Friday, December 14, 2007

Homage to Ridgeway Road

There have been moments this season when I wanted to defect to a Muslim country governed by Sharia law - anything to escape the onslaught of Christmas crapola.

Though I'm not exactly a sutras thumper, I am Buddhist in my religious practice. Yet I can't escape this Santa-loving Christmas culture I was raised in, both because of my family and because it's the dominant culture here.

Maybe I shouldn't exclusively blame the Christians, because Santa's not a Biblical figure. In fact, he smacks of paganism, which in my mind is mostly pretty cool except where he's concerned.

I loathe Santa-based Christmas activities. Every year when someone suggests organizing Secret Santa proceedings, I have to suppress the urge to go cross-eyed and clutch at the wall. And at the inevitable Dirty Santa parties, I need four or five extra drinks, and even then it's all I can do to hang on - being jolly is out of the question.

And now that I'm an adult, I don't groove on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas, because now I see it for what it always really was: a way to assuage the consciences of family members who gave you nothing but a hard time all year long. I hate the desperate feeling I get when trying to shop for people who I'm related to, because there's a 75 percent chance I'm going to get them something they don't want. Just because we're related doesn't mean we know each other well enough to buy for each other. There's always the gift card, but when retailers invented the gift card they really envisioned a gift for themselves. Inevitably, the receiver of this gift will have to overspend the value on the gift card, or not use the random number of cents left on it after a purchase. Yet it's considered gauche to just give money as a gift at Christmas.

There's that old saying "It's the thought that counts," which is supposed to make people feel better when they've struck out with gift giving and getting. It's not acceptable for adults to make each other construction paper cards with original poetry written inside - what's expected is that you spend money on useless merchandise to in order to prove that your thought counts. You must make a sacrifice to a retailer to prove you love someone else, even if you can't afford it and your gift is destined to be held up to others as an example of feeble, and to go under the tree at a Dirty Santa party next year.

There are a lot of other unreasonable expectations at Christmas. Like, you must leave your home and spend days traveling back and forth to the homes of others, and once you arrive there you must pretend to be festive no matter how tired you are from all the Christmas frenzy. If you don't feelings will be hurt. You will have committed sacrilege, and your relatives will commit suicide from the emotional wound you inflict. Jesus will weep and the Devil will rejoice.

There's one thing I love about Christmas, however. It's the Christmas light orb orgy that goes on in the neighborhood around Ridgeway Road between Friendly and Market. I believe that's the Sunset Hills neighborhood, but I'm not sure. If you haven't seen it, GO! It could pass for the second coming, or a mushroom-fueled hallucination. I really admire how all those neighbors got together to stage this thing. I respect how they're able to string those Christmas-light-wrapped chicken-wire globes so high up in the trees. And really, something like this light display is what we need this time of year. Many of us are settling in to the blues of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and of maxing out credit cards so others won't be able to tell how poor we are by our gift giving. The days are short, the nights are long, and the stress is high. What we really need is something amazing to make us feel wonder again, like we did in front of the Christmas tree as kids. The Ridgeway Road display makes me feel like that.
Forgive the non-seasonal picture. I took this photo of my neighbor's cat back before it got too cold for indoor plants to be outside.

1 comment:

Billy Jones said...

As a Deist and one who also suffers from SAD, PTSD and Clinical Depression I used to hate Christmas until I discovered I'm really an elf.