Christmas Is Still Here, Everybody

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8 AM on December 25 and the same time on December 26 are so different, you’d think we moved to another planet overnight. Santa won’t come again for another year, and there will be no massive gift exchange today. Christmas Mass is over. Relatives are starting to head out. You’ll wake up this morning with a massive headache and wonder if it was a good idea to eat twenty Hershey kisses before bed. (“They’re little, so it won’t matter…”) Some people have to go back to work today — the sound of that alarm is the worst thing I’ve heard all week. Things, for lack of better term, go back to normal.

Yes, the 25th of December is gone, and it won’t be back for another 364 days and nights. But christmas isn’t over, guys. Not by a long shot.

For one, we have something of a four-day weekend of Christmas events. There are still shows and parties all through the end of the year. Many families won’t even get together until this weekend, when people are off of work long enough to travel. And in an effort to make it to New Year’s Eve, AKA the night on which to make bad decisions, someone will host a party this weekend and still call it Christmas themed.

But more importantly, Christmas itself isn’t going anywhere. Christmas, as it is so often said, is nothing more than a frame of mind. That sense of humanity and festivity that we get, however briefly, can be extended. We don’t have to start hating each other just because of the date on the calendar.

Don’t spend your entire life savings on presents, but don’t be a grumpy, worldly guy that only tries to be a decent person on Christmas. Don’t think that charities will stop collecting donations just because Santa came around. People still need help in this world; if you missed the chance to serve Christmas dinner at a shelter or buy a less fortunate kid a present, do those things anyway. People still eat and kids still like presents.

Most importantly, for those of us that regard the 25th of December as a holy day, don’t forget that our joy is not limited to a calendar day. We can still rejoice in the fact that the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the beacon of hope and miracle that guides our lives, was born. The fact that He was born at all is worth celebrating all year round. The Angles may have said the first Noel, but we have free rein to say it whenever we want now. The King of Israel came to Earth in a body of flesh and blood. That’s a pretty big deal.

Enjoy yourselves today. For those in the area, Fredrick city is having its candlelight tour of historic churches tonight, and that’s always fun (there is also always food). For those out of town or uninterested in the tour, there are crazy sales today. Or you could go see The Interview, or that movie with Chris Pine in it (merry late Christmas to me…)

Don’t get caught in the post-Christmas slump. We can’t go full speed for a freaking month and then come to a complete stop on the 26th. If you slow down anything, go a bit easier on the candy today or you’re going to be sick until next December.

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On Christmas and Doing It Your Way

MR. HANKEY

Ah, Christmas. What a complicated, wonderful mess you are.

Christmas is a bit of a ridiculous holiday. Let’s be honest. To some, it’s a chance to celebrate the birth of their savior (during a month that most have said is not His true birth month); it’s just another day to those of most faiths. And we let ourselves do some silly things in celebration of this holiday. We drink liquid garbage (or as some call it, eggnog). One morning a year, we sit around a dead tree and eat candy out of socks. We willingly sing to strangers, oftentimes cracking out songs with really weird lyrics (a child shivers in the cold. No, forget the blankets—let’s bring him some precious metals, though I have no idea who he is. Also, which one of the guards let a shepherd boy into the King’s palace?)

Also, there's this song...

Also, there’s this song…

But with all of that, we still love the holiday season. I’m right there with you guys. And we’ve created approximately seven spajillion ways to celebrate the month of December. And guess what: nobody has the right way to do it.

Before we even talk Christmas, we have to have word about the Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Holidays question, because even in 2014 people don’t get it yet. Basically, the rule of thumb is as follows: Don’t be a dick. That’s it. If someone has a different belief system than you, this is not the time to go crapping all over them. If you want to say Merry Christmas, say it—but don’t make a big deal about it. Would Christ write a Facebook post about how people in this country are killing humanity by refusing to say Merry Christmas? No, he would not. Same goes for you, Jewish friends. We still love you; don’t get all hot and bothered if we accidently slip.

CH

And the rule applies to the Santa vs Jesus crew, too. Don’t demand that every room of every house you visit be graced by a gold-plated nativity; likewise, don’t start throwing shepherds and wise men and angels around just because you don’t consider them sacred.

