It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in Claremont.
Lately, I’ve been having the urge to bundle up under a thick
blanket with mug of tea. Maybe it’s because the snowy Santa-themed décor
appearing around campus puts me in the mood for the holidays. Then again, maybe
it’s because the AC in the dining hall is hitting the back of my neck, and I
only wore a T-shirt because it’s still 70 degrees outside.
Each year, as the semester comes to its busy end, I am
thrust into the obligations of the holidays. I’m expected to be thankful and
cheerful at Thanksgiving and generous for whatever non-denominational winter gift-giving holiday I celebrate.
Unfortunately, these holidays don’t happen at the most opportune time. In fact,
they’re incredibly inconvenient.
I’ve never really been one for the holiday spirit. I’m a
Scrooge, you could say.
It’s difficult to be thankful when you’re up at three in the
morning cobbling together an essay you didn’t start until earlier that night.
It’s hard to find it within yourself to be generous when all your time and
energy must be poured into the selfish ends of keeping your GPA from plummeting.
Inside the Claremont bubble we’re incessantly reminded of
the implications of our holidays. Should I be worrying about the carbon footprint
of this turkey? Was it raised ethically? Should we shun our American heritage
because the story of a Thanksgiving
between Pilgrims and indigenous peoples is a falsified distraction from the
systematic destruction of an entire continent of native inhabitants? But you taste so good, Mr. Turkey!
Christmas is no better. I don’t go to church; I never have.
I don’t give a shit about baby Jesus lawn ornaments (in which the lil’ messiah
is always white). I’ll read a dozen or so thinkpieces online about holiday
consumerism and about how Target doesn’t pay their employees enough, but I’ll still
go shop there on Christmas Eve to buy my father some golf-related apparel he’s
going to return anyway.
Beyond that, it’s not even the selfless, fulfilling gifting
that happens in jewelry commercials where the recipient is so surprised and
pleased that the whole racially ambiguous family bursts into grins. It’s the kind of gifting where the whole damn time I’m
thinking, “How many hours of my work-study job is this setting me back?”
I don’t just hate
buying gifts, I usually hate receiving them too. You think I would wear this? Can I return it? To avoid this, my
family tries to send each other our X-mas lists in advance, but that takes all
the fun out of it too: Jesus Christ, Dad, if you’re only going to ask for Size
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of Hanukkah shouldn’t be ignored either. It didn’t become a major holiday in
the Jewish faith until Jewish parents needed a reason to give their children
gifts in December so they wouldn’t feel left out. Big surprise: Hallmark wins
To top it all off, I
can’t fucking stand holiday music. I know it’s blasphemy, but have you ever
really listened to “Baby, it’s Cold Outside?”
It isn’t surprising
that I’m so disenchanted with the holidays. Here in Claremont we live in a cult
to our own secular, skeptical and critical thought. This isn’t a bad thing,
and most of us seem to love it. But critical thought seems to be antithetical
to December in America. All the bad parts about the holidays become harder to
ignore, and all the good parts become harder to believe in.
So where does this
leave me? The same place as usual, with a lot of shopping to do. I wish I could
give you a listicle of 10 perfect gifts that are unexpected,
thoughtful, locally sourced and inexpensive. (Surprise: I can’t.) But that’s
not the point. The point of the holidays should not be to give the best gifts, but
to have the best intentions, right?
something commendable about being a Scrooge. There is a lot to distract us from
what we value as the real reasons for these holidays, so it’s okay not to buy
into it 100 percent. I like to think that taking a skeptical view of the
holidays is helpful to remind myself that the real reason is to be thankful for
what we have and generous for the things with which we can part. After all, those of
us in Claremont have so much we need to express gratitude about and, in most
cases, so much we can give of ourselves. So don’t worry about being a little
scroogey about the traffic in the mall parking lot or how terrible Mariah
Carey’s Christmas album is. After all, without good old Ebenezer, there would
be no Christmas Carol—just a bunch
of Londoners eating a goose.
So go ahead: Be a
Grinch, a Scrooge, a Freeze-Meister, whatever. The world needs a couple
skeptics to remind us what the holidays are really about.
Thank God the only
thing I have to do for New Year’s is drink and dance with my friends. That’s a
holiday I can really get behind.
Sam Pitcavage CM ’15 is a government and economics major, athlete and dining hall enthusiast from Beaverton, Ore.