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Bah Humbug
by Elizabeth Weaver Engel

I'm really not anti-winter holidays.  I love the food, the decorations, the music, the visiting, the parties.  I love the fact that most people seem to be in a somewhat more generous and cordial frame of mind.  Yeah, sure, maybe it's just all that spiked egg nog, but people are generally a bit more pleasant.  There really is a feeling of goodwill towards all creatures.  And all those yummy cookies don't hurt, either.

What I am against is the commercialization of a season that is theoretically supposed to be about the coming of the light (however your particular religious tradition defines that term), love, sharing, and family.  It seems like every year, the commercial hysteria strikes earlier and earlier.  When I was a kid, I distinctly recall the holiday shopping season not starting until after Thanksgiving - hence the development of the infamous Black Friday, which used to be the official first shopping day of the season.  Every year, news reporters would do these "person on the street" reports from the local malls, at which point they would solemnly assess the likely level of the coming spending frenzy based on the sales of that kick-off day.

This year, it seemed like the holly and taffeta bows followed hard on the heels of the Back to School apple and chalkboard displays.  Does anyone else besides me miss the stately procession of fall and the unhurried enjoyment of Halloween and Thanksgiving, two fundamentally un-commercial holidays?  Why do we allow this?  Why do we not rise up in protest against the corporate pressure to get hysterical about presents and decorations three months before anyone will be enjoying them?  Why do so many buy into the hype, purchasing until credit cards are maxed out, and then spending months paying for that cheese ball for Uncle Fred (who's lactose-intolerant anyway) or that hot-hot-hot toy for Bobby or Suzie that broke or was discarded in favor of the latest fad by Valentine's Day?

Two things: first, next year, how about a moratorium on presents?  Instead of spending money on crap nobody wants or needs (take a look at what's being offered as ideal holiday presents - does *anyone* actually want that shit?), give money to a charity in Grandma's name or better yet volunteer your time.  Give coupons for time together - an afternoon at the zoo with your nephew, an evening at the symphony with your dad, a lunch date with your mother-in-law - to your loved ones.  When surveyed, people never say they wish they had more ties that light up and play Jingle Bells when you press the button.  They want more time and more meaningful interaction with other people.  Either people lie like rugs in surveys, or we're all missing the point with our bath sets and "Oh look!  Another sweater!  Isn't that nice?"

Second, while driving through the Pennsylvania countryside on our way back to DC from Thanksgiving with the fam, we passed house after house with various winter holiday decorations all in place.  Just before we hit the Maryland border, I spotted a house that still sported Jack-o-Lanterns, black cats, and spider webs.  The neighbors were probably horrified, but I was moved to shout, "Fight the Power!" at the top of my lungs.  Indeed.

b i o
Elizabeth Weaver Engel, besides being a budding writer, is a stealth geek, a manager (but NOT the Pointy-Haired Boss) at a non-profit association, a distance runner, a "rabid" Lindy Hopper, and a connoisseur of fine B-grade movies. 

Currently a resident of Washington, DC, Elizabeth grew up outside of Philadelphia and holds a Master's degree in political theory from the University of Virginia.  She fell into working with computers by accident and has since been struggling to pull herself out.  Writing for Mindjack is one of the steps she's taking to do so.

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