The Anti-Claus is coming to town
SENSES WORKING OVERTIME - Luis Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - December 19, 2014 - 12:00am

With so much increased traffic and pointless obligations going around, the Christmas season has enough nonsense to drive one to binge drinking and kitten strangling, says this holiday hater.

There is a very special time of the year that I look forward to, every year. It’s a time of peace and goodwill, when troubles recede, however temporarily, and we are left to bask in the glow of family, friendship, and the finer things in life. Yes: I am referring to the months AFTER Christmas and New Year. December itself is hell to get through. Every year I lament the fact that I can’t just fast-forward straight through to Jan. 2.

“You’re invited to a Christmas party in Alabang!” someone says. “I would rather die,” is my reply. The inviter may laugh at that, but I’m serious: I would rather die. It would be less trouble.

Don’t get me wrong: I hate holidays in general. But at least Valentine’s Day is just one day. One day of increased traffic and pointless obligations can be endured without too much permanent damage. An entire season of such nonsense is enough to drive one to binge drinking and kitten strangling. And lest you think this is just me being a cheapskate or indulging in the kind of anti-traffic rant that has become all too commonplace if you are an inhabitant of Metro Manila, let me just say: holidays are worse than you think.

Holidays compel us to behave in a certain mode, to consume at a certain rate, and even to have certain feelings. You can ignore, say, a movie when it hits the theaters, no matter how much of a phenomenon it is — you can be the proud person who never watched Titanic or The Avengers or The Hunger Games — but to ignore an entire nationally-celebrated season that surrounds you, infesting your eyes and ears and Inbox, is not only much more difficult (if not impossible), it brands you as a freak, a killjoy, a Scrooge.

We should have options. Like, the carbon-footprint-offsetting kind of options. Those donations in a person’s name instead of gifts are a good start, especially if the gift you were planning to give was something generic and full of life-shortening sugar anyway. One should be able to opt out of Christmas by citing some other worthy activity instead: “I’m sorry, I intend to spend the season at home, working on my novel/album/semi-autobiographical indie film,” should be socially acceptable. (Volunteering to do benefit work in some impoverished or war-torn zone is, of course, acceptable, but you know, they probably still celebrate Christmas there anyway, and you’ll just find yourself decorating trees with bullet casings or bottlecaps.)

“It’s for the children,” people will say, in justification for the madness. And I get that, I really do. I was excited for the holidays myself, when I was a child. How could you beat the combination of no classes, gifts and occasional wads of free money? If December meant no work in addition to fat bonuses I could see myself feeling more Christmassy. But no: for adults, it’s pretty much a relentless obligatory hassle, possibly even involving that horror of horrors, an office talent show. And though we’re grateful for the bonus, much of it gets burned up anyway, just to keep up with Christmas.

“You’ll feel differently, when you have children of your own.” That may very well be. I can see myself forcing some hapless infant to appreciate the crude-by-21st-century standards animation of A Charlie Brown Christmas someday. Of course, if it takes the creation of an utterly dependent, absolutely voracious consumer of your time and money to make you appreciate the holiday, it doesn’t seem worth it, all around.

There’s a comic book story I love, called “Son of Santa” (from Bizarre Adventures #34), where an aimless young man discovers that he is heir to a startling, Harry Potter-esque legacy: he is the son of Santa Claus. Furthermore, he must now take up the mantle, as his jolly old dad has been slain by an eternal nemesis, called — what else? — the Anti-Claus. When the Anti-Claus attacks, the inexperienced heir must fight for his life.

Young Santa Jr. triumphs, of course. That’s the way of most comic book stories, even the ones in magazines that proudly declare themselves bizarre. But perhaps I can be forgiven for, once in a while, wishing that it would turn out differently, and that the tyranny of the season would be laid to rest along with the corpse of the fat man in the red suit.


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