Copyright 2003 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
A Case of Holiday Whine
There's nothing else on TV except ice skating, football, and a PBS
home improvement show, so I'm watching "Scrooge" with Alastair Sim, the
1951 version better known in this country as "A Christmas Carol." It's a
good movie, but I've seen it at least twenty times, because it gets trotted out
of the vault every year, just like "It's A Wonderful Life." Nevertheless, I'd
rather watch these oldies-but-goodies than watch the ever-increasing crop of
"new" Christmas Classics and holiday specials hosted by everyone and their
cousin, that seem so inescapable this time of year. My favorite Christmas
movie is "The Lion in Winter," a medieval soap opera about Henry II of
England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their three ambitious sons, the King
of France, and Henry's young mistress, all plotting against each other during
a holiday get-together. It's funny and grim, and always cheers me up.
I don't like the holidays. It's cold, money is tight while the gas bills
are high, and the TV is full of football games and commercials for
diamonds, perfume, noisy toys, and expensive gadgets. Talk show segments
profile "this year's hottest gifts" ad nauseam, when they aren't dispensing
tips on how to decorate your Christmas tree or host extravagant parties.
Everyone seems obsessed and frantic, dashing around shopping and
decorating, throwing parties, going to parties, and making sure all their in-
laws get equal time. I don't understand how people do it, or why they'd want
to, or why they seem to enjoy it all.
Maybe the holiday frenzy is a national virus, and people develop an
immunity to it during their childhoods, which allows them to enjoy it as
adults. I never developed that immunity; we lived thousands of miles from
all our relatives, my parents usually began an argument a week or so before
Thanksgiving, and they kept the tension going until a few weeks after New
Year's, by which time they'd broken all their resolutions and things slowly
got back to normal. I walked on eggshells during all that time, trying not to
do anything that would rock their boat, so, even now, family holidays still
fill me with a sense of anxiety and dread.
I know I'm not the only person who dreads the holidays; my friends
complain about the same things that I'm whining about: rampant
commercialism, credit debt, social whirls and relative balancing acts, but
then they seem to go right ahead and launch themselves into it all with gusto
and cheerful abandon, which leads me to suspect they might be just
humoring me. Most of them either have children of their own or profess to
like children in general, so I suspect that the same gene which causes people
to happily tolerate baby slobber also gives them the ability to enjoy the
I, on the other hand, seem to have Grinch-Scrooge-Wicked Witch
genes; I've never liked children, even when I myself was a child. I got all
Christmas-y a few times while I was living in New England years ago, but,
as luck would have it, those were years when all my friends just seemed to
want to ignore the whole thing. Terminal contrariness, that's what I have,
permanently polarized against whatever, at any given time, happens to be the
opinion of the majority. I swear, I don't do it deliberately; it's just a natural
I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and I generally don't care for
anything "cute." Ever since I was a bagger in a grocery store that had a
Musak tape of holiday music that looped every hour, turning every standard
Christmas tune into an insidious ear-worm that haunted even my off-work
hours, I've tried to listen to only oddball or ethnic seasonal music.
Unfortunately, many holiday meals consist of glazed ham, candied yams,
sugared carrots, sweet cornbread pudding, pie, ice cream, and cookies,
cookies, cookies, topped off with celebratory goblets of fruity, fizzy wine.
Then, reeling with sugar shock, I find myself surrounded by snowmen,
Santas, and teddy bears, most of which chirp out electronic versions of
everyone else's favorite seasonal ditties. Don't mind that glassy look in my
eyes or the idiot grin frozen on my face; that's just how I look when I'm
gritting my teeth and trying not to run from the room, screaming.
It's our turn to host the annual family Christmas Eve gathering; by
mutual agreement with my in-laws, hubby and I get the "odd" years. They're
odd, all right; last time, the Christmas tree was hung upside-down from the
ceiling, and the background music consisted of carols played by the Esso
Trinidad Steel Drum Band. As in years past, I will again make chicken
paprikas, a very rich Hungarian dish otherwise known as the Food of Death.
Everyone likes it, and I figure that, eaten once every two years, it isn't really
likely to hasten anyone's demise. By the time the grand-tots are ripping the
wrappings from their gifts, I know that I'll actually be having a good time.
Until then, though, will someone please pour me a large, calming glass of
scotch? Because it's pretty obvious that I already have a case of holiday
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