By Jesse Carey
Jesse Carey is a frequent contributor to RELEVANT and a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT podcast. He's also a really funny guy.
7 Reasons Why We Still Love Christmas
Christmas is awesome. Of course, there are the obvious perks: spending time with friends and family, opening gifts and getting away from work. Oh yeah, and celebrating the birth of our Savior.
But beyond the obligatory emphasis on thankfulness and the annual time of reflection it affords, Christmas has come to represent something very peculiar to our generation. Here, the line between corny and cool becomes so blurred that even the hippest among us could be caught wearing a snowman sweater, sipping a glass of eggnog and fighting back tears while watching a cheesy Santa movie. Yes, somewhere between our too-cool hipsterism and our anti-mainstream cynicism, we lose our sense of irony. That careful detachment becomes sincere affection, just like it did for skinny jeans and Chuck Norris.
How does Christmas force us to fall in love with it? Are the corny, over-the-top expressions of kitsch actually showing us who we really are? Do we just love Christmas cookies? Are we all crazy?
In search of an answer, we bring you seven things it’s still OK to completely love about the Christmas season.
1. Inflatable lawn ornaments
Nothing can take a neat, suburban front yard and give it a classy makeover like an 8-foot-tall, rotating, inflatable nativity scene. Combining the tasteful subtlety of a two-story snow globe with a Homer Simpson Santa Claus, inflatable lawn ornaments can take any Christmas-spiritless yard and turn it into an understated, stylish, eye-searing holiday extravaganza. Looking to add a little whimsy to your light display? How about something like a triple-life-sized Snoopy riding a motorcycle? (Don’t worry—he’s wearing a Santa hat, so it totally makes sense.) Or maybe you’re more of the Garfield-tangled-up-in-Christmas-lights type? The possibilities are bewilderingly limitless. Just a few dozen yards of extension cord can turn your lawn into the winter-wonderland-slash-used-car-lot scene that you, your family and your neighbors have always dreamed about.
2. Christmas Sweaters
Christmas is the one holiday where there’s a high likelihood your aunt is the most well-dressed person at the dinner table. Every family has at least one aunt who has a secret compartment in her wardrobe that contains a collection of finely knit, red-and-green light-up sweaters adorned with enough glitter, tiny bells and hot glue to stock a Hobby Lobby. These glorious garments (many of which have at least one battery-operated component that syncs twinkling lights with an audible Christmas song) get to make an appearance just once a year and require only one essential accessory: a white turtleneck undershirt.
3. Claymation Specials
Somewhere in the realm that exists between dreams and nightmares, claymation Christmas specials are born. Every year, this strange brand of animation finds its way back to primetime and we are reminded how unsettling it is to see talking raisins wearing Santa hats sing Motown songs. There’s something about the jerky movements and bizarre plotlines (an elf wants to become a dentist?) that make all claymation specials seem just a bit, well, terrifying. They have an ominous tendency to come across like trippy dreams fueled by the sugar rush that comes from an overdose of candy canes and eggnog. It’s only at Christmastime that children around the country enter a David Lynchian fever dream of ogre-ish “Heat Misers,” ill-fated snowmen and the land of “misfit toys” ... and actually enjoy it.
4. Family Christmas cards
In your father’s mind, because it’s Christmas and he possesses a brand-new digital camera and a classy idea for a matching family wardrobe, he’s given complete license to stage a Glamour Shot of your family and mail it to everyone you know and even some people you don’t. These always start with a good idea—perhaps everyone wearing Santa hats with white dress shirts tucked into jeans, a tallest-to-shortest profile shot of everyone in front of the mantle, or an action shot of the entire family leaping for joy in front of the decorated house. But either because of unwilling family members or a lack of photographic skill, the idea is lost in execution. The result is a future submission to AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com.
5. Advent Calendars
What better way to have a daily reminder of the coming holiday than a cardboard poster filled with cheap candy? Sure, the scene depicted on the three-dimensional calendar looks like a children’s coloring book put together by an artist who gave up halfway through, but no matter the package, don’t we all deserve one regular piece of chocolate in the days leading up to Christmas? Or, in some cases, 24 pieces of chocolate in an unfortunate moment of weakness on the afternoon of December 2?
6. Christmas Carols
Many classic Christmas songs offer reverent reflections on the humble entrance of our Savior into the world. Others are completely insane—especially when sung by a mob of door-to-door amateurs. The opening lines of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” seem harmless enough, for instance, but a crowd of strangers gathered at your front door to shout, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” and “We won’t go until we get some, so bring it right here!”—that counts as a legitimate threat. Especially if you have no idea what figgy pudding is and have no means of procuring it to appease the earnest crowd gathered outside your home.
7. Office Gift Exchanges
Looking for the perfect way to express the passive-aggressive resentment you’ve been harboring all year toward an obnoxious co-worker? The Secret Santa gift exchange is your opportunity. Just pretend they really wanted that homemade “candleholder” you worked so hard on. Or re-gift that dazzling new reindeer-themed picture frame you were just given by your new sister-in-law. And if your office opts for the White Elephant approach to its gift exchange—a fun, good-natured way to celebrate Christmas by literally stealing the gifts you want from other people—just bring your set of napkin dividers, cross your fingers and hope you end up with that $10 Starbucks gift card that’s sure to grace the pile.
Maybe the reason it’s easy for the line between honesty and irony to blend is because trends have a way of circling back on themselves. What was once cool becomes kitsch, then cool again. One day (sooner than you think), wood paneling on the side of a car will be back in style and elastic-waisted jeans will be worn with pride.
Or maybe the reason we ironically embrace things that are kitschy is because we long to expose things that are true and authentic. And with music, fashion and art, that search for authenticity constantly redefines itself. The thing about Christmas (unlike the trends in culture and art) is that its message—Jesus coming into the world to save the souls of humanity—will never change. Authenticity and truth can be found. And in its own way, Christmas kitsch reminds us of that.
We love Christmas because behind the irony, the message never goes out of style.