Nearly every day this blog features a list posts and articles written by members of the OTN architect community. But with Christmas just days away, I thought a break in that routine was in order. After all, if the holidays aren’t excuse enough for an off-topic post, then the terrorists have won.
Rather than buy gifts for everyone -- which, given the readership of this blog and my budget could amount to a cash outlay of upwards of $15.00 – I thought I’d share a bit of holiday humor.
I wrote the following essay back in the mid-90s, for a “print” publication that used “paper” as a content delivery system. That was then. I’m older now, my kids are older, but my feelings toward the holidays haven’t changed…
The holidays are a time of rituals. Some of these, like the shopping, the music, the decorations, and the food, are comforting in their predictability. Other rituals, like the shopping, the music, the decorations, and the food, can leave you curled into the fetal position in some dark corner, whimpering.
How you react to these various rituals depends a lot on your general disposition and credit card balance. I, for one, love Christmas. But there is one Christmas ritual that really tangles my tinsel: the seasonal editorializing about how our modern celebration of the holidays pales in comparison to that of Christmas past.
It's not that the old notions of how to celebrate the holidays aren't all cozy and romantic--you can't watch marathon broadcasts of "It's A Wonderful White Christmas Carol On Thirty-Fourth Street Story" without a nostalgic teardrop or two falling onto your plate of Christmas nachos. It's just that the loudest cheerleaders for "old-fashioned" holiday celebrations overlook the fact that way-back-when those people didn't have the option of doing it any other way.
Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh? No thanks. When Christmas morning rolls around, I'm going to be mighty grateful that the family is going to hop into a nice warm Toyota for the ride over to grandma's place. I figure a horse-drawn sleigh is big fun for maybe fifteen minutes. After that you’re going to want Old Dobbin to haul ass back to someplace warm where the egg nog is spiked and the family can gather in the flickering glow of a giant TV and contemplate the true meaning of football.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Sorry, no fireplace. We've got a furnace for heat, and stuffing nuts in there voids the warranty. Any of the roasting we do these days is in the microwave, and I'm pretty sure that if you put chestnuts in the microwave they would become little yuletide hand grenades. Although, if you've got a snoot full of Yule grog, watching chestnuts explode in your microwave might be a real holiday hoot.
Some people may see microwave ovens as a symptom of creeping non-traditional holiday-ism. But I'll bet you that if there were microwave ovens around in Charles Dickens' day, the Cratchits wouldn't have had to entertain an uncharacteristically giddy Scrooge for six or seven hours while the goose cooked.
Holiday entertaining is, in fact, the one area that even the most severe critic of modern practices would have to admit has not changed since Tim was Tiny. A good holiday celebration, then as now, involves lots of food, free-flowing drink, and a gathering of friends and family, some of whom you are about as happy to see as a subpoena.
Just as the Cratchit's Christmas was spent with a man who, for all they knew, had suffered some kind of head trauma, so the modern holiday gathering includes relatives or acquaintances who, because they watch too many talk shows, and/or have poor personal hygiene, and/or fail to maintain scheduled medication, you would normally avoid like a plate of frosted botulism. But in the season of good will towards men, you smile warmly at the mystery uncle wandering around half-crocked with a clump of mistletoe dangling from the bill of his N.R.A. cap.
Dickens' story wouldn't have become the holiday classic it has if, having spotted on their doorstep an insanely grinning, raw poultry-bearing, fresh-off-a-rough-night Scrooge, the Cratchits had pulled their shades and pretended not to be home. Which is probably what I would have done. Instead, knowing full well his reputation as a career grouch, they welcomed him into their home, and we have a touching story that teaches a valuable lesson about how the Christmas spirit can get the boss to pump up the payroll.
Despite what the critics might say, our modern Christmas isn't all that different from those of long ago. Sure, the technology has changed, but that just means a bigger, brighter, louder Christmas, with lasers and holograms and stuff.
It's our modern celebration of a season that even the least spiritual among us recognizes as a time of hope that the nutcases of the world will wake up and realize that peace on earth is a win/win proposition for everybody. If Christmas has changed, it's for the better. We should continue making Christmas bigger and louder and shinier until everybody gets it.
Happy Holidays, everyone!