Such is the season. I’m still battling a dizzying head cold, fiercely attacking it with too much work, too many late nights, occasional naps, a glass or two of wine, and the odd early morning moment spent gazing at an ancient sacred sight just off what is now a road leading to my town dump.
I’ve got research papers to grade, a review to write, a couple of books to read for review, two new book projects to sink my teeth (and derrière, as it were, since most of writing is what one Hawaii-based writer calls ‘iron-butting it’) into, people with whom to converse, pupus to make, gifts to unload, and yoga to do (an oxymoron of sorts).
I’ve sent my ‘green’ Christmas card via e-mail, wrapped my small gifts in magazine paper, shunned the crowds and considered buying an African goat instead of giving out candles and Cheongsam-style liquor bottle covers.
But the image sticking with me late tonight, when I should be sleeping off my cold and any clouds of holiday stress, is one by the British stencil/graffiti artist Banksy railing against the commercialization of Christmas. It’s of women praying to the cross of Jesus, except that’s been replaced by a sign that reads: “Sale ends today.”
I’ve always been of two minds about Christmas. I have such comforting memories of late-night adventures of baking and candy-making with my grandmother, of surprises behind European advent calendars, of actually singing carols with my family while stringing popcorn to put on the tree, playing games together before saying prayers and then bed. As an adult, there is still something I love about a season of thinking about how to please the ones in your life who support you and bring you pleasure–not just buying something to buy it or spending a lot of money (I’m a writer and a teacher, after all), but choosing something small that will still make the people I love smile and know, again, that I care.
But my experience of Christmas now has nothing to do with religion, nor with the near-mythic account of Jesus’ birth (though I’m certain that for many, this season is about nothing else). But arguably like the public at large, instead of spiritual tales meant to inspire and change, I hear of the 30-minute wait on the ramps of Ala Moana–distasteful visions of plumes of wasted petrol, of time spent away from families in the last minute rush to buy, buy buy…to feed the machine. I hear of a woman in Holiday Mart who complains about the long lines and a day wasted as she holds her cart full of prepackaged holiday gift sets; of how everyone is surprised when a woman and her young niece sing her “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in response. Today someone told me about a firefighter who described his friend’s family as wealthy because each year they “do the whole tree and presents thing.”
So tonight I think about Banksy’s art, and about how some people value things in the store–luxury cars and vacations ‘like the rich and famous take’ and plasma tvs and video games and gift sets and another diamond necklace–over the people in their lives who don’t want anything but to be listened to and loved, who will be there for them when they are broken, who they would cry for if they were gone. I think about people who will wake up one day and realize they are all alone, alone with their things.
And with that, I see that Christmas eve day, and all that it has become, is upon me, so I’m taking my box of tissues, blowing my nose again, and finally going to bed.