black Friday" sale, the worst sort of lie. They ratchet down the prices for those ignominious shrews willing to crawl out of their turkey and cranberry laden stupors desperate enough to save a few bucks on a Chinese manufactured waffle iron (do the Chinese even eat waffles? I suddenly have a desire to see what Chinese cuisine would do to a waffle). Yes, for $2, you too could give somebody you pretend to love a shitty piece of unnecessary equipment that not only is inferior in every way, but they probably already have, if they're the sort of person who is mad enough about waffles for you to logically assume that the gift of a waffle iron would be sufficient for their love. The secret undercurrent of the "Black Friday" culture is one of underlying insult and disregard, the useless crap of Wal-Mart and Target sales is foisted upon others as a substitute for the very brotherly love and filial piety that Christmas (and, indeed, any of the related non-Christian holidays) should represent.
Unfortunately, it doesn't.
We have somehow built a holiday which exists entirely as a substitution for love, a sort of fatty gloss over a pile of scraggly offal, attempting to fool the deity with a lie. While it is true that work, as translated into financial recompense, is a worthy and worthwhile thing, the natural American tendency to prefer quantity over quality has led to a hideous Frankenstein golem of a tradition. Mom works a lot to provide for her family, and then spends a lot of money at the end of a year to provide gifts for the horrible little shits, but then, ah ha, she loses any and all vindication by bargain hunting.
A real gift, obviously, should be judged not on the perfunctory presentation of a traditional doodad on a specific day, but by it's actual value to the giftee. For instance, if a gentleman is wooing his lass and presents her with an engagement ring, he would be cheapening his love by bargain hunting. The love he offers would be best expressed with the most expensive ring he could afford, if he is indeed marrying for love. If he's marrying out of convenience, as happened merely two generations ago commonly, then, yes, bargain hunting on the ring would be acceptable. But, of course, in a marriage of convenience, the lady has the advantage of being able to say no, and keeping the offered ring regardless. Thus, it is in the gentleman's interest to present a ring of sufficient value as to not offend the lady, and his ring not be made a failed attempt. The same is at Christmas, with the implied notions of familial and friendly affection.
Tragically, the retailers have, of course, become addicted to Christmas. They must offer increasingly drastic sales to survive, and they must force employees to take time away from their own families so that non-retail families can go through with a horrible cycle of affection-pretense that they are told is mandatory. The employees, who can usually lose their job at any time, have no response, and must be present.
Therefore, I suggest a one year moratorium on Christmas and the related winter holidays. I understand that it might be difficult to explain to the kids, but if you really must give them toys, give them toys anyway, and don't set it up as a conditional holiday to a religion and tradition that you no longer treat as anything other than an affectation. If you're a Christian, for Christ's sake, stop celebrating Christmas by wasting your resources to perform an empty and meaningless activity if you're not also going to spend the night before at church and the next three months preparing for a 40 day starvation diet to celebrate his death. You can't have it both ways, you can't treat Christmas presents like a substitute for love if you're also trying to squeeze economy into it, and you can't be a Christian and celebrate this tawdry little festival without some sort of momentary reflection on the futility, waste and vanity of the exercise.
And all the Whos down in Whoville loved Christmas a lot, but the blogger, who lived just north of Whoville, did not...