It’s been that time of the year for a while and it’s safe to say that many of us are sick of it. We see Mall Santas chugging whiskey outside the local shopping center, spoiled brats screaming about how getting the newest toy is a sign of love, the same holiday pop covered by a flavor of the year music group, sickeningly cheery decorations mass produced by Hallmark-esque megacorporations, you get the general idea. For many a bitter cynic, the yuletide season simply sucks. In a sense, rewatching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, there’s a lot to relate to. Perhaps something about the plot makes us all the more bitter. But, why is that?
For starters, being stuck with retail jobs is draining alone. To factor in Holiday rush makes working at such a place even more miserable. Not only are you paid poorly and treated worse, now you’re expected to keep up with the rush of waves of entitled and frantic customers. It’s no surprise that endless employees become burnt out and would rather rest the day off than celebrate in much of anything. Plus, many businesses rent out the same commercial safe jingles playing in non-stop repeat. Something that mind numbing is likely to irritate anyone stuck at one place for more than 10 – 20 minutes. Some of the most awful moments to ever plague anyone working one of these jobs probably happen during Christmas time. Mistakes increase from higher anxiety and less sleep, as workers are pushed beyond their limits. You have bratty kids whining about the newest toy while parents scream about how their kid needs their trendy shit faster. Party hardy dimwits complain about how their boat load of food needs to get home faster. People need to hit up every sale they come across. All in all, it’s a mess. The worst part is it’s hard to fix this if you’re the one stuck behind the encounter. Job hunting sucks (I was previous doing that for 1.5 years) and the economy isn’t quite better yet. Sometimes, one’s mental health is worth being fired from absolute hell.
As a shopper in our super competitive consumer world, we’re encouraged to spend more and get more. That pressure makes us feel like we’re worthless if we can’t contribute to endless cycling of money. And that pressure is no greater than the “most wonderful time of the year.” If we can’t get an assortment of presents for friends and family, we feel bad. We feel like we haven’t fulfilled our contract and we’ve let everyone down. To feel that miserable eats away at you. Thus, you’re pushed to spend your hard earned nickels and dimes on all sorts of rubbish your recipients probably don’t need, all because it’s related to something that interests them or they’ve talked about a couple of times.
Perhaps our anger stems from the idea (or rather, the idealized image) that this should be the time for good will, tranquility, family, all that good stuff. Or more in depth, this is the time where we all come together and talk among ourselves, where we can sit down and relax alongside the fireplace, where everyone is festive and in a good mood… at least, that’s what all the stories make it out to be. When so much goes away from this idyllic image we’ve created and reinforced, it’s all the more flustering. Instead of peace, we have arguments and fights. Instead of calmness, we have calamity. Instead of togetherness, everyone is isolated and/or alienated in some way. This clash between fantasy and reality depresses many around this time of year for good reason. Instead of spending time with others, we feel obligated to go shopping or we’re stuck at a busy day at work. Instead of trying to get over petty differences, aggression flares up over the silliest things. We want the holiday season to be solace from a chaotic life and it never turns into that. While assuming everything will be worse during this time isn’t helpful, creating this Thomas Kinkade portrait isn’t realistic either. In our hyperactive society, it’s hard to put time to just try to relax, and likely harder during this time of the year. That said, making an honest effort to just do something simple isn’t bad either. However, planning an escape from Holiday Hell is far from an easy feat on its own.
On a related note, Christmas carries an almost pastoral sensibility to it, deeply rooted in nostalgia. We want to recapture the Christmas magic we experienced as children. Or perhaps even, we want Christmas to be more like the “good old days” before companies ruined it all. In the case of the former, we’ve been asking for more Christmas… and thus companies respond by cramming it down our throats as early as October now. And that’s before Halloween happens! Thus, we’ve created our own problem because we associate Christmas with feeling good and our general discomfort when those “feel good moments” aren’t around us at all times. In the case of the latter, we have this classical ideal that Christmas of days long gone is this sacred tradition unhampered by consumer culture. That we should strive to embrace an olden style tradition as it embodies a more pure time, before machines ruled everything and toys were made by hand. This sort of backwards thinking inhibits things to progress for the better. While rampant commercialism is bullshit, the opposite extreme is a society that is fearful of technology, cultural change and new ideas. This bitter traditionalism is an understandable criticism of Christmas and the general holiday block though, as many can’t keep up with the craziness and feel left behind; they feel like yesterday’s news, nothing but outdated nonsense forgotten by time. Perhaps that’s true, perhaps it isn’t, it’s probably all in the perspective though.
Tying into the title, this makes stories like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” all the more upsetting for us. When all we see is commercials, stress, and phony joy; it’s hard to see the togetherness and familial love we want from the holiday. While the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes from learning that The Whos didn’t need presents to be happy, we don’t really see that; whether it’s because we’re too busy with our own turbulent lives or because we’re surrounded by pretense and decadence.
All in all, the season makes us all a bit “grinchy” for many reasons. It’s draining, it’s stressful, it’s sometimes downright enraging. That said, remaining extremely cynical is never too healthy either. Many things get us down and that’s why it’s best to seek help. If you’re feeling depressed or angry during the season, find someone who can make things better for you. And if that doesn’t work, perhaps consider helping the less fortunate who struggle between feeding their families or getting something to make them happy. At the very least, the act of helping another is one of the best presents not only for that recipient, but for you as well. And if that doesn’t help, there’s certainly something you can do to console yourself as you would any other hard day. Take the time to collect your thoughts and regain composure, as one needs both to handle our fast paced world. With that, I only wish the best for my readers out there. There’s a lot to get us down during the holidays, but there are ways to counteract that anger and sorrow. Whatever you celebrate, I hope you enjoy!