Every year, the same ritual. I hate the Christmas season. I do. I love the post Christmas season. I know. I love the ephemeral time between the 25th of December and January 1st. Yes!
A Jewish colleague was telling me on Monday when I made the rounds and — surprise — gave my well wishes to those still at work, that he does not celebrate any religious holidays, not even Hanukkah. His declaration was prompted, or so I assume, while I was trying, and failing, to tell him that I have mixed feelings about Christmas. Not that I really gave this much thought. How I felt about the season is totally irrelevant, but somehow I had to blurt it out. After his own declaration of indifference, I looked at him for a while, frowned and unceremoniously told him my deepest felt sentiment about Christmas. It is not a religious holiday. It is a festivity in honour of free trade, commercial success, free enterprise, competition, gift giving and showing off. It is a time of materialistic indulgence. Why would anybody think that Christmas is a religious holiday? It has been reinvented in the colours of our society: capitalism and materialism.
Shopping in this season is madness. If I cannot or do not want to avoid it and must face the shopping madness, I rejoice in observing, in my very condescending manner, how rote people are in their shopping errands. This year I observed myself, conscientiously being right out cold with the fellow who wanted to be ever so helpful at the perfume counter. On my shopping list was an item that is packaged in 93 ml containers, and that is not stocked at duty free shops. It is nothing out of the ordinary, but also not the mainstream for gift giving. I was so business like, cold and perceptibly impatient with the fellow that I had the sensation that either fear or pure annoyance would make him burst or collapse. Eventually, after much shelf searching, he found what I had on my list. The question about gift wrapping was firmly negated. I paid, and when I took the item in my possession, smiled and wishes him a very peaceful and merry holiday. it was my first smile since I entered the shop. He looked both delighted and relieved. I don’t know why I enjoy torturing people in such way, but I do.
This is the season to nibble on the food and the reading, and overdose in the visual. A bit of Marx here, a tad of Wallace there, and a wallop of Star Wars and the Matrix films. I turn off the alarms and notifications and pretend to ignore the world. Then I try to play catch with all the well wishers who have sent me paper or digital greeting cards or messages, and feel hopelessly reactive and passive about the whole thing. Yet I am immensely happy, if not out right sociable, meeting with friends, accepting dinner invitations, and just rejoicing in the fact that for a short period of time, life has slowed down from its imperative performative madness. Sometimes in the past couple of days I have had the feeling that we as a group of people still have the capacity to turn our society around and make it more inclusive, collaborative and peaceful.