I’ll Bemoan for Christmas

Christmastime is here! Or, in the words of “Christmastime Is Here” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”:

“Christmastime is here.”

I feel it when I walk around downtown Portland, with the stores decorated festively, the shoppers dashing from sale to sale, Christmas carols ringing through the air at every turn, and the giant Holiday Tree in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square reminding everyone of the true meaning of Holiday. It’s not a Christmas tree, obviously, because that would drive all the people who don’t celebrate Christmas to suicide, mass bloody hari-kari right there in the middle of downtown. It’s a Holiday Tree, meant to represent not just Christmas, but all the other December holidays that have trees as their central icons. When you think of Hanukkah, you think of a tree, right? And when you think of Kwanzaa, you think of a holiday that somebody made up out of thin air in 1966 that no one actually celebrates. And then you think of a tree, right?

Anyway, it’s a happy, joyous season in the big city, complete with the Salvation Army at every corner, ringing bells and collecting donations to help whoever it is the Salvation Army helps. The whole scene makes me think of that song “Silver Bells”:

“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style;
I’m about to grab the bell out of that guy’s hand and cram it down his throat.”

I think the idea is that if they annoy you enough, you will give them money. The sound of bells ring-a-linging is quaint and merry and puts us in the Christmas spirit, sure. But only for about five seconds. Then it’s like a thousand scissor blades being scraped on a thousand blackboards. Heaven help you if you’re stuck in line or waiting for the crosswalk signal while one of these guys jingles away next to you. If I were a rich man, I would ask each jingler how much he usually collects in a day, and then donate twice that much to make him stop jingling. (I would confiscate the bells, too, just to be sure.)

Speaking of Christmas carols (weren’t we?), “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has been stuck in my head lately, especially the beginning part:

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?”

Well, if he’s the most famous reindeer of all, how would we NOT recall him? Like we’re well-acquainted with B-list reindeer, but we’ve completely overlooked the most famous one? That’s stupid. Do you think we’re stupid?

“Hey, you’ve heard of Lou Diamond Phillips, Kathy Najimy, William H. Macy, Kirk Cameron and Steve Guttenberg, right? Well, have you ever heard of a little actor by the name of TOM CRUISE?!”

I don’t like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” anyway. It suggests that people with physical deformities should be treated with dignity and respect, and I don’t agree with that. What’s wrong with mockery and persecution? I hate when Christmas songs try to push their political agendas on me.

But let us also consider the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” probably the cruelest, most hateful yuletide carol. The lyrics are:

“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

Here is a line-by-line analysis.

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
Please have snow

This is a rather bold request. Wherever “home” is, I doubt the people there are capable of controlling the weather. Either it will snow or it won’t. Don’t put additional pressure on your poor parents by requesting it.

and mistletoe and presents on the tree.

ON the tree? Another strange request. Most people put presents UNDER the tree. Did you say “on” because “under” is two syllables and you only had room in that line for a one-syllable preposition? Well, maybe you should spend a little more time working on your scansion and less time demanding that your parents produce snow for you.

Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams.

What? Or in other words: What the hell? “Where the lovelight gleams”? What is a “lovelight”? So now your folks are expected to come up with some kind of “lovelight” to have gleaming when you arrive? Is it like a searchlight? Help us out here. We want to make your trip home a memorable one, O Prodigal Son.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

Oh good, you’ll be home for — wait, WHAT?! That last line is like a knife in the heart. Here you’ve got your parents and siblings all excited that you’re coming home for Christmas. They’ve contracted with Lucifer to produce the requested weather; they’ve affixed all the gifts onto the tree itself, causing structural damage to the branches and making the whole thing perilously lopsided; they even found a floodlight at Home Depot and put an outline of a heart around it, to function as a “lovelight.” And now you drop the bomb: Oh, by the way, I might only be there in a dream. I might actually be somewhere else. But have all that stuff ready for me anyway! I want my dream to be AWESOME!!

But we mustn’t let songs full of black-hearted emotional manipulation ruin the holiday season for us. It’s Christmastime, the most wonderful time of the year! Or, in the words of the Andy Williams classic “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”:

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

And God bless us, everyone!

I was going to talk about how this Christmas season isn't "white" because it rarely snows in Portland, but I didn't want to dwell on Portland-specific subjects. And just as well: One day before this column appeared, it snowed like a demon in Portland. It only happens a few times a year, and when it does, everyone freaks out, the way they do in L.A. when it rains. For a city full of tree-huggers, they sure are terrified of nature.

Anyway, I grew up in a snow-less environment, but I spent every December from 1992-2004 in winter wonderlands. This was my first holiday season since 1991 in a (relatively) snow-free city. And I loved it! It doesn't have to be frozen and slippery and wet to be Christmas. I'm just sayin'.

I've always considered "I'll Be Home for Christmas" to be a fraudulent song, but my Fat Brother Jeff brought it up a few weeks before this and reminded me that I should write about it. The "Rudolph" thing, honest to goodness, occurred to me in my sleep, more or less. I have my alarm clock set to a radio station, and I was awakened one morning by Dean Martin singing the words "But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?" As I hit the snooze button and turned over, I thought: Why would I know about the others but NOT know about the most famous one? I'm just glad I still remembered it when I woke up for real, several hours later.