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Xmas Annoyances

Like many communists who come from a certain religious background that is hegemonic in the Americas and Europe, this season (and specifically tomorrow) produces familial social obligations that can be simultaneously nostalgiac and onerous.  Generally speaking, of course, this is a problem with most family obligations: we cannot forget that communism should mean the death of the family––or, at the very least, the death of the current and dominant expression of the family.  But the traditional social obligations connected with this season are obligations that I find the most stressful.  If my partner and I didn't care about our families we would avoid participating in any way, shape or form in this Yuletide hub-bub; the only reason we leave our city to visit our families elsewhere, and participate (granted, as minimally as possible) in Christmas social conventions, is because it matters to them.

The most obviously annoying thing about this season is its religious specificity.  I would say eurocentric––because the specific form of Christmas that is shoved down our throats at the expense of every other religious and non-religious group is clearly the EuroAmerican White Jesus form––and this is true, but at least fifty per cent of our experience is a non-eurocentric form of Christmas (my partner is Palestinian and comes from a Palestinian Christian family), so the social obligations we are made to feel are not all eurocentric.  And yet the eurocentrism is everywhere and so influences how even that side of the family understands the holiday.  Even if this wasn't a problem, the fact that Christmas is pushed on everyone in this country regardless of the fact that everyone is not Christian––and though Christians make up the majority religious population, all other religious and non-religious populations clearly outnumber Christians––is bloody annoying.

Of course, this is a Christmas that is more of a capitalist holiday than properly christian holiday, the end result of Puritan colonization of the Americas stripped of most of its religious trappings and turned into the worship of the almighty dollar.  And though this was perhaps the holiday's inevitable destiny, I am greatly annoyed by all this "Christmas is under attack" bullshit from the usual conservative sources.  Why the hell should they care about the "consumerism" of Christmas when they are all different shades of capitalist?  What other Christmas spirit is there?  The one that was instituted by Constantine when the holiday was first founded to appropriate pagan festivals?  That was about the expansion of the Roman Empire, Christianity suddenly its main ideology, and though those lamenting the death of "true" Christmas spirit are often great lovers of imperialism, I doubt they're invested in the spread of the Roman Empire.  Who the hell cares about some "real" Christmas spirit that never existed.  Really, the main reason the holiday is still hegemonic is because it is promoted by corporations and shopping malls.  If it wasn't for capitalism, Christians would be free to celebrate whatever each of them think is the "true meaning of Christmas" in the privacy of their own homes––but then they'd all probably be complaining about how they can't go into their malls and hear their favourite yuletide songs.

Greatly annoying is the fact that we are socially obligated to buy gifts that has now degenerated into an irrational process.  We've hit this point where family members will tell us what they want, and we're expected to tell them what we want, so really all we're doing is just exchanging money because we are socially obligated to exchange money on this holiday.  It has nothing to do with gift-giving or even gift-receiving; it's just exchange.  Adorno had something to say about this in Minima Moralia where, in his twenty-first meditation, he discusses how we live in a culture where people have forgotten how to give gifts.  Really, aside from the logic of commodity consumption, what's the point?

Well I suppose the point is to return to the religious specificity (and most often eurocentric notion) of Christmas that I already complained about above.  Really, I don't give a shit about some true meaning of the season because, aside from banal pronouncements about love and faith (which now mean "have faith in Santa Clause, that is believe in something you know is a lie and then lie to your children), this season really has no true meaning because it began as a state-sanctioned holiday and is now a capitalist-sanctioned holiday.

Some comrades recently reminded me of Alexandra Kollontai's Soon, a Christmas story without Christmas.  If there is any "true meaning" I would want to get out of Christmas, it would be the message of this story which, ultimately, is the story of a world that has transcended Christmas.


  1. Ugh, I agree; if Christmas wasn't so important to my family, I would never participate. I have been trying for the past 4 years to pull out of it, but my sister gets very, very upset. I try to use living in a different city - and the inconvenience it would cause me to leave - as my reason for not going. Doesn't work.

    Also, re: gift giving: Sheldon, on Big Bang Theory, has funny rants about Christmas. One of them begins when his neighbour gives him a present and he gets really upset and ends with saying "You haven't given me a present; you've given me an obligation". Then he spends the episode agonizing over how much to spend on her because he doesn't want to give her an inappropriate gift. He also has a similar rant about birthday presents and the expectation of reciprocity.

  2. Interestingly enough, one of the things I don't like about xmas socializing is discussions over banal television shows and movies since politics is often a no-go area (look out for that crazy commie couple!)... And this is the third year where I've been forced to listen to some argument about how Big Bang Theory (a show, like so many other sitcoms, I generally cannot stand) is sooooo funny. Must be one of the only things I can agree with in that show, lol.

  3. I was hoping for a special xmas post!

    My niece summed this up nicely on christmas eve when she said she was going to pray to Santa before she went to bed... For me, that pretty much sums up the conflation of all these competing messages and such.

    One of my favourite christmases was the one i skipped in favour of a trip to india.

    p.s. I like that the label on this is "science".

  4. I love the whole "just believe" nonsense of xmas time that is part of the "spirit." Like we're all grinches or what-not when we refuse to pretend to believe in Santa Claus... It really is very American, actually, where ignorance is encouraged and we're supposed to be proud about our ignorance even though we know it's ignorance. The dead shell of religion, really: praying to Santa, lol - might as well!

    The label was originally unintentional: I clicked it accidentally when I was looking for something else to click and then decided it was funny enough leave on.

  5. I often watch the big bang theory not sure whether to laugh or scream at the television, but the episode Gina talks about is one of my favorites.

    Thanks for this post. I managed to avoid Christmas for a few years when I was broke and living several hours from town... didn't have a car and wasn't going to travel on a greyhound with a newborn. Now, I am back in the same city as my family and am participating far more than I would like to in a lot of ways.

    Also Xtina's comment reminds me of my daughter's story about Christmas. I don't remember all of it, but she knew Jesus was born on Christmas day, but thought Jesus was God's enemy and that God was trying to kill him. Also, God is evil, which is why you have to get baptematized to protect yourself and you can't say "Oh my god" because that upsets him when you say his name (like Voldemort or something). And no, she isn't a preschooler... she is 9 years old! Time for some kind of world religion books I think.

  6. Love this story about your daughter's theology... At least it has an explanatory dimension, thus providing it with some sort of epistemic foundation!

    By the way, everyone who has commented on this post (except myself) is from Sudbury. What's with the xmas hatred in sudbury?

  7. Yule - tide. The Yule log was supposed to get you through the bleakest mid-winter. Pre-Xmasse. Demythologise. Graves' two volume Greek Myths is a good guide. The Solstice is important, especially in Canada and other Nordic countries. Note the Saami references all over the place - the friendly bishop included. Being red-diaper I'm not threatened by religion. There is wisdom there and it helps one to understand the human condition. Give, if you can, Jesus the same respect as you would Mars or the faery tooth mother.

  8. I am full of respect for Jesus... and I would give Jesus far more respect than Mars or the tooth fairy because Jesus actually existed. My problem is the ideology that is promoted by the xmas period, which has now become the dead shell of religion, with its obligatory concepts of exchange, etc.


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