Declan and Christmas
It’s a good thing my wife and I aren’t the kind of crunchy granola parents who do everything in their power to ensure that their progeny do not grow up mesmerized by the products and services of Marvel, Disney, Nick Jr. and various other corporations. Because if we were those kinds of people, with those kinds of admirable goals, we would be huge failures and, to be brutally honest, I am tired of failing. It gets exhausting after a while. In the future, I’d like to try some of that “winning” I keep hearing Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen talk so enthusiastically about.
Declan may be a nice Jewish boy but his true religion might just be consumerism. His Church is the Target where his indulgent grandfather and grandmother buy him his beloved blind bags and action figures and everything else his heart desires.
But it’s not just toys and material items that Declan adores. No, he’s also absolutely obsessed with holidays and presents, in no small part because holidays are sacred capitalist orgies of materialism where parents do their sacred duty and go to Target to buy toys for their progeny.
I’m not sure Declan has ever seen The Nightmare Before Christmas in its entirety but it’s nevertheless probably his favorite movie all the same. An adorable micro-Goth, Declan absolutely adores Halloween. For him, it’s not one day out of 365 but rather a state of mind he is perpetually in, a mood, a feeling, a way of life.
Given Declan’s love of presents, toys, Target, bind bags, blind consumerism and The Nightmare Before Christmas it should probably not come as a surprise that despite being a nice Jewish boy firmly ensconced in Atlanta’s tight-knit South African Jewish community this year Declan has had a response to Christmas not unlike good old Jack Skellington when he first encountered Santa Claus, Christmas trees and everything else that makes Christmas simultaneously irresistible and a massive ice cream headache.
In October, when Declan saw witches or vampires or Jack O Lanterns or anything else associated with All Hallows Eve his eyes would grow wide as saucers and he would guilelessly call out “Halloween!”
When Halloween passed and yards filled with mummies and ghosts were replaced by front lawns full of reindeer, sleigh and a certain red-clad gift-giver portrayed in film by everyone from Kurt Russell to Richard Attenborough Declan similarly shifted gears and now when we see Yuletide displays he happily cries out “Christmas!”
I don’t blame him. When I was a lonely, envy-poisoned little Jewish boy I was obsessed with Christmas. The fact that far and away the most important holiday of the year, a holiday so central to capitalism that the functioning of our economy often comes down to how much money people spend on Christmas gifts seemed like a cruel and sadistic form of torture for lonely, broke Jewish kids.
I was obsessed with Christmas because if I was very lucky, I got maybe two gifts a year, one for my birthday and one for the holiday season. If Declan is having a good, or even average day, there is a good chance he will received two or three presents. For me as a kid, presents were the exception. For Declan, they’re the rule and you cannot love presents and receiving gifts with an unhealthy passion without also finding Christmas enormously appealing.
Declan knows that we do not celebrate Christmas because we’re Jewish. But I worry that that distinction will matter less and less the closer we get to December 25th. For me, Christmas was always the forbidden fruit. That seemingly everyone else got to enjoy it other than me seemed like irrefutable evidence that the world was not fair and would never be.
I don’t want to make Christmas even more tantalizing to Declan that it already is by banning it from our home. But I also don’t want my son to be in a Church twenty years from now explaining how his path to becoming a Pentecostal minister began with his father letting him watch Christmas songs on Youtube compulsively and binge-watch Christmas special running the gamut from The Grinch That Stole Christmas to Christmas Comes to Pac-Land.
Here’s the thing: I kind of love Christmas and I kind of hate it. We all do. It’s such a colossally important entity that you can’t avoid it even if you don’t believe in Jesus. Or Santa. So the challenge for me this tricky, joyful season will be to manage Declan’s Christmas obsession before it spirals so out of control that he ends up knowing the actual religious meaning of the holiday as opposed to the giddily materialistic secular bastardization that is currently giving him so much joy and me so much worry.
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