Very nice story in The Dallas Morning News last week by Sarah Blaskovich about a big house in University Park decorated to the gills for Christmas. It all looked beautifully done, and one assumes the people who did it could afford the price tag, so it’s a free country and hats off to them for doing something they obviously enjoy so much.
But somewhere in all of this, at this time in the year, I do find myself wondering: Is it possible to have too much Christmas? Is there even a theoretical cap on Christmas, an outer limit, beyond which wise persons would fear to tread?
I see in looking around a bit that even raising the question can backfire. Last year Target, the big-box retailer, took a public relations shellacking after the company introduced a line of sweaters with a printed legend, “Obsessive Christmas Disorder.”
Most of the anger directed at Target (the company declined to pull the sweaters off their shelves) came from a feeling that the sweaters made light of obsessive compulsive disorder, not Christmas, but in some of the complaints there was also the suggestion that “obsessive Christmas disorder” is neither obsessive nor a disorder. It’s just Christmas.
Well, yes. That’s what I’m getting at. By the way, I did find evidence online of a specific obsessive compulsive disorder associated with Christmas, called “severe and disruptive Christmas obsession,” mainly among children, manifested often in the compulsive writing and rewriting of Santa Claus gift lists all year long.
That seems tough, sad and not what I’m talking about. I’m talking more about adults, about decorating and gift-buying that begins way too early in the year, also about a syndrome that I confess I do associate mainly with affluent powerful persons whose administrative assistants tell you, “She won’t be able to call you back for a month because of the holidays.”
Well, wait. At other times of the year they also tell me, “She won’t be able to call you back for a month because it’s too hot.” OK, scratch that one. Maybe something else is going on there.
So what is my problem anyway, you ask? Am I depressed at Christmas? Is Christmas a trigger for tears, fears or mania? No, no, I swear, it’s not about that. And I am not criticizing or making fun of the people in the Morning News story, whose house looked truly beautiful.
Nor is this a religious freedom issue. It seems to me there are two Christmases, religious and secular, and they coexist pretty well, and everybody has an equal shot at the secular one. No harm, no foul there.
Maybe it’s consumerism and aggressive marketing. Yes, I do have a certain distaste for consumerism and aggressive marketing, a disdain, a profound personal disappointment, really, in pathetic people who think mere material objects can make them happy, but I’m attacking that problem first by trying to become less horribly pathetic myself.
Right now I have conquered custom canoe paddles. I feel safe in saying that not another paddle will ever cross my threshold or even get tucked away sneakily in a storage room, since I consider the hiding of custom canoe paddles to be an act of supreme moral cowardice. Next, I’m going to get a handle on cheapo espresso makers sold to suckers from classified ads at the back of airplane magazines. Those definitely still need to be hidden.
So, no, it’s not that, really. I’m not talking about some holier-than-thou issue with taste or morality or the end of the planet or anything. Who cares about that stuff?
This is more a matter of physics almost, quantum mechanics or something like that, where I pose the question: Is there a theoretical limit beyond which Christmas can no longer expand? At some point, like a supernova, must Christmas fall back in upon itself with such enormous gravitational force, like a black hole in space, that the day itself must disappear from view? In that horrible event, would the length of the year then be only 351 days?
Would Christmas be erased from human culture with only a few ghost memories and fragments, people humming rags of melody to themselves, maybe mumbling softly: “Here we come a-whiffling? A-waffling?” “Do you hear what I hear? No, really.” “I’ll be home for … dinner? Was that ever a song, really?”
Of course the utter and complete collapse and disappearance of Christmas caused by excess celebration would be very sad, and just talking about it creates a great yearning and sense of loss in me. I feel all of that in my heart, really. I mean it. For only one reason do I even raise the metaphysical possibility of a Christmas that is ever-expanding beyond any and every limitation.
Eventually, what would that do to things like Halloween? My birthday? Regular Saturdays? Even just Wednesdays? Don’t other days have rights? OK, forget I even asked. We’ll talk about this again next year.