By now, most of us have seen A Charlie Brown Christmas. This cartoon, produced for a tiny budget in 1965, when I was just two years old, includes a poignant message: Christmas has become too commercialized, and we all need to remember the true message of this holiday.
“Look, Charlie, let’s face it,” Lucy tells Charlie Brown, “we all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big eastern syndicate, you know.”
I find it oddly, chillingly ironic that in some ways, Lucy is right to this very day. Corporations rise and fall by their sales figures from Christmas. Our sketchier friends judge us by the money we spend on them. Children… well, children seldom ask for what they really need, a break from television and smartphones and more time with the very people who bought them those things, their parents, throwing the football in the yard or walking the dogs.
Honestly, the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving and arching into New Year’s Day, have remained so much like Lucy warned that if I had my way, each of those days would be days of prayer and fasting.
Okay, that’s the neo-Luddite in me talking. I know that many people really enjoy these holidays. My sister Nicole and I loved them as children, and I can point right to the best part: on the first night it was “officially” Christmas season (maybe when the tree went up; maybe when the first Christmas special came on television), she and I went into the living room, opened the console stereo, pulled out our collection of Christmas LPs, and put on the first of the bunch. It was a collection of holiday songs from various artists, and the first song we always heard was Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
It’s worth noting that as I grew up, I had two important crushes on characters from Christmas specials: Karen, the cartoon who accompanied Frosty to the North Pole in Frosty the Snowman, and Jessica Kringle, Kris’s (Santa’s) wife in Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I hope it’s not too off-base that I had crushes on cartoon characters and puppet-mation characters. But cut me a little slack. Karen was adorable, and Jessica? Let’s just say that it’s not much of a coincidence that I ended up marrying a woman who looked just like her.
That woman, Abby, my wife for many Christmases, loves this holiday more than anyone I know, and despite the stress of getting ready for Christmas, it’s always a thing of beauty to see her enjoying it.
Of course, as I write this, I realize I should just take a breath and try not to worry about the commercialism of Christmas, and think more about the good things. Maybe that’s one true meaning of this, or any, holiday.