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I wanted to reserve my last column before the Big Day for a last shot at Christmas — but when it came down to it, I realized I don’t actually dislike Christmas.
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more realized I am in love with it.
I enjoy almost everything about Christmastime, including the proverbial hustle and bustle — yes, the consumerism, but more specifically, the madness of shopping with a looming deadline.
Pretty much every left-leaning newspaper in the Western hemisphere has devoted one of its December editorial pages to the idea that Christmas has grown out of control in its commercial ridiculousness.
I agree with all of them. Still, there’s something in the thrill of gift-buying that I believe to be pure.
When else during our priggish day-to-day existence are we given licence to demonstrate our adoration or appreciation of someone?
And what better way to do this than by putting some concentrated thought and effort behind the benign (i.e. safe) ritual of gift giving?
When else is society more congealed than when its citizens become inspired en masse by the same soundtrack — Christmas hymns on our car radios, in the mall, on Main Street?
What other month of the year entrances us with messages of miracles and selflessness and hope?
And infuses us with almost unlimited energy to host parties, to bake goodies, to shop, to decorate, to attend pageants, to volunteer — in other words, to give?
Indeed, I have been seduced by Christmas.
The politically correct side of me, at times, has been tempted to adopt a winter holiday that hasn’t been infected by the sin of consumerism, not to mention rooted in a religion to which I don’t subscribe.
But come late November, when Christmas lights start twinkling around the city and radio stations start blaring the same old holiday hymns, those plans get forgotten.
If I were to be completely truthful, I would have to admit that I am addicted to my own personal brand of Christmas, or rather Christmas nostalgia, with all of its exaggerated qualities (it helps in covering up historical flaws).
Mine is a cocoon filled with the smell of wood stove and butter tarts, lit up by a glowing-red fir tree, littered with ribbons and tissue paper crowns, framed in wood paneling and carpeted in sunburst shag.
It is a scene that can be cued up in a millisecond by Jim Reeves singing White Christmas on the stereo or Kermit the Frog playing Bob Cratchit on TV.
My very own Christmas bubble, inflated over the course of a month, pops sometime around eight o’clock in the evening on December 25.
At that moment, when it is all over and the swell of love seems to have vanished into thin air, I wonder if I haven’t missed some critical part in my planning of the perfect Christmas.
Or else, to sound even more paranoid and obsessive, I wonder if I haven’t been tricked.
In Slate magazine this month, writer Christopher Hitchens laments December’s “atmosphere of a one-party state” — in other words, the relentless brainwashing that occurs in the lead-up to Christmas.
“On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy.”
In 2006, gaiety and joy is not the theme of distopian novels, but is the formula for normalcy in the Western world, and not just at Christmas.
Canada, thankfully, is not the society whose homogeneity is recycled into propaganda and used against itself, to which Hitchens is referring and which so repulses him.
He is referring of course to our favourite enemy to the South, the United States .
But is Christmas in Canada any more authentic?
Have I, indeed, been tricked by a “compulsory infliction of joy?”
In bigger cities than Whitehorse there exists a ‘multiculturalism’ that is more than a PC catchword in a vapid political speech.
If there weren’t, Christmas might be a scary thing.
If there weren’t a growing number of Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Islamists in Canada, and a declining number of Catholics and Protestants, Christmas might have a power to persuade here like it does in the United States, especially when Christianity is used as tool to incite fear by the likes of President George W. Bush.
So maybe I have been tricked. Maybe if I had remained in Toronto the diversity of culture and religion there would have chipped away at my Christmas nostalgia and transformed the holidays into something more realistic — a time when everyone is doing different things rather than a time when everyone is either gay or Grinch-like, with no in-between.
I like Whitehorse, despite its homogeneity. It is indeed a cocoon, and not just at Christmastime.
But while we hunker down with our families and our traditions — everything that is familiar and where nothing is challenged — we must remember to be thankful for everyone in Canada who isn’t Christian or who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, for they make celebrating Christmas a choice, not an imperative.
Even for people like me, who feel we have no power against the spirit of Christmas and who intend to let themselves get fully wrapped up in it.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.