Once you’ve decided that you’re not going to be a bigoted cottonheaded ninnymuggins, it’s time to have some fun, you-style. It’s your holiday; celebrate it how you personally choose. This is supposed to be a period of joy. If you don’t want to wear and ugly Christmas sweater or go caroling or eat gingerbread men, just don’t. But if you want to wear jingle bell earrings and blast Christmas music and eat three pounds of gumdrops, that’s certainly an option.

Wanna throw an extravagant party? Do it. Spike the eggnog? Even better. Sit in the comfort of your own home and eat to your heart’s content? Sounds like fun. Volunteering at the local shelter? Bless you. Opening up a black market for Princess Unicorn? Er… hey, gotta ride that trend.

MY HORN

Not everyone that has the Christmas spirit is outwardly bubbly about it. Have some patience with these people. I can assure you that they are likely just very private about this time of year. Oftentimes it’s out of grief—this can be a very hard time of year for a lot of suffering people. But you know what? Some people are so intensely dedicated to the meaning of this holiday, secularly or religiously speaking, that they can’t show it. What they feel is beyond description, beyond display, beyond words. (You have no idea how frustrating that is for someone that writes to communicate).

Santa-and-Jesus

Unfortunately, if you want to be around other people, you might have to out some of your preferences aside. For the sake of camaraderie and peaceful family gatherings, sometimes you just gotta suck it up and eat the fruitcake, spin the dreidel, and watch that godforsaken Christmas cartoon. And sometimes you will have to break tradition; it can’t be your way all the time.

The world will not end if you don’t watch every single Christmas movie or make seventeen kinds of Christmas cookies. The world continues to spin and real-world things get in the way. Don’t worry about it.

Next year, bud.

Next year, bud.

Take some time to make this holiday season happy by your definition. We put so much effort into chasing happiness that we forget that it is a concept that’s hard to define and even harder to achieve on a large scale.

In short, don’t be an overbearing d-bag, but don’t be afraid to celebrate the holidays as you see fit, no matter if you celebrate in public or private, loudly or silently, in church or by the punchbowl or on your couch.

Merry Christmas, you guys.

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My First Love: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph

When I was first exposed to the fictionalization of Santa Claus and Co., I didn’t have a hard time accepting that The Man With The Bag was actually just My Folks With A Bank Account. The hardest thing for me to deal with was the death of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph was my childhood hero at all times of the year. I memorized the read-along storybook (the *beep* turn-the-page kind) before I could even read properly. The big action figure in the picture above is one of my most prized childhood toys – I wish I hadn’t torn the antlers off, but it’s just part of the charm now. The ornament on the far left is the only one I’m adamant (read: slightly anal) about putting on the tree myself.

The very first stories I ever wrote were weird Rudolph fan-fiction of sorts. They didn’t exactly follow the canon of the animated special we’ve all seen a thousand times. No, in my stories, Rudolph could literally fire lasers out of his nose and Dasher was an explosion-obsessed supervillain. Christmas was always saved at the end, obviously, but not without a little bit of destruction.

I was watching the original animated special the other night and I realized, probably for the first time, that Rudolph isn’t exactly a butt-kicking superhero as I once imagined him. For most of the story, he just kind of runs away. He gets knocked down whenever he does fight. And he saves the day by… existing.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a great story with legitimate character development and an important message for kids and adults everywhere to accept everyone’s differences and fight adversity – a message that is more and more important these days. So Rudolph is still a hero, he’s just not Rambo.

Meanwhile, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to love his sidekicks as well. Yukon Cornelius is corny and goofy, and though I’ve memorized all of his jokes I still laugh at them – especially the sequence where they get away on the iceberg (“I thought you wanted gold.” “I changed my mind!”). Hermy is the man; he pursues his dream and doesn’t seem to care that Christmas society (and the viewing audience) is constantly laughing at him. Clarice is a top-notch role model for kids – and she’s adorable.

I mean, come on. That's precious.

I mean, come on. That’s precious.

When I sat down and thought about it, Rudolph’s hero-ability kind of pales in comparison to his friends. But maybe you don’t have to be a kick-butt, eccentric character to be cool. So what if Rudolph isn’t a superhero? He was my hero as a kid, and in a more realistic sense, he’s my hero now. I could learn a thing or two from him. Everyone could.