When I was a kid, my dad had this friend who was somewhat unpredictable. Known for playing a bugle in the stands at Bengals games and driving his car through the automatically opening doors at Home Depot, “Uncle Willie” was a fun guy to have in charge of you, especially if you were a kid who enjoyed making scenes and observing public spectacles.
Uncle Willie used to drive my three younger siblings and me, along with his two daughters and whichever of their pets they wished to bring along, to various holiday events — cutting down a Christmas tree, shopping for the family, going to the movies.
Uncle Willie always liked to engage the public, thrusting his version of reality on every person we came across. One of his favorite moves was telling salespeople that all six of the children he had with him were orphans and he was teaching us the meaning of Christmas. But my favorite was when he would see someone dressed really festively and scream: “Hey, didn’t ya hear? Christmas is canceled!” He once yelled this into the open passenger-side window of a fully dressed Santa Claus at a stoplight.
This year, in light of our nation’s severe economic troubles and Uncle Willie’s
unstable mental state out-of-town familial obligations, I’ve taken it upon myself to cancel Christmas. It’s canceled. Forget about it. Get ready for the New Year. Move on.
Christmas is for children. We can all remember what it was like to believe that a fat white man slid down our chimneys with a giant sack of toys we asked for.
It was a magical time of year, and our parents undoubtedly enjoyed participating in the wonder.
My dad used to leave half-eaten cookies on the plate we left out for Santa, with scribbly notes telling us we better stop shooting BB guns in the house or he wouldn’t be back next year. Good times.
But as we grow older, Christmas becomes much less magical and much more annoying. Suspense and wonder are replaced by traffic, crowds and anxiety, and the part we most look forward to is cleaning up the wrapping paper mess and downing a few strong ones.
“Congratulations on another successful line of credit, Pops. Here’s to paying it off by tax season!”
For adults, Christmas is about taking time off work, traveling and visiting family. We reminisce about past Christmases and talk about how sweet it would be to have a different job or make more money. Our rich uncle acts like it was a no-brainer to invest in Viagra 10 years ago as he wins money on college football games betting against the school we went to.
For parents of young children, Christmas should probably continue. Go ahead and buy the racecar tracks and board games, stick a fat bow on the Nintendo Wii and hide the big stuff behind the Christmas tree to trick the young ones. Have a good time. To little kids, Christmas is still magical and the world is a wonderful place.
But we adults need to grow up, take a look at our credit card statements and relax the spending.
No more worrying about our overachieving sister remembering the vintage Legend of Zelda T-shirt we saw on vacation but couldn’t buy because we spent all our money on mixed drinks at a Hard Rock Cafe. No more buying little brother a new car stereo because he smashed his during a fit of pizza-delivering rage. This year my girlfriend is getting a homemade bookshelf, and if she buys me anything expensive I’m going to hit her with it.
We’re all on our own now. Times are tough, and socially obligated gifting won’t get any of us out of our financial difficulties.
We’re just going to end up with more stuff that we don’t like that will fetch only a fraction of its retail cost on eBay. It’s this kind of investing that got us all into this mess in the first place.
Uncle Willie might not be around for this year’s festivities, and even though Uncle Danny has less than a year of experience with the title, I’m picking up where this very wise man left off.
Have a holiday party. Drink to the birthday of baby Jesus or the reunion of well-meaning family and the health of friends.
But anyone who buys presents or sings carols this year is a total jerk. Christmas is canceled.