X-mas commercialism comes once a year

Tim Paluch

Hey, what’s that sound? I know you hear it. Is that the sound of sleigh bells and carolers and yuletide cheer? Or is that the sound of the holiday spirit making its way into the hearts of people?

Actually, that sounds a bit more like a pack of whiny, little, spoiled 7-year-olds piled in the back of an Explorer at 6 in the morning sitting in traffic tighter than Rosie O’Donnell in a voting booth. That’s the sound of cash registers a-ringing, credit cards a-charging, consumer debt a-rising, and a partridge in a pear tree.

That’s right, the election may be coming to a close, but the most popular politicians these days are dead ones: Washington, Lincoln, Franklin, and Visa. It’s all about the Benjamins this time of year, with less than cheerful parents going out and buying kids they don’t really know toys they don’t really need with money they don’t really have.

Thanksgiving, that one great holiday that commercialism takes a pass on, is gone and forgotten. After stomaching all of the possible combinations for finishing off the 37 pounds left over from the 39 pound turkey (turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, turkey quesadillas, turkey jello), it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, like being subconsciously herded like cattle to stores that keep getting bigger and bigger.

In my mind, K-Mart was sufficient. When Big KMart came rollin’ along, I didn’t complain. Then came Super KMart. I never imagined I could have a Little Caesar’s Pizza, buy underwear, a lawnmower, a gallon of milk, and a couple of pork chops, and on the way out get some family pictures taken and recycle my cans, all under one roof! And yet, there it is. I just read there’s a new Ridiculously Large KMart being built over an old airport somewhere.

Christmas used to be so much fun. I can remember running into the living room at 5 in the morning when we all knew that my parents wouldn’t get out of bed until eight or nine. And I knew that they did that on purpose, too. They’d get their coffee, make some breakfast, shovel the driveway, wax the car, clean the gutters, all while I sat drooling over a horribly-wrapped oval that was so obviously a football.

Then the dismantling of hours worth of wrapping took place within minutes. I knew where all my presents were (Just because you couldn’t open them without mom and dad didn’t mean you couldn’t reorganize their place under the tree.) And I knew there would be no Sega Genesis, the Nintendo supposedly did just fine. I got pretty much the same crop each year; package of tube socks, three sweaters that I wouldn’t be caught dead in and a pair of pants tight enough to shame Robert Plant. There was no Nintendo 64. There was no virtual robot dog. We had a real dog, and I didn’t like him all that much.

Then we’d look at the stockings. A pen, an enormous Kit-Kat and some cheap plastic toy. And that was good stuff. Nowadays, Alf pez-dispensers are replaced with GameBoy Colors and “Hey Pokemon!” for N64. Must be nice.

Kids have it good for Christmas nowadays, and they don’t even notice. If we didn’t have much money around Christmas, we just didn’t get the goods, but we all knew how lucky we were to be getting anything. (Plus we knew the grandparents ALWAYS had the money.)

Nowadays, it’s a different story.

Mom: Well, Billy, did you finish your Christmas list?

Billy: Yep.

Mom: What did you ask Santa for?

Billy: Crap.

Mom: Honey, crap is so expensive these days, and Santa may be having a little financial trouble this year.

Billy: Ah, he’ll come through. He always does. I’ll get my crap.

Mom: Have another of your special ritalin candy canes and go watch Digimon, sweetie.

You heard it here first. Crap is the hot item this Christmas. It’s gonna be hard to get your hands on crap, it’s selling like hotcakes. So if everyone wants their kids to have the best crap, they should head out a little early this year. I can see it now. Mothers passing the Salvation Army Santa without even a glance to get to the store and dropkick somebody’s grandmother for the last Playstation 2.

If Jesus was here right now, chances are he’d be sporting a Santa hat tossing back mugfulls of holiday egg-nog waiting to unwrap $100 worth of cheap plastic crap faultier than Dick Cheney’s heart, that looks shiny and makes noise for a couple of months before it meets it’s inevitable doom in the back of the closet next to the juicemakers, thighmasters and George Foreman grills.

One item popular this Christmas is the computer game, The Sims, where you build a house, find a job and raise a family. This, of course, is played instead of actually building a house, finding a job or raising a family.

Quick question: How do you ruin a timeless classic that preaches the true meaning of Christmas?

Answer: Take $123 million, add special effects, a dash of adult humor, throw in a narcissistic egomaniac who won’t make a movie for less than $20 million, mix together, send to Hollywood and bake at 375 degrees until the dollar bills start pouring out of the oven.

Look no further than to Hollywood to corrupt Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“Maybe Christmas,” the Grinch says, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.” Apparently not. The biggest commercial movie of the year comes equipped with all the fun materialistic gadgets missing from the original story. You’ve got your Grinch martini glasses, Grinch action figures, Grinch waffle irons, plus marketing deals with Wendy’s and the U.S. Postal Service. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

I miss Thanksgiving already, and it’s only November 29. I may sound like a Grinch, but I am certainly not too excited for the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, the family atmosphere is the best this time of year. It’s that other stuff that ruins it. And to get the record straight, I’ll take Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey over Jim Carrey as the Grinch anyday. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find an MP3 player in a phone that can be used as a fax machine with wheels.