How was your Thanksgiving? Lovely, that's just lovely. Mine? Not bad. My sister throws a mean Thanksgiving. I ate me a turkey.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, I can begin officially fretting about Christmas. Starting....NOW!
I was raised Jewish. My parents dutifully sent me to Sunday school, I was dragged to synagogue on a semi-regular basis, and I even had a Bar Mitzvah. It didn't stick. These days I am firmly agnostic. That's been working pretty well for me, except around the Holidays. What the hell does an agnostic celebrate come December? Agnosticmas? NoGodukkah? Usually I just wing it. If my parents want to give me a Hanukkah gift, groovy. I'll give them one too. Coworkers want to have a Christmas party? Okey dokey, I'm there.
Now I've got a family (have I mentioned them before? The wife and five year-old daughter?). My husbandly/fatherly duties demand that I officially celebrate some sort of holiday with the wife and daughter. So, several years ago, I set out to choose, once and for all, what I would be willing to celebrate, come December, with my family. It had to meet these criteria:
1) Not be Christmas - As a Jew growing up in these fine United States, I kind of got overloaded on the Christmas thing. The whole country goes bonkers for Christmas for a full 1/12th of the year. I also always resented how my favorite TV shows would get pre-empted by the same crappy Christmas specials each year. Although TiVo (glorious, wonderful TiVo) mitigates the pain, I cannot forgive Christmas (no offense, Jesus. Happy b-day).
2) Not be Hanukkah - Eight days, schmeight days. As near as I can tell, Judaism is kind of like Christianity, but in Hebrew. Ok, that analogy may not be perfect, but this is a blog, not Religious Studies 101. Either way, I can hardly impose Hanukkah on my family when I rejected Judiasm mere minutes after my Bar Mitzvah.
3) Have a tree: My wife, despite being unreligious, has fond memories of spending Christmas around that damn tree.
4) Have presents: Duh. The holiday will hardly pass muster with the child as a Christmas-substitute if there are no presents involved.
And so, Winter Present Tree Day was born, much to the amusement of my coworkers, and the chagrin of my parents and inlaws. To me, Winter Present Tree Day was the perfect holiday:
Take place in December? Yes! On Christmas Day, oddly enough.
Involves presents? Oh, yes.
Got a tree? Again, yes! The Winter Present Tree Day Tree is a noble beast, closely resembling the Christmas tree, decorations and all. It is gaily festooned with colorful bits of secular crap.
Perfect, no? It has all the bits that my wife loves and none that I resent. I realize that many will see it as a soulless and materialistic monstrosity, totally void of meaning or humanity. To that, I have no defense, but you should see the tree. It's really nice.
We celebrated Winter Present Tree Day for a couple years, replete with the annual visit to the tree lot, where my daughter would speak to the tree salespeople about her Winter Present Tree Day Tree. The salespeople always shook their heads in confusion.
The holiday never really caught on though. Perhaps we didn't manufacture enough of a back-story, or maybe my expectations of my daughter's enthusiasm were unrealistic, but it didn't seem to become the beloved family tradition I was hoping for. Between my daughter's toddler-like attention span, and my extended family's disdain for it, Winter Present Tree Day seemed to have run its course. It failed the worst test of all, it didn't play well to the key demographics.
Other holiday themes had been considered and discarded before we selected Winter Present Tree Day:
- Winter Solstice: Gah, waaaaay too New Agey
- New Years: This holiday is already filled to the gills with boozing and subsequent repentance. There's really no room for trees and presents and what-not.
- Festivus: Although I don't recall the episode, apparently this territory has already been covered by Seinfeld. George Costanza's father celebrated Festivus. It does not have a tree though, merely a pole.
- Internet Day: I loved this one. The tree could have been decorated with Cat 5 cable, strings of LEDs, and porn, with a big packet at the top. No one liked this idea as much as me, but let me tell you that the Internet deserves a holiday. Someone, make this happen.
So, upon the demise of Winter Present Tree Day, it was back to the drawing board to find a new secular holiday that would meet all my criteria, and yet have greater appeal to the family. From this herculean intellectual effort, Family Holiday came into our lives last December. Family Holiday is EXACTLY like Winter Present Tree Day except with one important difference. Whereas Winter Present Tree Day had a name which was a mouthful of irony, Family Holiday has a name that celebrates families! How's that for pandering to the all-important family demographic? Genius.
We celebrated Family Holiday last year and it went reasonably well. I kind of missed the tongue in cheekiness of Winter Present Tree Day, but it was for the best.
Now, let's skip to this year. About a week ago my daughter was sitting at the kitchen table and she declared, "I think I'll make some Christmas cards!"
"Sweet pea, we don't celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Family Holiday," I offered.
"But it's the same thing," she argued.
"No. No no. Noooooo," I parried, "It is NOT the same thing. Remember how we used to celebrate Winter Present Tree Day?"
"Yeah, but that was the same thing as Christmas, right?" she asked.
It would appear that Family Holiday had not made the impact that I was hoping for. In hindsight, I think it was poorly named. What's with the "Holiday" suffix? Pure idiocy. We don't celebrate Mother Holiday, Labor Holiday, Memorial Holiday, or even Arbor Holiday. I should have gone with Family Day or Family's Day. That would have sold better. My future, alas, is not in marketing.
Not all is lost however, just a few days later, my daughter told the wife that instead of celebrating Family Holiday, this year she wants to celebrate Winter Present Tree Day. Hoohoo! Apparently, it was NOT a complete failure. It had stuck!
So, it is with much joy, and little fanfare, that I do hereby declare December 25th, 2005 to be the third celebration of Winter Present Tree Day, a glorious holiday not seen in nearly two years. I urge you all to spend this holiday gathered around the Winter Present Tree Day Tree with your loved ones. Alternately, you could celebrate Internet Day, or perhaps NoGodukkah. Any of those will please me greatly. Traditionalists may also continue to celebrate the "old school" holidays. They can hop on this bandwagon another year.