How the Grinch Stole Chris Harcum

I hate Christmas. For most of my life I have lived in denial of this because saying that makes one out to be a bad person. But I do. I hate Christmas and think it should not be celebrated.

A friend posted on Facebook today how she was trying to get in the holiday spirit by listening to holiday music on Pandora and how it wasn’t working. I wanted to reply that’s because the greater majority of that garbage music is either schlocky or terrible. And I’m sick of it. In the same way I can’t listen to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin ever again. I’ve had enough. The way I can’t listen to Elvis now. It’s been done to death. New songs only make it worse and remakes fill me with rage. Hearing them only compels me to build a Festivus pole and prepare to air my grievances and show my strength on Dec. 23.

Hearing “Silent Night” with lit candles does always seem to put a spell over me. I do like seeing snowflakes in windows and crystal lights strewn in trees. I like seeing people run around without having to go to work. I like that big waste of a Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the little shops in Bryant Park. I like the yule log on TV, almost to the point of giving in on the music. Almost. And I like getting a nice gift and seeing someone melt upon receiving it.

Don’t mistake my feelings about Christmas as a lack of generosity or compassion. I do my best to carry those things the rest of the year.

In addition to hating the holiday music, I hate “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker.” Seen them both more times than I can count. Been in CC twice as the boy who gets the turkey for Scrooge when I was 12 and as Bob Cratchit shortly after arriving in NYC. I’ve danced in “Nutcracker” 5 times. I’m done. Done. Done. Done. I do like what Mark Morris did with “The Hard Nut.” Saw that at BAM a few years ago. I’m burnt out on “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For years, my favorite holiday movie was the first “Lethal Weapon” flick. But Mel Gibson ruined that by being Mel Gibson.

I HATE SANTA CLAUS. What a messed up concept this is. When I was 6, I showed my loyalty to my classmate by sticking my tongue out at his sister who was in the third grade. My teacher pulled my out of the line to the lavatory and put me in front of the class for a group interrogation.

“What do you think will happen to Chris, class?”

I was in a full-body convulsion and tears streamed down my face.

“Um, he won’t get the good behavior bear on his desk?”

“That’s true. What else?” BIG, HEAVY PAUSE. None of the kids knew the answer she wanted. “Santa won’t come to visit him.”

I thought I’d die. But he did visit, even though the teacher made a point of calling my mother to tell her my capital offense. (Not to be confused with this nonsense.)

Two years later, Santa left gifts under the tree several days before Christmas. I knew his handwriting. This bothered me. I thought about it through the night. Walking home from school the next day, I realized he did not exist. No one told me this. I figured this out. And it angered me because the idea of Santa is used as a way to control behavior and adults are running around telling lies to their “stupid” children. I was not allowed to ruin the illusion for my 3-year-old brother at the time. But that’s when I think I was done with it. I just haven’t really let myself say it until now.

Because of this, I hate the forced cheer and the travel and the stress and the rituals. I hate the awkwardness and barely suppressed rage that comes with putting parts of a family together that otherwise never would be. Or should be. I hate seeing people buy things for other people they don’t want, need or even like. I hate fake holiday flavors and foods you should not be forced to eat. I hate the alcohol consumption that’s needed to survive this. I hate seeing sad people in bars at this time. I hate how much the suicide rate goes up. I hate people buying things they can’t afford. I hate that Wal-Mart has ruined Thanksgiving for this crap and that AC/DC lets that awful company use their music. I hate that this is built on child slavery and low-wage labor. The traffic, the lines, the post office, the way Amazon is a kudzu eating at our souls. Hate all of it.

I’m also not a fan of the other version of Christmas. Either one is a telescope pointed at our inadequacies and insecurities. I’ll soon hear stories from friends of how they survived the holidays.

“What’s the point of putting yourself through that?”

“Well, I have to because…” The rest of the statement is some version of how it’s easier to suffer than deal with the manipulative shit from someone in the family. Usually followed with a list of what will be regifted.

“I don’t hate Christmas,” they tell me. “I just wish…” This is followed with some variation of wishing they could have stayed on the couch in pajamas and drink hard liquor. These are not low-lifes, mind you, these are respectable friends of mine.

The arguments I hear for Christmas do not convince me.

“It’s for the kids.” No it’s not. It’s for control and/or compensation for the rest of the year. And, admit it, they drive you up the wall with their greed and moodiness.

“It makes me feel like a kid again.” So does target practice for some. I wish the toys and the guns could be put away. Rare is the healthy family, devoid of problems.

But we get this holiday to forget about domestic abuse, violence, bullying, competition, anger, pedophilia, and other familial and societal ills pushed below the surface.

Fortunately, New Year’s is just around the corner to start all over again. I wish everyone good luck on surviving this Christmas.

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