Autumn Phillips: Holiday spirit


I have holiday spirit.

If I were my typical self, my self from Christmas past, I would have pointed to the fistfights at Midwest Wal-Marts to prove I was right -- that Christmas is a horrible consumer frenzy. I would say that Christmas has been co-opted by Visa and MasterCard. But I am not that person this year.

In the past, when I saw commercials for a comedy special titled "(Expletive deleted) Christmas" complete with elves inserting potty humor into Christmas carols, I might have laughed. But not this year.

This year, I made a pact. This year, I will say 'Merry Christmas' to store clerks weeks before the actual holiday. I might buy some cheap gold garland and flashing, singing lights for my cubicle.

I will get a Christmas tree. I will hang a stocking. And as soon as I finish eating Thanksgiving turkey for the 12th lunch and dinner in a row, I will begin planning the Christmas menu.

If you have known me for very long or if you have ever read this column around the holidays, you know that I have a special aversion to Christmas.

Last year at about this time, I ran a stupid column analyzing the dangers of telling your children about Santa Claus only to change your story later. I advised parents against it.

The tsunami of hate mail and angry phone calls that followed surprised me. I was told I had no holiday spirit, and I was told where I could put my column.

As I listened to one woman's tearful rant on my voicemail, I realized that most people are not cynical about the holidays. Most people like handmade tree skirts and do not make fun of "Joy to the World" ringtones.

I started to wonder when I switched to the dark side. I used to beg my parents to let me open one present on Christmas Eve, and I could barely sleep that night in anticipation of Christmas morning.

But these days, the only holidays I really like are Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. Those are self-sufficient holidays. You buy your own green beer and, on Halloween, the amount of fun you have is dependent solely on the limits of your own costume creativity.

Holidays such as Christmas and Valentine's Day, on the other hand, depend largely on other people.

The realization: We had a few children at our house for Thanksgiving this year, and as I watched them pick marshmallows off the yams and fork their green beans to the side of the plate, it actually felt like the holidays.

In that moment, I realized this time of year is no place for the single adult.

The Hallmark ads do not show the twenty-something waitress eating her Christmas dinner in the break room while lazily reading the health department poster on the wall. They do not show the single guy heating up a microwave Hungryman meal of turkey and mashed potatoes. The single-adult Christmas is not a Hallmark Christmas, and so, until we are stuffing stockings for our own young families, the single adult is asked by advertising to hide his or her hideous holiday face.

In response, we gather in a mass of cynics.

Cynicism, any therapist will tell you, is a defense mechanism. If you are cynical, you are not vulnerable. Your sneer is your armor.

The Christmas hater cannot be disappointed by gifts that reveal your closest friends and family don't know you at all. The cynic does not mind eating a bowl of chili in a sports bar in lieu of a holiday feast. In fact, the cynic takes joy in that form of Christmas rebellion.

But this year, I declare my own cynicism a form of holiday laziness.

This Scrooge promises to dig out all the Christmas decorations I have stored in a little Crown Royal bag in my closet. I will not laugh at anyone's snowman sweater this year, though I will not go so far as to wear my own.

As I "what the (bleep)" 2005 into the best Christmas ever, you should not be afraid to say Merry Christmas to me on the street. I might even say it back.


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