Christmas is an awfulness that compares favorably with the great London plague and fire of 1665-66. No one escapes the feelings of mortal dejection, inadequacy, frustration, loneliness, guilt and pity. No one escapes feeling used by society, by religion, by friends and relatives, by the utterly artificial responsibilities of extending false greetings, sending banal cards, reciprocating unsolicited gifts, going to dull parties, putting up with acquaintances and family one avoids all the rest of the year... in short, of being brutalized by a "holiday" that has lost virtually all of its original meanings and has become a merchandising ploy for color tv set manufacturers and ravagers of the woodlands.
--Harlan Ellison in "No Offense Intended, but F*** Xmas!" from The Harlan Ellison Hornbook
Well, okay, I'm not that anti-Christmas, but neither do I disagree with ol' Harlan. I've seen what this season does to sane, rational, kind, well-meaning people-- filled with the best intentions for their families, for others, for the world, they get so caught up in the Holiday Madness they eventually snap and either unleash their Inner Assholes and thereby negate everything the Season is supposed to stand for or descend a godawful spiral of depression and guilt because (1) they can't possibly do all the things they think are expected of them (but won't stop trying) and (2, a direct corollary) they stop feeling the way they think they should feel at this "most wonderful time of the year."
But trying to opt out winds up being just as bad. Here's another quote from HE:
Christmas is constructed and promulgated in such a way that to defy it or ignore it makes one a monster. To refuse to send cards, to toss the ones received in the wastebasket, to refuse to accept gifts and refuse to give them, to walk untouched through consumer-crowds and never feel the urge to buy Aunt Martha that lovely combination rotisserie-&-bidet, to maintain one's sanity staunchly through the berserk days of year's end makes one, in the eyes of those who lack the courage to eschew hypocrisy, an awful heretic, a slug, a vile and contemptible thug.
Now, just so we're clear, I am not as much of a curmudgeon as Harlan (I couldn't be--he's had years to hone his craft and he's much better at it and far more, uh, eloquent); I don't hate Christmas. I hate what it does to people. I hate seeing unrealistic expectations being crammed down people's throats. I hate seeing people drive themselves crazy over it and I hate that many people feel the need to drag other people into the madness. Luckily for me my circumstances are such that I can choose to be away from Seasonal Ground Zero... for the most part.
In the meantime, I'll be kibitzing from the sidelines in such a way as to ensure I'll never be featured on The Best of Holidailies sidebar.