It’s the Most Busiest Time of the Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is unlike any other of the 52 in the year.

Even if you don’t have to work, there is so much to do that you don’t feel like you have had time off.

First, every speck of seasonal sparkle needs to be put away.  Nothing is more depressing than Christmas decorations still up after the first of the year.

Now it is time to take down the tree.  Remember to put each ornament back into its correct compartment of each cardboard box.

Saw off the larger branches so that the heart of the tree can fit through the door on its way to the green garbage bin.

Vacuum the fallen needles.  Sweep them off the porch and driveway.

Remove all of the delicate Christmas knickknacks decorated throughout the house and re-pack each one back into its own container until next year.

Get the ladder out and retrieve the giant plastic red boxes that store everything.

Keep the ladder out to take down the outdoor lights; you don’t want to be that one house on the block with them still attached to the eaves in March.

No matter how one tries to carefully fill each box with the same contents in the same position, it seems that you still need one more box to fit all of the Christmas decorations.

Then it’s off to the after-Christmas sales. You buy wrapping paper and greeting cards, not because you need them, but because you fell in love with the candy cane pattern or the old-fashioned Santa face.  You also buy because in some way you want to continue the good feeling of buying gifts that has just concluded with Christmas.

Once arriving back home, time to reward yourself with a ham sandwich, leftovers of the Honeybaked ham.  Once the pre-sliced ham is gone, give up carving the remaining meat around the bone, so throw the rest of it away (unless you like to make soup).

And the sugar.  The See’s candies, the Lindt chocolates, the tin of caramel and cheese corn, the red and green M&M’s, and the hazelnut (fill-in-the-blank).   There is a part of me that wants to get rid of it all.  No worries; my students will enjoy them.  In the midst of a sugar high I try to figure out the last time I ate vegetables.

When you finally get to the end of the day to pick up the new biography of Ulysses S. Grant or the latest Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs, you find yourself too exhausted to get past 10 pages.  Maybe you can wake up before anybody else tomorrow morning and find some golden time to absorb all of the joy you have just experienced.

Outings need to be arranged with out-of-town guests.  It’s not that the visits are obligations, it’s just that you would like time to watch that new DVD.

Don’t forget to take down the 2017 calendar and replace it with the 2018 one—but not before significant birthdays have been written in the squares for each month.

You blink and New Year’s Eve arrives.  Can you enjoy yourself at home or must you join the throngs at the Queen Mary celebration?   Make a reservation and don’t look at the credit card statement.   Drive yourself or take Uber?   Watch out for those driving while intoxicated.   You want to be around for all of 2018.

On New Year’s Day, TV viewing is essential for either the Rose Parade or the football bowl games.   Too bad that resolutions begin on Jan. 1 and not Jan. 2 because it is difficult to plant one’s self passively in front of a screen without overeating.

One final task remains:  to plan a real vacation months down the road so you can truly relax.

 

OMG: Not Even Charlie Brown is exempt from the war on Christmas

As I watched the 1952 film “O’Henry’s Full House” on TCM which ends with a tracking shot on the star of Bethlehem, I thought about how this type of religious symbol would never be shown in a movie today.

In fact, when is the last time you saw a major motion picture or TV program that treated religion in a non-sarcastic way?

In the past, having characters pray to God or attending religious services was considered normal, a reflection of audience’s lives back then.

A Gallup Poll asking Americans about their religious beliefs in June showed that 89 percent of Americans still do believe in God.   Such a number has held steady over the years from a high of 98 percent in the early 1960s.   What has declined is ­­­­people attending religious services.

Reporter Emma Green points out in The Atlantic article “It’s Hard to Go to Church” that “50 or 60 years ago, churches, in particular, were a center of social and cultural life in America [but now] many people may be creating their social lives outside of a religious context—or perhaps forgoing that kind of social connection altogether.”

A litigious segment of the population that wishes to permanently abolish any religious shadings from America’s culture has resulted in what some perceive as an anti-Christian sentiment.

The word “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance has been challenged several times.  Some cringe when they hear that word in public (though the initialism OMG is somehow okay).

Yet imagine how less powerful Frank Capra’s 1946 “It’s a Wonderful Life” would have been if in the most gut-wrenching moment of the film when Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey begs for his life back—“please, God, let me live again”—he omitted “God.”  It is the prayer to God that charges that scene with emotion; without it, the scene would not have resonated so deeply.

Even 1990’s “Home Alone” known for its slapstick comedy has a scene in a church.  As “O Holy Night” plays in the background, Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, meets his neighbor, Old Man Marley.   Neither character is shown praying, but the idea that two people who don’t know one another, one a child, the other an elderly man, can share a contemplative moment in a place of worship is a scene that would never make the final cut nowadays.

Just this week a legal battle ensued concerning 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the animated classic which depicts a school nativity program and Linus quoting from the Bible, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.  That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Dedra Shannon, a nurse’s aide at a middle school in Killeen, Texas, took that quote and, along with a likeness of Linus, taped it to the door of the nurse’s office.  The school board ordered it removed.  But on Thursday a judge ordered it back on the door with the words “Ms. Shannon’s holiday message” added.

Frankly, it is amazing the show is still played on TV without being edited or a disclaimer tacked onto the opening.

We are living in a time where religion and gender are being rubbed off of human identity.   Then what is left?

Zooey Deschanel who recorded a Christmas album along with M. Ward as She & Him told the Los Angeles Times that “we tried to do ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ but then we realized how religious that song is.”

What specifically bothered her?

“It goes, ‘Santa knows that we’re God’s children / And that makes everything right / Hang your stockings and say your prayers…’” Deschanel then began to laugh.  “It was kind of scary.”

Pretty sad the times we live in when using the words “God” and “prayers” make people laugh or scared.