Great Expectations

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 3, 2000; 1:14 PM

I'm saying this now because if I say it later, after all the other stuff, it's going to sound slighter than Cindy Lou Who: I love Christmas. More inclusively, I love "the holidays," the more-the-merrier party we throw to brighten the overlong nights. When you picture December, don't you just see it by candlelight?

I love the fellowship and the food, I love the anticipation. It's cold skin and velvet and quick, puffy snows.

I love the frenzy -- in kitchens and restaurants and malls, even. You know 'tis really the season when you can't seem to locate your car.

I love that it all starts in September, when Labor Day ends and the long, busy buildup begins. We walk faster and think faster and do more more more until we do ourselves into a stupor. Then we eat too much and give ourselves stuff and finally take a day off.

I've figured out why I hate Christmas.

Yes it's too commercial, yes the whole "meaning" is lost (not the Christian one -- you'd have to have your head in a bag to miss that one; I mean the pagan one), yes it oppresses non-Christians or folks without families and steam-rolls them into eating Chinese food and going to movies. Yeah yeah yeah.

But those aren't it. It's the yuletide bait-and-switch.

I'm a good American, I watch TV. I've got an eagerly awaited annual appointment with Rudolph, Charlie Brown and the Grinch, and I live George Bailey's life with him as it goes from bad to worse to wonderful. Every. Single. Year.

From these (I thought) unimpeachable arbiters of all things merry, here's what I've learned about Christmas:

Step One: Our hero experiences Very Dark Things.

Charlie Brown gets ignored, humiliated and, of all the childhood horrors, laughed out of the room by a mob of his peers -- which is led, you may recall, by his own dog. The Grinch goes on a breaking-and-entering binge, then ices the cake by lying point-blank to a child. George Bailey loses hearing in one ear, loses his dream, loses his last dime, loses all hope and resolves to take his own life. Rudolph? Rudolph has a birth defect.

Step Two: Christmas is so powerful, so universal, so benevolent that it saves them all! Yay!

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