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So it was Christmas, the pagan sorcerer’s fire festival. Remember these ancient origins: the tree is lit on December 21, solstice, darkest day of the year, to re-ignite the sun and return the land to warmth. The red and the white of the big bearded and the jolly, the Donner and the Dancer flying, only find color and fly because of psychedelic mushrooms eaten in the tundra.
The fire festivals of the lit pine trees span the sky. In Brooklyn we used to drag the trees into the street and set them aflame. Cops watched and nodded. The message to the sun is that of life that abides and celebrates its abiding, its return. The sun answers the bonfire. We talk about winter starting on December 21, but in fact this is the date winter ends: the darkness lessens every day in the fire of the pine trees.
The old corruption, greasy and tired, tells us not to drag the trees out into the streets and set them aflame. It says that we have to fetishize the tree, fill its little winking trap with water and prop around its trunk many fool trinkets that glow and blink. We are supposed to place the tree in our living rooms straight and tall, though it is dying by our placement.
But of course. We all know this. So it was Christmas. I could yadda yadda about Christmas too much stuff useless plastics yadda not needed yadda returns useless thanks so much waste of time I love you so much this sucks completely moronic yes it’s great thanks so much idiot this I love you so it fits me just right I just wanted something you wanted me to want you to want and want and I say you had a chance when you really loved me –
And also: Gawd he doesn’t even understand. And: how she could she even think. And: calculate purchase price of gift received vs. purchase price of gift given. And: are we both insane?
The truth about Christmas as celebrated in America is the truth the entire planet embraces. We are primitive creatures. We worship idols. We worship dead objects, and give to these objects a totemic significance.
Erich Fromm had smart words on this matter, which I here paraphrase: The worship of dead objects, the culture of death worship, has its necessary effect in the diminishing of the flesh and blood engaged in the giving and the receiving. The wretched creatures are mere means for the objects.
For my part, I see the Christmas season as that of the Great Asshole, though I love my family and forgive them for the embrace of the Asshole. They are well-trained in the act; we have years and years of training. This Asshole does not merely shit: It sucks, it vacuums, it swallows, it subsumes, though at the same time it fires out the fierce and wicked tide of its effluent, which is acquisition, the tasty object, the thing desired. The Christmas gathering is that of the many Assholes, dancing though grumpy, taught in the manners, ready for the giving for the getting that’s bigger, the fire high, the smoke ready. Here is this dark and terrible swelling; here is this fine-grained and scientifically pubic breathing. (I wonder how many suicides at Christmas are a result of compacted feces.) Here the gaunt veins, the keening of the fibers; here the shades of black, grey, brown; here the knotted brow, the sweat, the anxious waiting, the readiness of the compunction. I bid you to think of Christmas Consumerist as sitting on the can trying to shit out whatever will satisfy, our loved ones in the toilet with mouths open. Freud said shit is a primitive expression of amor.
Christopher Ketcham writes for Harper’s, the American Prospect, Orion, and many other magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org