Are they happy, really? To me, it looks like an annual Stress Fest. I have been paying more attention, these past weeks, to the people around me (mostly in the workplace) and to what they say about the coming Holiday period. Why?
Well, I am known to not celebrate Christmas. I know, I know. "Whyyyy? It's the best time of year!" "Don't you like being around your loved ones?" "It's magic for the children". I've heard it all.
Actually, I won't start explaining here my reasons for not celebrating Christmas. I've been there and done that.
So as I said, I've paid much closer attention to the behavior of my fellow coworkers and their coffee-machine conversations. And what I hear only confirms what I think: the Holidays, for the most part, are a source of significant stress and anxiety for most people.
The worst of them get nervous - sorry, excited - right after Halloween. They have to start cooking, chasing gifts and planning who's going to go where and do what during the festivities. They stress about time, about the money it's going to cost, about this or that person who'll surely ruin the day.
And like a manufactured H1N1 paranoïa, it starts to spread. Weeks are going by, people compare their state of readiness and what remains to be done. They start pointing fingers at those who don't seem to be ready enough for their standards. "What? Your meat pies aren't done yet? All my meals have been ready for two weeks" "I'm all done with gifts for this year. Oh, you know, I start early" "My list of guests is complete and my tree is even reserved"...
What really interests me, though, is the look on their faces. The closer we get to the actual thing, the more obvious stress and anxiety become. Nothing cuter than a nervous smile over an overstressed shrivel... People skip lunch to go gift shopping in overcrowded stores. They run around the city to find THAT specific thing their Christmas would be incomplete without. They spend whole weekends slaving in their kitchen to prepare the tons of food everybody will overconsume. They plan their week so tight that their Holiday schedule looks three times worse than their office agenda. And any spare time is filled with trying to find the various outfits and accessories they will wear.
Oh! And one thing must not be forgotten : all that is only a preparation for the next marketing period of the year, the "I-ate-too-much-at-Christmas-and-need-to-lose-some-weight" season! What's best than a National Guilt Trip after a Stress Fest?
I have but one question. What's the point?
Are we so driven by television and propaganda that we fail to realize all that is nothing but one of the best-orchestrated marketing campaigns of all times? How did we get so caught up in the "perfect Christmas" conundrum that we forget to ask ourselves how we feel about the whole deal? Don't people realize they are ruining themselves financially for months, if not worse, trying to replicate images shoved down their throats as ideals? And when did Christmas become an obligation?
Maybe some day people will have enough. Maybe they will eventually realize that a satisfying Holiday break with their loved ones requires nothing more than being there. I'm thinking maybe the Christmas Craze will eventually suffer the same fate that seems to happen to the fashion industry these days. As much as people are now asking to be rid of the ghostly skinny sad-parodies-of-models they've been shown for decades in glamour magazines, maybe one day they'll also realize what an industry this Holiday has become and go back to it's real, much simpler, more enjoyable meaning?
I guess all I'm saying is just relax, people. By all means, screw the rat race. Try something new this year : wear your most comfy pair of jeans and your favourite shirt, bring a couple pizzas and a case of beer or two, and only hang out with the people you really like.
And have yourself a merry fucking Christmas :)
As for yours truly, I'll be roasting my ass in Cuba.