Thursday, December 4, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year.

Since August I've been growing my beard. Not because it contrasts beautifully with my high and tight 50s swooper of a haircut (that I've also decided to let grow for a while), or because I had an afternoon of vintage-y, hands-on-wood-splitting-labor at Grandmother's house last summer, or because I've started investigating various bourbons, or any other reasons that make me seem like I'm in a Hipster 101 class, but because I hope to dress as Santa Claus in a couple weeks. Yes, Santa Claus. I'm not trying to be Santa, so much as pay homage to the coolest dude with the sweetest profession during the most wonderful time of year. So I'll spray my beard white and wear a lot of red, maybe wear a red floppy hat. I've already played out in my mind what I'll say to our beloved or any other child that's showing signs of confusion or wonder when they see me: "I'm not Santa, but Santa is SO COOL that I wanted to try and look like him this year!" We'll see how that goes over.

If you've known me for any amount of time, you'll know I LOVE Christmas! I have a tattoo to prove it. By mid-November this year I had December pretty booked up with Holiday-sy events that just tickle my fancy! This year we have A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and White Christmas all showing at the Redford Theatre, Wild Lights at the Zoo, Noel Night, Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village, a trip to Frankenmuth and Bronners, along with 3 family Christmas gatherings. Not to mention a Secret Santa exchange at work, White Elephant exchange with family, and maybe a friend-party if I can find the right victim to host! If you weren't's the most wonderful time of the year!

I had a friend say to me the other day, "Whitfield, I know you love Christmas, but I've never asked you why you love Christmas so much?" My quick and simple answer was, "it makes me feel like a kid again."

In the liner notes for a song called Separation Anxiety on my band's demo five years ago I wrote:
This is an ode to the hearty sense of freedom and individuality most of us experience as children. Usually somewhere in adolescence we relinquish our imagination and naivete as we're told to take life more seriously. I'm convinced that most of us will spend much of our adult life trying to repossess the sense of wonder and joy we once had as children.
The other day a friend told me he's thinking of rejoining the church. He grew up Catholic. I asked him why and he said something along the lines of: I don't know, I just grew up in the church, I miss being a part of something, feeling like I belong to something bigger than me...and even though I hated going as a kid I feel like going now. I replied with a "fair enough." I fully understand and honor wanting something simply because it reminds me of childhood. (I have a tattoo and blog posts to prove it.) As we talked I asked him all the pertinent questions about his feelings around faith and beliefs around god. He confessed he's not sure he believes in a god, but feels its possible there is something out there. I tend to be less wondrous than he these days...about this something anyways.

As you may know, I grew up in the church, the son of a pastor. Christmas, while fun, and beautiful, and exciting, always had a focus, an origin, a reason more important than the human mind can fully comprehend. The birth of redemption. The bridge, born of a virgin, for man to now access God. But none of that feels reasonable to me anymore. And so I'm left with all the other things we indulged in...the bells, whistles, and everything more tangible.

Why do I love Christmas so much if my adult understanding of it is so far removed from the weight and emotionalism that was applied to it in my upbringing? Was "the reason for the season" clearly applied to it or was it smothered by the blasted secularization of the season? Can children even remotely comprehend we're 'celebrating the birth of the savior of humanity?' Should that idea even be presented to them? How can that message even hope to contend with presents, lights, Santa and all the other things that naturally capture the imagination of children?

We are the sum of our experiences.

Of course we are more than that too. Nature and Nurture weaving a fucked-up web of confusion. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have positive associations with the Christmas season that outweigh the negative associations. And my positive associations are powerful enough to outweigh my appeals to reason, inclinations against capitalism, and doubt of traditionalism. I know full well there are plenty of reasons to hate Christmas. Most of my friends are quite quick to tell me them. Just watching commercials the week before Thanksgiving should be enough to make a misanthrope out of most of us.

But still, it remains. The excitement stays with me. And now I get to rejoice within our beloved's 3 year old version of it! And I get to hope that the sum of her experiences with us will stick with her in the best, most exciting of ways. Hopefully you'll feel some of it too.