The media, the holiday season and the story of a child who doesn’t celebrate any of it
Halloween, then Thanksgiving then Christmas (and other holidays). For three months, all you see on TV is stuff about the holidays. October is devoted to Halloween; then November and December are all devoted to Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule and probably some other obscure holiday roughly eleven and a half people celebrate. Then there’s the unofficial holiday of Black Friday, which is almost now more present in popular culture than Thanksgiving due to Thanksgiving’s questionable history. Where’s the Charlie Brown Black Friday special? I’d watch it. There are countless songs, movies, TV specials, pieces of art and entire fifths of Walmart devoted to the lovely holidays. I remember growing up seeing all of these things, along with the joy and good cheer people had during this time of year.
Keyword there is seeing, because I never actually did any of it myself. Why? Because growing up, I never celebrated holidays. Any of them. I still don’t either.
Now, before the pitchforks are busted out, this was not my parents forcing it on me. I was totally okay with not celebrating holidays. I never missed out on toys and surprises as a kid; they just happened sporadically throughout the year. It’s not like I was missing out on anything that important in terms of candy or gifts or anything like that, but you could say I was missing the spirit of the holiday season: family. And to that I say, “No thanks, I’m good with my small, immediate family.” I will say what I did miss is the media cyclone of holiday happenings during this time of year.
An education in disconnection from the holidays
The main thing I remember knowing I was missing out on was holiday celebrations in elementary school. During these times, the teacher would hand out cookies and punch and then play a holiday-relevant movie to shut the class up for all of 80 minutes. As I didn’t celebrate holidays, I was told not to participate in any of the activities that were related to the holidays, which included watching movies. So, during these times, I would get my cookies and punch and then get to sit in a quiet room on my own with a book or a different movie or a coloring book, and I hated coloring books. There are dozens of classic holiday films that my classmates could count on both hands the number of times they’d seen them, and I maybe had seen glimpses of one or two. Even now, I still don’t remember having seen ANY of the Charlie Brown specials, most Christmas movies, the big Thanksgiving specials, because smaller ones were technically historical (but horribly inaccurate to hilarious levels) and just about every Halloween movie.
Then there are the door-to-door aspects that are promoted by the media and schools with these holidays. Typically, my classmates grew up going trick-or-treating or caroling depending on the holiday. I never actually got to experience either of these things, so my experience with it is seeing kids of TV doing it, then not putting much thought into it. I did dress-up as Spider-Man in Kindergarten for school though, but that wasn’t trick-or-treating; it was just dressing up. I remember going into Walmart and seeing these elaborate displays for costumes and, as a kid, thinking it was all very cool but understanding I couldn’t do any of it. Then with caroling, I don’t think I would’ve wanted to do it anyways, but I did see plenty of kids do it in elementary school. I definitely remember my little fourth grade choir class doing Christmas sing-a-long stuff while I sat in the library and wrote an essay on Linkin Park, because my teacher didn’t want me doing nothing. I don’t know who got the worse end of that deal, and I don’t think I ever actually got a grade on my essay. Still waiting on that. I hope I get an A; I need it to pass that class.
No channel is safe from the holidays
I think most people notice how oversaturated television is with the holiday joy, especially during Christmas time but don’t really think much about it. It’s normal to just have a Christmas special on during the last week of November; don’t worry about it. When you REALLY start to notice how overstuffed the season can be is when you are trying to avoid watching holiday specials. I was told by my parents to not watch the holiday specials on TV, or if they didn’t tell me I just assumed I wasn’t supposed to. Try being ten years old and finding a cartoon to watch during the week of Christmas between 7-10 pm. If there wasn’t a holiday special going on, I lucked out and actually got to watch the episode of Spongebob or Danny Phantom or Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. If it was all Christmas specials, well tough luck, you get to watch the Food Network or GSN. Even local channels are loaded with festivities, with annual showings of Frosty, Rudolph or whatever they show. That’s how little I’ve experienced it, I actually don’t know what they show every year. I do remember watching the Ed, Edd, and Eddy Christmas special though. I don’t know why that one specifically, but I do remember it.
Halloween was less bad about this, sticking typically to just the one day in the year where every channel is Halloween and Halloween accessories. I definitely was less good about not watching Halloween specials, because I justified it in my mind as just being “scary monster themed shows, not Halloween!” I loved watching the Scooby-Doo and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends Halloween specials, because they were fantastic. I also watched ghost hunting shows with my brothers around Halloween, because those technically weren’t Halloween specials either. I may have bent the rules a little bit. If it was explicitly Halloween, I avoided it. At the very least, I wouldn’t have gotten killed by the Silver Shamrock jingle in Halloween III. So take that you holiday celebrators.
This is Christmas radio, all holiday jingles all the time
The worst part about not celebrating holidays and avoiding all holiday related material, along with not singing holiday songs, was that I didn’t really listen to holiday music either. You could go up to most kids who grew up in America and quiz them on Christmas songs, and they’d be able to tell you a whole bunch off the top of their head. I would maybe get four or five, and one would just be the entire NSync: Home for Christmas album. There is a radio station around where I live that plays only Christmas music from after Thanksgiving to January. That station played a lot of solid jams, a good mix of the 80’s, 90’s, and the actually listenable pop music from the last decade, so we tuned to it a lot throughout the year. Then Thanksgiving rolls around, and we have to search for a new radio station because it becomes wall-to-wall Christmas. That’s how I discovered that, yes, I hate most pop music, at least back between 2008-2012. To be fair, I was also the kid who wrote an essay on Linkin Park, so my musical taste was very edgy. I blame Christmas music for sending me through my punk phase way sooner than what was normal.
I guess the point of all of this reflection and storytelling is that the holidays are basically all you see in the media around this time of year, at least from my perspective. Most kids grow up with Christmas marked on their calendar, a day of peace and love and many presents. They bask in the glory of the holiday season, diving head first into the jingle bells and figgy pudding. A lot of adults also do that. For me, Christmas was just December 25th, a day where everything was closed, and it was cold outside. Halloween is just October 31st, a day where candy is on huge sales, and it’s a little chilly out. And Thanksgiving commemoration of the horrible, unspeakable things the settlers did to Native Americans; that at least doesn’t change. You could say I missed out on something life-changing as a child or that I didn’t have a childhood altogether. I would respond by saying I had a roof over my head, food in my stomach and a Gameboy Advance with Pokemon Sapphire booted up, so I think I had it perfectly fine.
I did get the special benefit ruining kid’s days by telling them Santa Claus wasn’t real before their parents told them or realizing it themselves. That was a good time. I’m probably still awaiting the karmic payback from that.
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