2005 was the first time I ever heard the phrase the War on Christmas. Of course, now the "War on Christmas" has been raging or simmering, depending on your perspective, for years. But not depending on my perspective.
The way I saw it then and the way I see it now is that we don't make War on Christmas as much as Christmas makes War on Us. Christmas can be a terribly difficult time of year. Expectations are high, family relations are strained, it's an easy time to feel like a failure and be totally overwhelmed.
The holidays roll in and terrorize us every year whether we like it or not. They demand we spend money giving many gifts that nobody really wants. If you want to spend an interesting moment with the dismal science of economics, google the phrase "Deadweight Loss of Christmas."
It was with all of this in mind -- and out of the desperation that came with trying to maintain the week-over-week output of the Seanachai podcast, that I wrote and produced these four episodes entitled the "War with Christmas."
It's the only Christmas story I've ever written. It's pretty gonzo in style, pretty rough in places, but it still makes me laugh. And laughter is powerful stuff. A lot of what I see in the world now is people responding to grim and desperate circumstances by choosing to become more grim and desperate.
In some cases, things can be really dire like if you're fighting for your life, but truly desperate circumstances are short in duration. In the modern world, it's the relentless, millimeter by millimeter grind that gets you.
I picked millimeters there because inches are by far the more heroic measure. I'm just sayin' it's not 10,000 Meters Under the Sea.
Laughter lifts you out of whatever your troubles may be, even if only for a moment. Laughter is like a magic trick. It's why I have such respect for truly dark, gallows humor. It takes an awful situation and transforms it in a flash of joy.
Much has changed since 2005. Christmas shopping, at least, has gotten a lot easier. You can knock that out with a few clicks. But I can't say this is going to be an easy Christmas. This year, for many people, the holidays will be harder than ever because of COVID. Many loved ones will not be getting together. And because of the weight of all the expectations that come with Christmas people will beat themselves up about this. Christmas is supposed to be perfect, but nothing is ever perfect.
My mother-in-law is in a memory care facility. So my children will not see their gram and my wife will not see her mother this Christmas. The facility is on lockdown because, like a monster, there is COVID in the house. And there's a chance that we never get to see her again.
These are dark days. But we as a people and species have lived through darker days than these. We did not make it without courage. And we did not make it without laughter.
And laughter is a strange thing in an evolutionary sense. There's evidence that when you tickle rats, they laugh. Which should really make you wonder, what evolutionary advantage does laughter convey? It wouldn't be around if it didn't help you survive somehow.
So this season I wish you one good, rib-aching, lung-straining belly laugh. One that pushes back the darkness farther than candles and carols and endless strands of twinkly lights could ever do.
I don't know if you will find that laugh in my odd, madcap, reference-ladened personal tale of struggling with Christmas, but I'm tryin' and I hope it helps.