I was watching Spongebob Squarepants the other day, all by myself, while the kids were Heaven knows where destroying Heaven knows what. I realized what I was doing after a few minutes, and it turns out, I was entranced by the song Spongebob was cheerfully singing to anyone who would listen: "Don't Be a Jerk, It's Christmas."
Spongebob, in all his infinite wisdom, might have hit the nail right on the head. Sometimes I feel like Christmas makes jerks out of all of us, in some way. We buy excessive amounts of stuff, we get quickly and colossally irritated by other shoppers/drivers/family members, we sneak into cookie exchanges or potlucks with nothing but our appetites, we are offended when someone tells us "Merry Christmas" or when we feel like we are not allowed to say "Merry Christmas," we leave our Santa lawn inflatables out until Easter.
Is it the Christmas seasons that makes jerks out of us, and we just can't help it? The stress can overwhelm us as we try to keep up with our traditions, our internal expectations, and the completely unrealistic world of Pinterest. Even if you love the holidays, there has to be a moment where you start to freak out and contemplate running over pedestrians to park on the sidewalk because there is nowhere to park within two miles of the only store in the state that contains the exact gift your child wants. If you hate the holidays, you might feel like the 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is open season on all the crazies who do.
I am just as guilty. I start to act like a jerk when the stress of presents, Christmas cards, baking, and the Elf on a Shelf starts to take its toll. The thing that overwhelms me the most is my sub-par Christmas parenting. I am not very good with maintaining any holiday traditions, and I sometimes worry that what my children will remember is that Mommy was always frazzled. Most troubling is that we are religious people and I feel we don't always emphasize the reason for the season in the midst of the mad dash.
So let's all come to an agreement, then. Let's not be jerks. Whatever your beliefs about the season, whether you anticipate the coming of Jesus or the coming of a hot toddy and a day off work, let's agree that the spirit of the season is one of love. We can all use more love.
If you celebrate Christmas, actually celebrate Christmas. Skip Christmas cards if it makes you less anxious. Buy less stuff, and when you do buy, stroll through Target with a Starbucks like you have nothing planned for days. Don't get angry if someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Remember that the lights and the trees and the stockings and the cookies can be magical, even for adults. Do you recall that scene in the original Miracle on 34th Street, when the postmen carry dozens of bags of Santa letters into the court room? Magic.
If you don't celebrate Christmas, remember that it is a commemoration of a historical person's birth, and that person believed in love and generosity and forgiveness. Smile and extend good wishes to someone who says "Merry Christmas." Take advantage of all the good food floating around. Use December as an excuse to love more and get angry at pushy holiday shoppers less.
And finally, we need to give whatever is in our power to give. It may be a smile to the tired waitress (or line cook!), your mittens or lunch to the homeless person standing on the corner, a contribution to a charity, or the precise gift that your niece desperately wants. Consumerism can easily swallow us, and the frenetic season can shorten our tempers. The quickest way out and into a place of more love is to give.
However odd, let the words of Spongebob be your guide: Don't be a jerk, it's Christmas. Be a positive force instead because that benefits us all, no matter our beliefs.