Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Holidays: A Time of Joy or a Time of Misery?

Have you ever seen that movie, "Christmas Vacation" with Chevy Chase?  Remember that part where Audrey, Clark and Ellen Griswald's daughter, complains to her mother about having to sleep with her brother Rusty because their grandparents are staying over for the holidays?  At the end of the scene, Ellen says to her daughter, "I don't know what to say except it's Christmas and we're all in misery."  In my opinion, "Christmas Vacation" is one of the best Christmas/holiday movies ever made.  At least it was for my generation.  I mention it here because although the movie is meant to be a comedy, it does touch on a theme from real life; the theme being that although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy where you get together and celebrate with family and friends, it can also be a time of inconvenience and pure misery at worst.  But what could be so inconvenient and so miserable about the holiday season?  Believe it or not, lots of things.

When I think about who could possibly be miserable during the holidays, my first thought is of the downtrodden - people who are poor, especially families, whose parents can't afford to buy their kids gifts for the holidays.  I can't even imagine how hard it must be for a mother or father to explain to their children that Santa Claus isn't coming with presents this year.  I can imagine, however, that being poor probably hurts a lot more during the holidays, especially now when the holidays are less about charity and spending time with loved ones, and more about buying the latest gadgets, the nicest clothes, or the fanciest jewelery.  For those of you who celebrate Christmas, do any of you remember when Christmas was simply about spending time with family and friends, going to church and celebrating the birth of baby Jesus?  My guess is you probably don't, because as time has passed, the holidays have become more the presents that are under the Christmas tree rather than why Christmas is celebrated in the first place.  I'm not a Christian, but I do know a bit about Jesus Christ and what he taught.  My guess is that if he could see what Christmas and the holiday season have become, his reaction would probably be very similar to that time he trashed the stalls of the moneychangers in Jerusalem.  In other words, he would be disgusted.

And I wouldn't blame him.  If you do anything to celebrate the holidays, much or even most of your time is probably spent buying things.  Oh the joys of holiday shopping!  Driving in winter gridlock to get to the mall, the endless wait for a parking spot, navigating your way through the seemingly never-ending crowds of shoppers and feeling like you're in a mosh pit at a Metallica concert.  You would think that the gridlock and the crowds would subside with the growth of online shopping.  Fat chance!  And before you even head out the door to do your holiday shopping, chances are that you've been bombarded with one advertisement after another from retailers fighting for your holiday dollars.  You're probably recycling a lot more too because your mailbox and newspapers are filled with flyers advertising everything from the newest cars to the latest iPhones.

The worst part about holiday shopping is that much of what you're buying may be for someone you really don't like or could care less about.  But of course, you know that if you don't buy presents for your in-laws, no matter how annoying you find them, your spouse is gonna kill you.  And God forbid if you don't get a gift for the boss.  "Put it over there with the others, Griswald."  By the time you're finished buying gifts for your in-laws and co-workers, then having to tolerate them at the various holiday functions that you have to attend, you probably want to breathe a sigh of relief.  "Oh, thank goodness, the holidays are over!"  Not so fast, buddy.  Because by about a week or two after the holidays have ended, you get to open one last present - your December credit card bill!  Aren't the holidays great?

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit.  Maybe the holidays aren't so bad because you do most of your shopping online, you happen to like your in-laws and co-workers, and you're not too scared to open your credit card bill come January.  Chances are that for most people, the holidays are a mixed bag.  You have the inconveniences associated with the holidays, but you also have the positive aspects.  Heck, even with one fiasco after another, the Griswalds of "Christmas Vacation" do end up having a very Merry Christmas.  And if there's any real life lesson to be taken from the movie, I think it's that we should take the good with the bad and just try to have a happy, healthy holiday season.       

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