I actually don’t have a huge beef with the holiday itself, mind. I don’t mind going to Mass or Liturgy. I don’t mind the Biblical teachings or the religious songs at all. I think that Nativities are charming and that there’s not much cuter in this world than a bunch of kids in terry-cloth robes trying to remember their lines as they re-enact the First Noel. I don’t mind the Christmas trees and the candles and lights so much — after all, I’m damned proud of my Scottish heritage. We were Nordic, once. The holdovers from the feast of Frey are charming. The holly. The mistletoe. The wreaths hanging on the doors.
But I hate Santa Claus. Oh, when I was younger I adored Saint Nick who brought presents to everyone. The magic of it all. I loved that. Still do. But what really has made me hate Christmas with a passion is the commercialization of it all. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Sale sale sale! Get the hottest new toy of the season! Get this! Buy that! Augment your winter wardrobe. Get this sexy lingerie for that special Santa in your life. Buy! On sale now! Savings! Just in time for the holidays…Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching.
I work in marketing. I’ve worked in marketing for a lot of years now. At my old job, we did marketing right. At my current job, we don’t. There’s nothing sacred, nothing holy, nothing we won’t exploit in the chase for the Almighty Dollar. Frankly, most marketing departments would exploit and screw over a wet dream if there was money in it. I probably shouldn’t work in marketing — I’m tremendously bad at exploitation. Instead of writing gift-guides about how to get the hottest, greatest, and most expensive thing for your kids/SO/spouse/parents/friends/aliens from the Triangulum Galaxy whom you met while doing the pub crawl, I write gift guides about what might actually be useful and welcome by people in your life. I’ve always thought that if you were buying a gift for someone, you ought to put a little thought behind it. I generally avoid gift-cards unless I know it’s something the person would want. Me? I love getting gift cards for Amazon because I’ll use them. I go through books like most people go through underwear. And, I do tend to buy books for my loved ones because I want to share that magic with them. Books are like hand-held TARDISes. You can go anywhere in all of time and space just by opening one. And you can go back again and again. You can take an adventure and then imagine other ways it might have happened. Take characters and imagine other things they might have done.
Giving people books is my last, desperate, probably-in-vain attempt to re-infuse that lost magic in this exploited winter holiday. Giving people music is next on my list. Lastly, for the kids, I get them toys. Toys that they’ll keep for years. Things that they’ll play with and explore the world with. Last year, Mini-me got a bunch of dinosaurs, a book on dinosaurs, and a holding case for them. I like to imagine that she pulls them out and plays with them. Or that she matches the toys up to the pictures in the book. I like to imagine that she makes up stories about the dinosaurs. Maybe she does. Maybe she doesn’t. But she’s never going to get the Latest and Greatest in Toys from Aunt Kelly. No. I’m going to give her books. I’m going to give her toys that make her use her imagination. And, if I ever get a job where I can spend time with her, I’m going to do that and see just how her little brain works. I gave my nephew a book as well. It was from a game we both liked. I hope he enjoyed it. I gave his mother — my sister-in-law — a book. A book that helped me survive high school. I gave my quasi-sister a book. A book that made me want to become a writer. I gave my dad some books — books from a series that he and I both like.
I gave my mother an angel figurine because she collects those. That’s what she likes. But if she liked stories like I do, I’d give her a book. Books are magic. Books are my first love.
My most precious Christmas gift was a book. My late brother gave it to me. The Blood Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. I still have it. I still read it. Took me a while to get into it but I did. My brother knew what I liked. He liked to read — albeit not to the extent that I do — and he shared that with me. He found a series he liked and he shared it with me. The fact that it was the last Christmas present I ever got from him just makes it that much more precious.
It wasn’t anything “on sale.” It wasn’t the latest, hottest release. It was a story. It had dark parts. It had funny parts. It had sad parts. It took you on an adventure. And he shared that with me. For so many years, I’d been trying to get him to read. And now he was. And he was sharing that with me.
