Third, the big holiday here is not Christmas but the New Year, which I much prefer. Actually, I would prefer to celebrate Winter Solstice, which is an actual observable astronomical event rather than an artificial date on an artificial calendar. That is what these holidays really were before the priests co-opted them: celebrations of light. Christmas was Winter Solstice, and Easter was Spring Equinox. And so, for once, I don't feel compelled to even pretend that Christmas exists. But since this just happens to be the 25th of December—the day many readers of this blog happen to celebrate Christmas—and since this year it happens to fall on a Tuesday—the day of the week on which I publish a blog post—today I will blog about Christmas.
In all the years I've spent living in the US, I have always felt the urge to get the hell out of the country whenever Christmas approached. This is because it is a season when Americans are "struggling to celebrate the holiday with some semblance of normalcy" (I just heard this very phrase on NPR's All Things Considered. The context is the mass murder of schoolchildren in Connecticut, but I find that it applies every year.) It is a stressful time when people rush around trying to find presents on which to deplete their meager savings (or, more likely, run up some more credit card debt) in order to maintain a commercially imposed fiction of normal family life. This often causes them to be overcome by feelings of alienation, depression and despair. As with that other great American holiday, Thanksgiving, people compensate for their misery with a bout of pathetic, self-destructive gorging.
Now, I am certainly not against celebrating, whatever it is you want to celebrate; celebrating is good. I am not even opposed to celebrating Christmas (as I mentioned, immaculate conception is quite a trick, although the Egyptian god Horus clearly did it first). But I am against celebrating this most toxic of all American holidays: the holiday of Christmasshopping. Please kill it, and in so doing celebrate your vaunted freedom of which I have heard so much but seen so little. It shouldn't be that hard: there is already a tradition of company Christmas parties, which are never held on December 25th. Now, just extend it to family Christmas parties. Hold them some time in January. Do buy some presents, if you wish, but be sure to buy them after Christmas, when the prices are lower. Use the savings to rent a hall, hire a band and have the occasion catered. Include not just the family but friends and neighbors. As for December 25th, throw a zombie party or something. Everyone loves zombies nowadays. Then maybe I'll stop trying to flee the country every Christmas season.