Gretchen Wilson’s country hit “Redneck Woman” has a line boasting about how she proudly keeps her Christmas lights on her front porch all year round. You’d think that folks were taking her advice literally. One cannot argue that it hasn’t been warm enough to find an opportunity to remove them; temperatures haven’t dropped below zero in weeks and just hit record highs a few days ago. St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow and yet a stroll through my neighbourhood reveals plenty of garlands, ribbons, wreaths and even electric deer standing proudly as if waiting for a winter that never really came. I know it can be tough, un-decorating always is. But at some point you have to let go. At this rate the poor Easter Bunny is going to have to muscle out Frosty and Rudolph for veranda space – his nimble cousins have already made an appearance in my backyard. Given the heat I think old Cottontail can take Frosty, but Rudolph has those strong back legs that could give him a real challenge coming down the stretch.
Admittedly, this Christmas was kind of anticlimactic, especially since, misleading Weather Network reports to the contrary, December 25th came and went with nary a hint of snow. And there was a palpable lack of Christmas spirit among my family, friends and colleagues; everybody sort of went through the seasonal motions, but nobody sounded like they were really looking forward to any festivities. The non-stop carols that kick in on the radio on December 1st sounded tedious by December 4th, and Justin Bieber’s tribute to mistletoe played unendingly didn’t help either. (I did not hear “Fairytale of New York” or “Christmas Wrapping” once on any FM station, which is criminal.) Our own decorations were a Griswoldian source of frustration, with two exterior pre-lit trees blowing over and smashing their bulbs at the slightest gust of wind despite my efforts to anchor them in place, a malfunctioning timer, strings of the infernal mini-lights on the big tree inside going dark in random patterns and a mysterious short blowing out the entire outside array. And we won’t get in to the malfunction of our brand new oven in the middle of cooking Christmas dinner.
Despite the setbacks we put on the best show of holiday cheer we were able. But there was something not quite right about the whole thing. About December 28th it felt like we were still waiting for the real holidays to get going, although in truth, I was so fed up that I would have been happy at that point just to go back to work. I suspect I’m not alone in that, and I wonder if perhaps that’s the reason there are so many decorations still adorning the nearby houses. It’s like Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to appear, not realizing he missed Halloween in the process.
My better half has observed that people seem generally unhappy lately. There is a dourness about the world that is lingering like the worst hangover you’ve ever had. Poverty is deepening, inequality is worsening and governments aren’t listening to their people, preferring to re-fight old and long-settled battles in lieu of facing the true challenges. One half of the country hates the other half with a deep-seeded bile it is unwilling to tame. It is not enough for us to win anymore, we have to see our foe sprawling in the dirt with his limbs broken and face smashed in, and the ground around him scorched and salted. When did we become so vindictive? Why this epidemic of hate-thy-neighbour? Is it those solar flares? Or is there an insidious cancer eating away at the human soul?
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic. But as any alcoholic will tell you, admitting you have a problem is the first step to addressing it. So many Christmas decorations still out baking away under 20-degree Celsius March heat suggests that there might be a longing out there that everyone doesn’t even realize they share – a hope for the spirit of positivity and unity that lights the world in its coldest months, and was suspiciously absent this past twenty-fifth of December. There’s no reason why we can’t spend the remainder of 2012 working to bring it back.