No, I am not like Scrooge who hated Christmas and all of its cheer. It’s just that it seems to be the same old, same old, and too much effort to decorate and to select presents.
When I was a kid, I looked forward to the toy catalogs in the Sunday paper. Gosh, I wanted that gas station set, and the chemistry set, and… Actually, all things considered I and my brother wound up with quite a pile of toys and books. As a parent, I enjoyed selecting toys and books that my children would enjoy. Even as a grandparent, I did the same. But now with half my grandchildren being adults, it seems all we do is come up with clever T-shirts or sweat-shirts. Or maybe a book or two.
And despite what the ads say about “perfect gifts”, I think that a gift card for a store that the recipients rarely enter is not a “perfect gift”. Nor is a $1,000 computer for somebody who already has one, especially in a family where the gift budget rarely exceeds the cost of the aforementioned apparel.
I once was a mall Santa. That was quite an adventure, but I never did it again or wanted to. Believe it or not, I was told I was the best Santa at that mall. Apparently, some of the others weren’t good actors or just didn’t like little kids.
I have all but given up on sending Christmas greetings. I just haven’t put any effort into selecting a different wintry picture for a card or newsletter. Just as I don’t really care about other people’s grandkids, I don’t care to burden them with what my grandkids are doing. Do I tell them that we have given up downhill skiing? My wife did write a bunch of cards this past weekend, but I didn’t even look at what she wrote.
For many years I made a fruitcake that definitely was not a door-stop. At the peak, I made 24 one-pound cakes each season. Maybe about ten years ago, it just was too much effort to order quality ingredients, cut the fruit and nuts, beat the eggs, stir in the flour and butter, mix the fruit and nuts in, and… There were a lot of disappointed people when I stopped making fruitcake. See the article list below for the recipe and more.
We haven’t put up a tree for years, even though we have hundreds of nice-looking balsam fir at our cabin. Partly because I’ve developed an allergy to balsam, partly I just don’t want to make the effort to select a tree, cut it, bring it back to Duluth, decorate it, then take it down, and haul it back to our cabin. But my wife still buys a wreath and hangs it by the front door.
For many years, we did a Julbord or Christmas Smörgåsbord. This was a five-course buffet, starting with herring, potatoes, and cheese, and ending with three desserts. All of it accompanied by snaps (aqvavit) and beer. I forget why we stopped. Although my wife did the bulk of the cooking, maybe I got tired of doing the shopping or just being on my feet for so long. Or maybe it was because one relative would only eat bread and nothing else until dessert.
I do get tired of walking by Salvation Army kettles. One year I bought a money order and put it in a kettle. I used a money order so that I wouldn’t get appeal after appeal in the mail for the rest of the year. This year, I just keep my pocket full of change. As I go in or out, I just grab some change without counting it: pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Maybe I should go back to dollar bills so that whoever counts all the change doesn’t have so much work.
But others are not going to give up their Christmas traditions because of my disinterest. And if someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I will respond with a smile.
Now the real Scrooges are those who object to cashiers and other retail people saying “Merry Christmas”. Way back when I was a grocery cashier I found it repetitive, but I did it with a smile. But now some object because it is unfair to those who aren’t “Christians”. One should say “Happy Holidays”. For them, I have an Italian saying, “Ch’é paese vai, ch’é usanze trovi.” “Wherever you go, follow customs you find.” Or “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I don’t believe in the words of Handel’s “Messiah”, but I enjoy performances of it for the music, and I certainly don’t make a fuss because of the words.
Tom Batiuk, who draws the comic strip “Funky Winkerbean”, is having a ball with excessive sensitivity to the words of Christmas music. The principal is vetoing song after song for the Christmas concert because somebody might be offended by the words. Somebody should tell those like the principal that “White Christmas” was written by a Jewish immigrant. The same guy that wrote “Easter Parade”.
For a list of some of my previous Christmas articles, see “Christmas blog links” at
http://magree.blogspot.com/2015/12/christmas-blog-links.html. Many of them are more upbeat than this.
Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Also published in the Reader Weekly, 2015-12-16 at http://duluthreader.com/articles/2015/12./16/6409_a_note_from_scrooge