Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas: the Meta-Holiday

I would like to introduce a word to the language: meta-holiday.  A meta-holiday is a holiday that celebrates the fact of its celebration.

Initially, holidays are celebrated because of actual reasons.  Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from the plotted genocide of Haman.  Passover celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Yom Kippur celebrates redemption and atonement.  To stop picking on the Jews, Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus.  The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the Catholic belief in beginning of the life of Mary without Original Sin.

Actual things.

But after a while, people stop caring about the reasons for the celebration.  But not only do they keep celebrating, but the particulars of the celebration become the reasons for the celebration.  Thanksgiving is celebrated because turkey and pie.  Halloween is celebrated because candy and costumes.  St. Patricks Day is celebrated because green beer and clovers.  Talk Like a Pirate Day is celebrated because talk like a pirate.

The worst of these is Christmas.

Christmas is the celebration of the celebration of Christmas.

Christmas is a celebration of cards, presents, songs, food, snow, fires, and figgy pudding (whatever that is).  Most of the Christmas songs are about the celebration of Christmas, such as Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, Silver Bells, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Baby It's Cold Outside, etc. etc. etc.  Heck, several meta-holiday songs go one step further in recursive reference, and sing in celebration of the singing of songs in celebration of Christmas.

I mean, one Christmas staple is the Nutcracker, a ballet and orchestral piece about a young girl who is whisked away by a toy nutcracker to the Land of Toys, where a bunch of Christmas candies dance and prance about for her amusement.  You can hear pieces of it played on the radio in most stores you go to, and you can probably see it performed by the nearest ballet studio in your area: just ask the nearest mom or dad where their daughter takes ballet lessons, and ask them for tickets.  It's a tradition that every year, year upon year world without end amen, the Nutcracker must be performed at Christmas.

So, why?  How did it become so engrained in to the holiday?

Because the Nutcracker is about everything that Christmas is about (and is therefore about everything that is wrong with Christmas).  There's a party where everyone chats and socializes and has a good time, and they probably drink hot cider and eat figgy pudding in between waltzing.  Then there's gift-giving.  There's a giant Christmas tree.  There's candy.  There's snow.  There's lights.  There's even a flying sleigh!  What else could a Christmas ballet possibly involve?  That's everything there is to it.  Gifts trees, candy, snow, lights, flying sleighs.  It is the perfect encapsulation of the Christmas season.

I guess people celebrate it because they like it, and because they celebrated it as a kid and have fond memories, which is fine I guess because cards and candy and gifts are pretty harmless so far as things go.  Celebrate what you want when you want, and don't worry about what idiots with blogs on the internet think.

Still, to me, I find the whole thing rather empty of meaning.  The idea of celebrating the very celebration of eating Christmas dinner by eating Christmas dinner just strikes me as asinine.  Especially when I could be doing something equally as meaningful or enjoyable, like reading or going for a walk.  And spending money on crappy gifts I know people won't like because they spent money to buy me gifts I won't like is a waste of time and money and kind of a complete mockery of all that charity is supposed to be.

It's also horribly inconvenient in that, in addition to being the meta-holiday meta-celebrating the celebration of the holiday with food and gifts and sleigh rides (seriously, I've seen snow four times in my life: I can't really relate to half the Christmas songs out there)  and dancing nutcrackers and songs that sing about celebrating the meta-holiday with such like, Christmas is also the Christian celebration of the incarnation and birth of the Second Person of the Trinity, whom English speakers call Jesus.  It's sort of an important holiday.  It's not as important as Easter, but it's still a pretty big deal.  The eternal God took upon himself human flesh and weakness so as to sympathize with our weakness and to suffer in the ways that we suffer.  Jesus, by nature God, had to have someone feed him and change his dirty diapers, and he put himself in this position, voluntarily, from a position of eternal glory and splendor.  It's sort of an amazing thing, really.

And yeah, there were cattle lowing and shepherds and angels singing and wise men with gifts and inns without any room and all that, which is also kind of cool in a sense, but man.... God with us.  It'd be such a great thing to celebrate.  Sadly, the day of its celebration lamentably falls on the same day as the meta-holiday of the same name.  So this year, as every year, on the day set aside for honoring the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling in our midst, I will be watching "It's a Wonderful Life", listening to Frank Sinatra sing about snow and various means of maneuvering through it, eating turkey and mashed potatoes and pie, and giving unwanted gifts that I bought at Brookstone because, really, I don't know what else to get them and am too old to get away with macaroni pictures, so plush snuggies are the best I can come up with.

So, I guess what I mean to say is, Merry Christmas.  If you enjoy meta-holidays, then I hope you have the best turkey and pie and presents and movie-watching and family time you've yet to have.  That's not sarcasm, I really do.  And if you'd like actual reasons to celebrate, plenty of them exist, and I hope you enjoy those too.

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