Headlines: Christmas Stolen. The Grinch Exonerated!

christmas 2007
Image by paparutzi via Flickr

You can listen to this Christmas tale by clicking here, just know: you’ll hear my bobbles and gaffs against the sound of our woodstove ticking in the background, to let you know this is a very amateur production indeed.

Granted, his methods were nefarious the year he stole Christmas. But his tiny heart secretly was–and is–in the right place. He relented in the end, and returned the Roast Beast, the pandookas and tartookas. He let Cindy Lou Who have her Christmas in Whoville, after all.

It just might be that his intention was not to steal Christmas to do away with all the fliffer bloofs and wuzzle wuzz, but to make the misguided Whos understand it was not about things, after all.

And what you may not know is that His Despicable Greenness is only one in a vast army of seasonally-afflicted beings, pink and brown, great and small–a state of mind and heart that reaches back many generations, continuing right up to our day. The resisters’ Giftmas discomfort is strong and their numbers are growing.

Not because their hearts are two sizes too small do they refuse to become Santa’s little robotic shoppers. Composed of Christians and unchurched alike, this throng longs for a special time in December that is not as unnatural as an aluminum tree sprayed with toxic snow. They look for ways, short of another Winter Heist, to keep the good and real of it, and cast off the counterfeit and increasingly oppressive expectations of this particular Winter Tsunami of Stuff and Fluff.

Who are these rebellious Grinchlings and why do they grumble and rumble and fret instead of mindlessly beating their blumbloopas and whamming their whowonkas like good Whos should do?

Considerations of date and original intent aside (see http://goo.gl/CDOSF) it is the vast global seasonal-industrial complex built up around Santa–his legions of box-store and digital elves, and his enormous bag of toys and not-so-goodies–that most grieves these resistors.

It is the unfortunate fact that, for as long as there has been a nativity celebration, it has, to one degree or another, opened the floodgates to increasing caloric and material consumption, and thus to enormous profits that have morphed the manger into a lucrative global treasure chest.

In recognition of the cash cow Christmas shopping had become, Congress in 1941, officially moved Thanksgiving back a week to allow another seven days of spending. Our heaping shopping carts of mostly-unnecessary stuff now bring in as much income in the US between Black Friday and Dec. 25 as the gross national product of Ireland.

Among other concerns, today’s anti-Festivus underground is increasingly disturbed by the pervasive holiday music–a two-month brain-worm multi-media cluster bomb that mashes  up the sacred and secular, stirring the cloying and smarmy and glorious into an acoustic mantra, guiding us to that widget we can perch atop our heaping cart with only one more reflexive swiping of the magic plastic wand.

Do you hear what I hear? It is the epiphany of the New Advent! “Let’s give thanks to the Lord above, ‘cause Santa Claus is coming tonight!” Parumpapumpum and a partridge in a pear tree. The wrappings of Christmas have become the reason for the season. That can change, the Grenchlings say, and each of us can play a part.

“Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,

Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Here are the Grinch’s beliefs on how we might yet reboot Christmas:

* Find peace and joy in stepping back all year long from slavery to stuff and consumer debt. On December 25, celebrate your blessings with family and friends, thankful for the marvels of this planet and each other, a thanksgiving wider and deeper than what we forget so quickly from a frenzy of tissue and cardboard under an aluminum conifer.

* What if you asked your gifters this year to bypass you, who have enough of enough, and give, from local goods and creations, to those in your community truly in need?

* Spread your generosity and love, especially but not only this time of year, far beyond the bounds of kin and friends and those like you, to find room in the inn for a hurting world of strangers. Grow your hearts by two sizes or more, for good!

And if the Grinch could find this true, perhaps there’s hope for Whoville, too!

And one final tidbit: Did you know that Thurl Ravenscroft, who sang “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. It’s true, this season for me is not something to look forward to with anything but dread. You might have noticed I’m not bashful, or without opinion, or ability to express feelings.

    I’ve already received my gifts of guilt, well in advance of the actual day. Any suggestions I have already made, many times, have apparently fallen on deaf ears.

    Only a few more weeks till relief from superficial mandatory fun.

  2. I fear I am too addicted to Christmas lights and decorations, pretty packages under the tree, Christmas sweets, receiving cards from my friends all over the world, etc. to be a very good Grinch. But the shopping, and receivning of gifts I can definitely do without. One good thing I do now: this is the second year I have run an Alternative Holiday Fair at my church. It’s just like Heifer Project: shoppers pick a size gift they can afford to give: a flock of chickens, a pair of goats, a water purification system, etc. The then get a card to mail to a recipient with an insert that describes the gift to a struggling family that has been made in their honor. My church members have been thrilled with this al;ternative to shopping, wrapping, shipping, etc. I take in thousands of dollars for Church World Service, the sponsors of this program. It is so easy to do, I can’t believe it. What a big return for such a small investment of my time.

  3. Thanks for posting this Fred. A few days ago I was in my car listening to a Christmas CD and the “Grinch” song came on. After listening to a few verses I thought “Oh no, I’m the grinch”. Thanks for putting a positive spin on it for me! What I don’t understand though is why “having garlic in your soul” is a bad thing. All those Who’s are gonna get sick from eating all that sugar and the grinch is gonna be one healthy gent! Not to mention those sauerkraut sandwiches he eats! My family observes the Nativity of Christ on “Old Calendar Christmas” (January 7th), and on that day there is no “icing” or “presents”. It’s a simple meal with family, church service, and remembrance in our hearts, and it works just fine. Although, my family does also observe the standard commercialized Christmas on December 25th, it’s nice to get Santa and such out of the way on Dec. 25th and then focus on the Nativity on Jan. 7th. But alas, I suppose I too am a hypocrite for partaking in the hulla-balloo as well. I sent all of my cards out this morning, then we did get a tree today, we decorated it, while eating cookies and drinking hot cocoa, and I suppose it wasn’t that bad… fun even! I am working this year toward more charity, but I still need to work up the courage to tell my well-meaning family members and friends who really “don’t need anything” that I’d love to do a good dead or donation in their name in lieu of that “mall-gift” that they’re hoping for under the tree….. Now….to go eat some garlic. And maybe, if I”m lucky, some sauerkraut. =)