Blog: Happy Holidays

Burt Ross

Forgive me for my Scrooge-like tendencies, but I simply cannot believe that the holiday season is upon us so soon. If I am not mistaken (and I wish I were), we celebrated these very same holidays 12 months ago, right around this time. Just as I was fully recovering from last year’s holidays, they have returned in full force.

I understand I am a cantankerous grump, but I truly believe that Christmas and Hanukkah (choose your own spelling for this holiday) should be celebrated just like leap year — every fourth year. Of course, the absence of an annual gift-giving spree would drive the American economy deep into a depression, which would make 1929 look like a cakewalk, but that is a small price to pay for my peace of mind.

Each year, starting in late October, around Halloween, I get anxious about the impending holiday season. First, I have to go on a strict diet because I know full well what is about to happen — multiple gifts of candy and cookies. I am compelled to eat every last sweet gift, simply out of respect for the giver. I would have it no other way.

Then, I need to figure out what my friends and family could possibly want, and since I don’t have a creative bone in my body, the pressure mounts. Unfortunately, when I ask people what they would like, I frequently get back blank stares from those who are apparently as unimaginative as I am.

If others are bad about telling me what they want, I am even worse at telling them what I want. Occasionally, I could use something mundane, like more fish oil tablets, but that is hardly an appropriate holiday gift.

For reasons I cannot begin to explain, my favorite gift each year is sent to me by Jonathan, a member of a men’s group I haven’t belonged to in close to 10 years. We almost never see each other, but around this time each year, a jar of sour pickles and sour tomatoes arrives at my home to my complete delight. (Perhaps the product matches my sour disposition.) In any case, even though I could purchase these sour delicacies all year round, I choose to wait for them to arrive from Jonathan.

Greeting cards are another aspect of the season that drives me bonkers. I always receive a couple of cards with a three-page type written account detailing the sender’s past year. Why I need to know how my friend’s poodle is enduring chemotherapy or the fact that my friend’s aunt lost her passport on a trip to Vietnam is thoroughly beyond my comprehension. How about just wishing me a happy holiday and be done with it?

And what kind of a card do you send somebody who suffered a terrible loss during the past year? I am just not up to finding the right words. You just can’t wish them a happy holiday as if nothing had happened. I think Hallmark should come up with a card that says something like, “Have a tolerable holiday given the circumstances.”

And, of course, there is always the card from somebody you can’t even begin to identify. I have repeatedly gotten a card from Sue, who apparently lives somewhere in the state of Georgia. I do not know a Sue, a Susie, a Suzanne or anybody else in Georgia, and I wish this person would stop sending me a greeting card.

And finally, there is the holiday music, which accosts me at every turn. Yes, there is some wonderful music that I will never tire listening to, but “Jingle Bells” and — forgive me the estate of Gene Autry — “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” are not on the list of the tolerable. How can anybody abide by even one rendering of “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel?” Hard to believe Hanukkah has endured for so long with that ditty being part of it.

So, if you can survive the gift giving, the greeting cards and the music, do what I do: enjoy the friends and family, eat some leftover potato latkes, and listen to Nat King Cole singing those holiday songs which are forever mellow, and, by the way, do have a wonderful holiday season.