ATONEMENT IN JANUARY
In the Jewish faith, we have a Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is celebrated in September some time. I always have a hard time scraping up enough sins in the early autumn to make for a meaningful experience. I think we ought to move Yom Kippur to January and make it a secular holiday.
In November and December, all the news is about two things: Holiday food (and holiday parties), and buying gifts for the holidays. Turn to almost any channel, open a magazine, or peruse the newspaper, and that’s what you will see. There are catalogs filled to the brim with gourmet delicacies (only the fattening need apply), cashmere sweaters, esoteric little gizmos that fulfill needs you didn’t even know you had, expensive video games for the kiddies, and clothes that can only be worn to Christmas galas.
You cannot escape. Even in the grocery stores the P.A. pipes in cheery seasonal music, ever reminding you that the countdown is on. The pressure to overeat, overspend and overindulge is, well, overwhelming. The results are predictable.
So – Here we are in January. Turn to almost any channel, open a magazine or peruse the newspaper. It’s all about two things: Diets and budgets. It is a given that all of us, to some degree or another, have succumbed to the pressures of the holiday season. We have all overeaten, overspent, and overindulged. We are overwhelmed.
Now the purveyors of modern media come charging to the rescue. “No problem”, they declare, “We’ve got your diet/budget/organizational solution right here!” There is an overall mood of penitence. We open our burgeoning bills with an air of resignation. We are like puppies with our tails between our legs. Yes, we’ve messed up. Yes, we saw it coming. But, no, we couldn’t help it.
But living in the age of Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura, we at least recognize that we must “get real” and “take responsibility” for our own actions. Yes, it was I at Macy’s proffering my shop-worn credit card along with the rest of the sheep. Yes, it was I at Williams-Sonoma tasting the free samples of cocoa. Yes, it was I at the groaning board of the Thanksgiving feast diving headfirst into the candied yams. Yes, I accept full responsibility for my sloth and avarice. NOW HELP ME!!! I’M FIFTY POUNDS HEAVIER THAN I WAS LAST OCTOBER AND ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY!!!
Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of getting all this sensible advice in January, we were warned back in September and October of the impending holiday onslaught? Imagine if the cover story on all the magazines went something like this: “The Holidays are Coming: Do You Know Your Spending Limit?” or “The Holidays Are Coming: Lock Up Your Cuisinart”, or “The Holidays Are Coming: Twenty Polite Ways to Say ‘No’ to Fruitcake”, or “The Holidays Are Coming: Explaining Keynesian Economics to Your Kids”. (Ho! Ho! Ho! huh?)
Well, they’ll never do it. And if they do it, they’ll quickly come to realize that such dour headlines do not sell magazines or create TV ratings. No, I’m afraid it will have to be an underground, grassroots movement: “The Christmas Liberation Front”. “The Holiday Revolt”. “The People’s Anti-Claus”. (Something like that).
And yet. And yet we know better and we still do it every year. We know people who tell us it’s wrong and we still do it every year. We have the clothes that we grew out of many Christmases past, and we still do it every year.
Time for an organized “mea culpa” so we can get it all over with and be ready for the cycle to repeat itself next November.
© 2005, Robin Munson