"God rest ye merry, gentlemenLet nothing you dismay"
Nothing? Are you serious?
In psychological stress tests, one of the questions asked is, "Have you experienced any of the following in the past year?" The list of possible experiences include: terrorist attack; loss of a loved one; loss of a job; and Christmas. Some bullets are harder to dodge than others.
Apparently Christmas is a very stressful time for many people. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines many reasons people may find Christmas stressful, including: financial and time pressures; isolation; family tensions, also known as getting along with your parents, kids, siblings and relatives; separation and divorce; bereavement; and reflecting on another year gone by, also known as getting older, which still beats the heck out of not getting older... unless you're really depressed about Christmas, which a lot of people seem to be.
Being driven largely by clinicians, the DSM fails to note the most widely experienced causes of Christmastime stress: Christmas parties, alcohol and shortbread. While there will always be a percentage of the population that experience the officially recognized Christmas stressors, virtually everyone gets to share in those.
Christmas parties, especially workplace parties, are, perhaps, the ne plus ultra of career limiting opportunities. You feel you have to go and that's stressful. You feel like a starched prig if you refuse all drink and that both makes you stressed and constitutes your invitation to the slippery slope. And all the unvoiced sexual tensions that permeate most workplaces, where people are forced to spend more time with each other than their spouses, comes a dancin' out as the evening wears on. That is off-the-scale stressful.
As a counter measure, many workplace Christmas parties have adopted a Bring Your Spouse to Christmas Hell policy. As unfair as office parties are where spouses reluctantly tag along, clinging to your side like velcro because they (a) don't know anybody else there, and (b) prefer not to know anybody else there, at least their clinging presence, no matter what you have to pay to make it up to them, is possibly the only thing that'll keep you from making a complete ass of yourself. Well, that and the fact that these days anything you do to make a complete ass of yourself is likely to wind up on Facebook and/or YouTube. If that doesn't keep you sober — or home with a "cold" — then by all means, make that drunken pass at your boss/boss' spouse.
That shortbread, and the thousand other goodies consisting largely of refined sugar and butter, is stressful is more than adequately demonstrated by the record membership sales every single health club enjoys during the first week of January every single year. You can save some stress over this by waiting until February to join the nearest health club since by then they have been largely deserted by those who've learned to live with the stress of pudge rather than experience the stress of working out.
"Remember, Christ, our SaviourWas born on Christmas day"
Umm... about that... as any fool will tell you, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. If Away In a Manger and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem — or any one of a dozen other carols reverberating around the walls of every single business establishment you walk in to from December 1 on — isn't enough to convince you of this simple fact, the word alone should suffice.
Christ·mas: [kris-muh s] n. December 25th, widely celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ. From the Latin (Christ) being the nickname Jesus was given by his close friends who thought it was cool to call dudes by their last names + (Mass) being an almost incomprehensible Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy intoned in a dead language and designed to offer children forced to attend their first real glimpse of eternity.
Now there are those who question whether, in fact, Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas day. Ironically, many of them are True Believers. Their belief is based squarely on their faith in the unprovable, but their beef with Christmas being the day Christ was born is based squarely on them having way too much time on their hands and a misplaced belief there is enough factual material in the gospels to prove, well, anything. For the sake of simplicity, we'll generously call them pedantic and pretend they don't really exist.
Fact is, for the Christian world — and any other part of the world where shopping has been elevated above the barter system — Christmas is definitely the 25th of December and the birth of Christ is as good a reason as any to celebrate. And in those societies where gay marriage is finally legal, there is much mirth being made of the notion that Jesus was born of two fathers and one virginal mother. Go figure.
Still, doubts linger in an increasingly secular society. A recent New York Times poll found the birth of Jesus was mentioned by fewer people as the "True meaning of Christmas" than was, in order, getting presents, office parties, cookies, eggnog, donning gay apparel and taxing the electrical grid to decorate the house.
"To save us all from Satan's powerWhen we were gone astray"
Ironically, most atheists, while not believing in God, believe in Satan. I can't explain it; I only report it. The devil made me do it.
Satan, of course, was an angel created by God who turned against His authority. In other words, an over-achiever, perhaps a whistle blower. He was cast out of heaven and became the head of a kingdom of evil sprits, demons. Had Satan and God been more musical, it would have been a bit like the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story, but with an angelic choir. Instead, the battle between good and evil is more akin to the Crips and Bloods, lots of collateral damage.
The gospel according to John says something about the whole world being under the control of the evil one and there are certainly days when that seems true. But with good snow, a busy village, tourists and locals who play on the mountains and find ways to overcome the stresses of Christmas, we just might be able to squeak through the holidays with peace on Earth and goodwill towards everyone, skiers and boarders alike.
So when you feel your composure about to garage sale on you, take a breath, look around and ask yourself this question, "How lucky am I to be here, now?" If that doesn't calm you down, better have a drink and some shortbread.
"Oh tidings of comfort and joy,Comfort and joy"
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