A Christmas Reflection
I used to love Christmas time. I still love the time. I’m not sure why there has been steady pressure to convert it into a bank holiday. I’m not sure who benefits. Even the commercials on television have gotten so puny and small. Santa as a car salesman. Santa running to Target. Santa with an iPhone. I am sure the ad company that came up with campaigns found them amusing. They only work by the transitive property of algebra. Here is something that had an unknown value. Santa. Now we swap it for something that has real value. Target.
Of course the problem is that it is a lie. Target has no real value. It has no significant history. No mythology. No universal appeal. The commercials don’t seek to reaffirm goodness in the world, but only to underline the absolute absence of magic in our lives.
A few years ago I was driving the carpool to school. It was the day of the Christmas program. I told the kids I was eager to come to the show. I asked what Christmas songs they were singing. There was a lengthy pause followed by the innocent reply, “We’re not singing any Christmas songs. Our teacher says that they are too religious. We are only singing songs about the Winter solstice.
It was one of those moments I wished I carried small caliber weapons. I took a breath and said, “Who is your teacher?”
Alex answered back, “Mr. Webster.”
I said, ”Alex, you know Mr. Webster probably doesn’t know this, but the Winter solstice is religious too. It celebrates Paganism. So if he really wants to cut out religion he should just stick to Beatles songs.”
Alex was silent. He recognized the signs of an adult quietly flipping out while driving. I was too angry. I couldn’t stop. I calmly said, “Alex. I have a question for you to ask Mr. Webster. Tell him that Mr. Tobolowsky wanted to know many songs Johann Sebastian Bach wrote in honor of the Winter solstice? How many paintings of Michelangelo were inspired by the solstice? In fact I would like Mr. Webster to cite one reference to the solstice in the works of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Jane Austen. Just one.”
The decision to remove Christmas songs from a children’s Christmas show was the definition small-minded. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was the kind of choice you expect from an expensive private school in Los Angeles.
I dropped the kids off. They ran inside for another date with meaninglessness.
I calmed down when I realized there are a lot of fools in the world. It was a good education for my kids to experience them at an early age. I never went to the show. I watched the video. The children wore red and blue sweaters and sang meaningless songs about sunshine and mead.
Last year I ran across the video in a pile of computer cables in a drawer of my son’s room. I rescued it and put it in a safe place. Now it sits in darkness waiting to share that precious moment of my son’s childhood with forgettable songs and vapid philosophy. A celebration Dickens would have christened, The Ghost of Christmas Lost.