Growing up in Mahopac, N.Y. in the late 1970s and early-to-mid ’80s, I was taught by my mother to loathe Christmas. While my dad was more than content to gaze happily at the lights and listen to Jingle Bell Rock on the Olympic Diner jukebox, Mom slammed the whole thing as one big scam. She detested the commercialization, loathed the be-happy-or-die outlook, slogged through the Jefferson Valley Mall with an angry growl. Hence, I decided to ask my mother, Joan Pearlman, to write an essay for jeffpearlman.com on her beef with St. Nick.
Thanks, Mom …
Unlike the majority of Americans, Christmas has never been one of my favorite holidays. Granted, one of the reasons is that I don’t celebrate it. Unfortunately, many people have a difficult time understanding that. As a child, Christmas never affected me one way or the otherâ€”we sang Christmas carols and songs at school, visited Santa at Macy’s and went on our merry way! However, as an adult residing in the Christmas-oriented town of Mahopac, N.Y., I came to realize that I was definitely a so-called outsider. My co-workers could not fathom that I did not celebrate Christmas, and even felt sorry for me. They would talk to me about celebrating “your holiday”, and how it directly compared to theirs! How does one rightly explain that Chanukah cannot compare to Christmas in any way?
When my children were young, residing in this neighborhood, attending local schools, being with friends who all celebrated Christmas was extremely difficult. Why couldn’t they have a Christmas tree, receive oodles of gifts, and look forward to the “happiest time of the year?” Why must we be exposed to dreaded Christmas music for months at a timeâ€”Thanksgiving all the way through the New Year? Why do stores and malls decorate for Christmas as early as September?
As a professional who worked with the disadvantaged and disenfranchised for many years, the Christmas phenomenon reared its ugly head in disconcerting ways. People who are marginally adjustedâ€”i.e. mental illness, alcohol/substance abuse, homeless, etc.â€”have an especially difficult time. Those who are financially strapped frequently become more so, family relationships are put to the test. Expectations are high, as are the disappointments that follow.
My solution: Pass through Christmas as quickly as possible and celebrate the new year with gusto!