We Need a Little Christmas.
No, Less Than That.

The Yuletide is best appreciated in small doses.

I like Christmas Day.

I like Christmas Eve.

I like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the Grinch, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the George C. Scott and Muppet versions of “A Christmas Carol” (and the spooky Richard Williams one, not that it’s ever on TV.)

I’m not religious, but I like religious Christmas music. I also like maybe 15 non-religious Christmas songs, including a few from before, say, 1930. I like getting gifts. At age 37, I like giving gifts even better. I like seeing my family.

The rest of the time? Christmas can go pound sand.

This isn’t about me being Grinchish, or saying Christmas is too commercialized. It’s just TOO.

Every year for the last 15 or so, I’ve gotten to December 25 feeling like I’ve been beaten with a peppermint nightstick. So I’ve thought about it, and the only solution I can come up with is this:

My grandmother should control Christmas.

When I was a kid, Christmas was something that was strictly parceled out, like rations in a POW camp. (Only more festive.)

I was raised Catholic, which meant we got presents, but we first had to go through four weeks of Advent — the season of preparation for the birth of Christ. For me, it meant occasional breaks from class at my Catholic school for Advent services (in the hallway for some reason) and an Advent calendar. And at home, Christmas decorations would go up around Dec. 18, when our tree would arrive.

My mom’s cousin Dixie had a tree farm, and each year in October or November, we’d drive there, pick the tree we wanted, and put a tag on it. A few weeks later, Dixie’s red truck would show up and drop off our tree.

We’d put up a Nativity set, but the rule was that the Three Kings couldn’t make an appearance until Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

I assume my mom picked up her rules from my grandmother, who kept to the same sort of schedule — only she left the tree picking to my uncle Mike, who always chose the type of tree you’d find in a town square for their 10-foot living room.

That tradition died a sad death in the late 90s, when she got a tree that, no matter how much water it got, shed its needles. The tree came down the day after Christmas. My brother and I cleaned up the needles with a shovel, and from then on, it was artificial trees for my grandmother.

I don’t want to sound like a crank, saying people need to embrace Catholicism or its traditions, even that anybody should say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

I liked the religious aspects of Christmas as a kid for the same reason I liked Rankin & Bass’ holiday specials or my electric train set: It was all part of the same package, and all part of a very fleeting event.

Having the Christmas season arrive around Halloween, having the Grinch available to us all the time (or, God help us, “A Christmas Story” on for 24 hours) wrecks that.

And while we’re at it, enough with the Festivus jokes. It’s been 16 years now.

Article © 2013 by Tom Coombe