I hope all my readers from the U.S had a belly-swelling Thanksgiving and that everyone else had a sane Thursday that didn’t involve putting up with any drunk relatives, kitchen disasters or hearing Grandpa Joe’s stories over and over and over again.

I’m taking a break from writing about writing today to share one of my essays i wrote a few years ago about the holiday madness that seems to start earlier every year. So enjoy, and watch out for elves!

P.S. If you absolutely LOVE the holidays (as in obsessively love everything Christmas) or are extremely religious, this may offend you. If that is the case, please click here to go watch puppy videos instead. You have been warned.

And So It Begins, aka The Scariest Time of the Year

It’s the holiday season. A time of dread and fear. Just the thought of it starts my limbs trembling in fright.

First I have the fear I may accidentally say “Merry Christmas” to someone and set off all kinds of rants about not being sensitive to other religions. Sorry, but screw you. Even though I’m not religious in any way, and it is now understood that Jesus would have been born in summer, the big hullabaloo (and frightful insanity) this time of year is the Christmas holiday.

But what about Hanukkah, I hear you ask.

Hanukkah, while a lovely celebration with a great story behind it, really wasn’t a big Jewish to do until the marketing gurus decided to cash in on another festivity that happened to occur in early winter. I mean think of all those non-Gentiles that weren’t buying cards and candy and ugly sweaters! If you don’t believe me, look at how small the Hanukkah displays are when the holiday doesn’t fall close to Christmas. Point made.

To be honest, as I find it hard to celebrate a silly story of a virgin birth that was plagiarized from oodles of other religions, I’d much rather offer folks a greeting of, “Happy Sunlight!” because that’s what the celebrations this time of year were originally about until early Roman Christians hijacked the pagan festivity of Saturnalia in one of the smartest promotional moves ever made.

The original party-time atmosphere at this time of year was about the Yippee! sensation that we’ve made it to the winter solstice, the days will start getting longer, and spring is just around the corner. That’s reason enough for me to celebrate! Although you folks in the Southern Hemisphere may want to tone down your celebrating since you’ll be hitting the Summer Solstice and heading into shorter days. Sorry to rain on your Down Under parade.

The second terror I have this time of year is the shopping. It’s a scary thing here in the States. If you manage to make it through the parking lot without getting in an accident or run down by someone desperate to snag the space you dare to be walking past, you still have to contend with madness inside the stores.

This is something I really don’t get.

I’m not a big shopper anyway – my husband enjoys trips to the mall more than I do – but what I don’t understand is that this is all the same crap the stores have been shoving in our faces since September. Sometimes August. Yes, I actually did see Christmas (sorry, “Holiday”) items in our grocery store back in August. If I bought a Christmas present back in August I would forget what I did with it and have to go by another…oh wait, maybe that’s what they’re hoping for. I get it now!

Even though people have had the chance to buy all these same items for the past three, sometimes four months some weird chemical reaction happens in people’s brains as the turkey starts to metabolize after Thanksgiving. Suddenly the stores become places that make taking a stroll at midnight through Central Park with a big sign that says “I have lots of money and no way to defend myself” seem safe.

This is no exaggeration. Last year at least one shopper was killed in a Running of the Bulls-type scenario. Shoppers were so nutty trying to get in to a store to save a dollar on some socks they stampeded a human being to death.

No deaths have been reported this year (yet), but news coverage showed people being trampled on, shoved aside and pushed into walls so the bargain hunters could purchase a bunch of crap to celebrate the birth of the one they like to call The Prince of Peace. Kids, that’s what we call irony. I’ll take my chances with the bulls of Pamplona over Black Friday shoppers any day.

The stores and the roads getting to those stores will be insane for the next month. Christmas spirit, kiss your ass goodbye if there is only one “hot toy” of the season left on the shelf and two people are honing in on it.

Impatience will abound as cashiers who were only hired for the holiday season struggle with figuring out how to enter the ten coupons a shopper is using for the three items being purchased. Tempers will flare as shoppers try to make their way through the hoards while lugging around their purchases. Thousands of trees will die for stores to print magazine-sized ads. And more tress will meet their demise each time a scarf is placed in a gift bag large enough to hold a duvet.

People who are already in debt will rack up even more credit card bills as they try shop to prove just how much they love their family. For those folks here’s a little hint, your family might love you more if you don’t end up foreclosing on the family home just so Junior can have an Xbox.

John Lennon sang, “And so this is Christmas…with love and good cheer.” However, my motto for this time of year comes from The Fly when Geena Davis utters, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice!

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