I once had a friend comment to me that the thought of this being the most wonderful time of year made him want to "punch Andy Williams right in the mouth." He was mostly joking; I think in the symbolic sense it's a great idea. The Christmas season makes me nauseous, and it's not the egg nog. I genuinely love the idea of people being nice to one another, boundless generosity to all, and fostering relationships with family and friends. In general, I'm pretty flexible and open to how people express their appreciation for others. During the "holiday season", however, my tolerance swan dives like the spirit of the kid who just found out reindeer don't fly and elves don't have unions. I have personal issues with the religious aspect of Christmas but they are not the source of my displeasure at the moment. I also have problems with some of the family drama that can develop during holidays. Beyond these, the obligatory, rote traditionalism and pervasive lack of authentic connection is what gets me.
For example, don't send me a generic, utterly boring photo card without so much as a signature just because it's that time of year. Not only is this a waste of your time and money, but my time and sanity as well. I have a difficult time with this every year, constantly asking myself what purpose could it possibly serve to send one of these to people? This year, I finally figured it out. When I get a photo card, I get the visual confirmation that you aren't dead, and that other people in your family might still be living too. Good for you, especially since I could go another 364 days without knowing whether you are dead or alive if it weren't for the yearly check-in. Oh, and it demonstrates that you managed to think about me for about 5 seconds while stuffing the envelope. Wow, thanks for thinking of me! Guess what? Fuck off. Given that it takes absolutely no thought to Shutterfly your blurry, awkwardly posed image onto a tacky background and click "Order", the photo card receives no points for basic thoughtfulness. As a result, I just end up rolling my eyes and chucking your "Best Wishes for the New Year" in the garbage.
Of course, just because I trash your mass produced, completely impersonal card doesn't mean the other end of the spectrum is any more acceptable. I don't want to hear about the countless hours you spent cutting out each piece of your handmade card down to the individual eyelashes on Rudolph. Or that you had to visit four different stores to find the exact mix of paper textures and weights to really give your pieces that unique, do-it-yourself feel. Similarly, the fact that you spent 3 days in the kitchen baking 12 different kinds of cookies after hand-milling the organic, gluten free, unicorn harvested flour doesn't make them more special; it simply means you're an idiot with too much free time. I refuse to be awed into guilty praise on account of your desperate need for recognition and over-achievement (and I'm a grad student, that's how we survive).
What's the point of this? So what if someone doesn't take the time to sign their name on a card, or that Bob Johnson just spent the last 12 hours painstakingly restaging the birth of Jesus with real placenta and shepherds? For me, it results in a lost opportunity to connect with people and just "be" as a person. I enjoy giving gifts, and making people things. I have spent hours in the kitchen baking or cooking for people. Previous feedback indicates I am overly thoughtful compared to the general population. Certainly, I am not a model of appropriate holiday spirit. It could be argued that "appropriate" is a relative term and I'm just a judgmental snob, and maybe I am. As long as I'm an authentic judgmental snob who connects with people, I can live with that.