I’m not a Christian, but I get swept up in the Christmas spirit every year.
(Except this year. More on that later.)
The buildup is really very brilliantly done; on Thanksgiving afternoon, we start getting some inkling of hope, some sense that human beings may not be evil after all. Santa shows up at the parade. We have a little champagne buzz at 4 pm, which is nice, come to think of it. Who would not believe that Peace on Earth might really be possible, might really be coming soon, hearing so many songs about it, sung by so many smiling faces, without a dissenting voice. A few weeks later, at office Christmas parties (misleadingly misnamed “Holiday Parties,” even though, really, they are Christmas parties), you begin to discover that your horrible co-workers have some good qualities – as a matter of fact, you like all of them! How was it possible that you didn’t notice this before? Gosh, if I can share a drink with the awful Hank in the accounting department, that incompetent and vile moron, and realize that I was wrong about him all this time, then maybe there is hope for humanity after all.
The world really does become more beautiful. Shop windows, city streets. Christmas trees are beautiful. Christmas lights are beautiful. The Christmas world is beautiful. Something terrific is coming.
Generally, every year, the president does Christmas stuff, he says Christmas things, about the good in the hearts of all mankind, about our commonalities, about family, friends, the things that bind the world together. It’s usually incredibly moving, hokum notwithstanding: son-of-a-gun, maybe we are wonderful, human beings, Americans, whatever. A song on the radio says that Snoopy decided not to kill the Red Baron today, because it’s Christmas, even though he had a clear shot, even though he really could have killed him, dead-dead-dead. Christmas is a day when you don’t kill anyone, even if you really really want to! Democrats and Republics share a toast of champagne, and everyone heads home to be with her family.
By the afternoon of December 24, it really does seem as though the Messiah is about to arrive, because we don’t need him anymore, do we? – we’ve solved our problems on our own – and I’ve always heard that the Messiah will arrive when we don’t need him anymore. Just to say, Hey, good work everybody.
I don’t celebrate Christmas, I have no Christian relatives, but, even so, I always just know good things are coming. I don’t say it out loud, I don’t intellectualize it, I just feel it.
I don’t even realize it, until Christmas is over, just like that, and the ineffable disappointment sinks in.
On December 26, we discover that Christmas was a day like any other day, after all, except that the letdown is worse, because, without even knowing it, we all expected so much.
And look at what it’s left us in its wake, this Christmas.
You wake up on December 26 to headlines about terrible Christmas tree fires, a lunatic dad who dressed up like Santa and killed his whole family. Dead, sticky, molting trees molder, stinking and rotting, on the sidewalk, for weeks, covered with frozen dog turds. Frozen vomit, scattered here and there. Christmas decorations strung across gates and front doors turn brown in the polluted rain, which freezes and melts and freezes again, until it’s like a brown paint made out of diarrhea. We return to work, everyone’s hungover and angry at the relatives, especially that drunken uncle. (You know the guy.) You realize that you are going to die, and that there is no God and no Heaven, which you’d somehow forgotten in the lead-up to what you thought would be the beginning of some earthly Paradise.
We’ve all been tricked again.
Until this year.
Christmas Eve, when almost no financial traders were even at work, the market nose-dived. The president spent all day sending hostile and threatening tweets. The government closed down, the Christmas tourists had nowhere to go, and the president announced a plan to leave the ever-loyal Kurds alone to be slaughtered by the Iranians and the Turks. The administration seems on the verge of falling apart, amid Christmas eve finger-pointing and recriminations. Your portfolio manager has not returned any of your calls for days. You may not have any money left at all. Who knows? He won’t call you.
There’s a message here somewhere, and it’s not a good one. But at least there will be no post-Christmas letdown.
Drink some eggnog for me today.
Alon Preiss is the author of In Love With Alice, published by Chickadee Prince Books. He would not mind if you buy it. Design by Steven S. Drachman, from an image by geralt/pixabay