The Goose Is Getting Fat

When I was a little girl going to Columbine Elementary School here in Boulder we sang lots of Christmas songs in music class at this time of year.  Nothing overtly laden with references to Jesus, although for anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas all the songs seem laden with incomprehensible other-worldliness.  The other world, in this case, being the world to which I didn’t belong: sleigh rides in open snow, roasting chestnuts (or for that matter open fires), and my favorite of all – ha’pennies and fat geese.  In my mind Christmas songs represented things that had nothing to do with my real life and were peopled by rosy-cheeked blond folk wearing many layers of long skirts and strange bonnets and looked like a cross between how I imagined Laura Ingalls Wilder looked and the illustrations in old Mother Goose books.  In real life the Christmas celebrations we were invited to attend were populated by black-haired Chicanos who ate tamales and lesbians who wore comfortable pants suits and made great cookies.  The whole ethos of Christmas was baffling and I always thought it was because I was Jewish and just didn’t get it.  Now as an adult I realize that the whole Olde English/19th Century New England/Really Happy People image I created in my mind based on books (think Little Women) and songs is as foreign to most people who celebrate the holiday as it was to me.  In the same way that movies and books have led a whole generation of women to long for great jobs working as editors in London with a cadre of amazingly funny and loyal best beautiful friends and romances with men who are always well-spoken, nicely coiffed and dressed, and look like a cross between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, the old folky Christmas songs and movies still lead many people to be dissatisfied with their family Christmas celebrations if they don’t include woods, jingling bells, hats with pennies, ice skating in Manhattan, lots of cheerful (yet sober!) white people, perfectly wrapped presents, and no dissention.  Which, of course, leads to a serious cognitive disconnect when celebrations are full of, well, the things that happen when real people celebrate holidays.  Heartburn, arguing, stodgy and/or foul-tasting and/or vegan and/or fattening food (pick your poison), too much beer, not enough fresh air, too many loud children, not enough children – if you’ve ever celebrated anything with family then you know.  So, fatted goose or tamales, cheerful carol singers or drunken uncles, if you celebrate Christmas I hope it is just as it should be for you.  And if you don’t like the reality, rent Love Actually and opt out of reality for a couple hours.  I’ll be here, not celebrating Christmas and humming my grandmother’s old ditty for this time of year, “Oy, To Be A Goy at Christmas.”

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