Shit, I read Twilight because he did. He enjoyed it. I critiqued it. But I read it because he did. That was something we could share. My dad reads A Song of Ice and Fire because I got him hooked on the HBO series. But he got tired of waiting to see what would happen next and so he asked for the books. And he got them. That’s something we can share. I’m hoping to get my dad into The Wheel of Time, into Dragonlance, into The Death Gate Cycle, into The Mistborn Trilogy. Because that’s something we can share. I’m hoping to get my family watching Doctor Who because that’s something we can share. Great stories. Great acting. Very, very sexy Doctors. Wonderful companions. Adventure. Love. Separations. Tears. Life. Loss. Something that can be shared.
I can recall one Christmas when I was a teenager. I got lots of nice clothes. I got lots of nice things. But I wasn’t happy. Not until I opened up the last present and saw the first three books of the Meetings Sextant from the Dragonlance series. Then I was overjoyed. Because, even back then, when I was a surly, sullen, sarcastic teenager who lived to sass off her parents, something inside me knew that the clothes, the gadgets, the games, the gizmos — they wouldn’t last. But those books? Those damned books about elves and dragons and magic and love and death and betrayal and hope? Those would last.
People constantly wonder about what to get me. After all, I have plenty of computers (I own two and a half). I have plenty of games and gaming consoles. I have a good smartphone (iPhone 5s). I don’t really need a tablet computer. I have a Kindle. So, what to get me? Especially at Christmas? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not that difficult.
Get me a book. History. Science. Math. Religion. Philosophy. Myth. Legend. Ghost Stories. Get me a story. Something that will last. Or, give me a memory. Instead of stressing over whether the turkey is perfect or there are enough deviled eggs or if the icing on the cake is right, sit down and talk to me. Tell me funny stories from when I was a kid. Tell me embarrassing stories from when I was a teenager. Tell me things about your life. About your childhood. Your youth. Things that happened before I was born — good and bad. Tell me the truth. Tell me about girlfriends or boyfriends you’ve had. Things you did. Memories you have. Sit down and listen to music with me. Not that tinny pop modern shit. The old songs. The Old Ways. Go to Mass* or Liturgy* with me. Don’t bother getting dressed in the latest Approved Fashions. Wear something warm and comfortable. Laugh with me. Cry with me. Watch frickin’ Doctor Who with me. Listen to me ramble on about things that don’t matter to you at all but are so terribly, terribly important to me. Things like Legend of Zelda. Video games. A TV series I’m writing. My dreams of going freelance or pro-writer.
You want to give me something? Give me something that will last. Something that won’t rot in my closet because I already have enough clothes and shoes (seriously, I have three pairs of shoes. How many more could I need?) Give me a memory. Give me a story. Give me laughter and tears. Give me your time.
Because one day, none of us will be here. We’ll all just be memories living in our descendants’ minds. Because that’s what lasts. Not the latest fashion. Not make-up. Not the stupid hats you Protestants insist on wearing to your weekly “who’s better dressed than you and who can say ‘Amen’ and ‘Halleluiah’ the most” meetings.* Not the food. Not the decorations. The memories. Give me those. That’s all I want. Memories. Things that tie the past to the present and the present to the future. Keep the bows. Keep the fancy wrapping paper. Keep the frivolous. I want your time. I want your memories. I want your stories. And I want to share mine with you. Because they’ll last.
Presents and Santa are for kids. Give me my meat and my mead. Give me yourself. Because you’re not going to be here with me forever and I want something of you to wrap around myself when you’re gone and it’s just me here all by myself.
Don’t ask me what I want for Christmas. I hate that over-commercialized excuse for a holiday. Instead, just give me you.
— G.K. Masterson
*All right, I’ll fess up. I was raised Catholic and converted to Orthodoxy because Catholicism was too liberal in doctrine for me. I think that Protestants are cute and adorable like little toddlers. But I have a really hard time taking them seriously. I mean, c’mon. Every week there’s a new Protestant church opening up because Brother Billy Joe Bob had a Deee-vine Re-ul-a-shun after eating some bad fish. I’m sure that the Trinity is flattered but doesn’t take them too seriously. Yeah, they’re Christian but they haven’t figured out the whole “coloring inside the lines” thing. They’re adorable but…honestly, who can take them seriously? Sorry, Mom! It’s the truth and if you doubt that, go open a history book. Catholics and the Orthodox were 1000 years old before the Protestant Reformation even thought about getting started! Your church is adorable but…yeah, I’d rather go to Mass with Dad and Mamaw because that makes sense to me.
Still, love you!