Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Bah, Humbug!

Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to my local mall, fighting the rabid Christmas crowds, nauseating pseudo-religious music, and a Salvation Army fellow ringing his bell so furiously and relentlessly that I was right on the verge of shoving it so far up his arse that it’d play Silent Night well into the New Year…

What drives you insane about the festive season?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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71 Comments

  1. There is nothing about Christmas that doesn’t drive me insane. The music is probably the worst. It started insipid and endless repetition does not improve that. Rampant consumerism is not good for us or the planet. People tie themselves into knots trying to make everything special and perfect when in fact time spent with good company is always special.

  2. The consumerism bothers me from time to time– but mostly it bothers me when people get stuff that clearly have no thought put into them. Getting stuff for someone just because it’s there– stupid trinkets or gift cards. I really strive to make Christmas a time where I find something that a friend would TRULY enjoy and gifting that thing to them. But that’s my highground. Harrumph!

  3. What really irks me is how the whole Christmas season is portrayed. I mean, it’s the season of giving right? Not really. It’s more like the season of impress your friends while simultaneously improving your status and showing your kids that you are really are the great parent you say you are.

    Let’s face it: for the most part, giving has nothing to do with season to be jolly. If it did, you would think people would at least give others their consideration. Is that really too much to be asked? I couldn’t help but think it apparently is while standing in line at Toys R Us on black Friday. My friend and I each had a couple items for my family while most people were pushing shopping carts filled to the brim. No problem there, maybe they have lots of kids. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Then they forced me to wait in line for an hour and a half JUST to get into the electronics section. Most of them weren’t even buying electronics, they just wanted a shorter line. It took me 2 minutes or less to check out, yet I constantly had to defend my spot in the line. It turns out that people actually fight over this trivial shit. I got lucky there. While the soccer moms might dismiss other soccer moms, they weren’t about to piss off a couple of unkempt, dirty punx. It was obvious that we were on their turf though.

    The truth is that Christmas is a consumeristic feeding frenzy. Me, me, me. Want to show your wife how much you love her? Buy her a diamond necklace, you OWE it to her. Need a gift for you husband? He is due a for a new iPod. And hey, if your kids think you are a worthless prick, buy em off with fancy lego sets. Be on the look out for consumer buzzwords in advertisements.

  4. The fact that the Christmas season now apparently starts in mid-October.
    I can tolerate the music when it’s played on Christmas day for a few hours, and I can live with the decorations for a few weeks, but being subjected to ‘Carol of the Bells’ for two and a half months is crossing the line.
    Also, everything Chris Osborn said.

  5. The last couple years my Christmases have been shared with a wonderful person who I feel brings the magic of and the true meaning of Christmas to life. Never before have I approached the holiday with such optimism and joy.

    That said, those salivating bells outside the stores can suck it.

  6. – Modern (and terrible) remixes of classic Christmas songs and ballady love/emo songs that could have been any song, but they occasionally stuck the word “snow” or “Christmas” in there somewhere so somehow it counts as a Christmas song.

    – Gift giving before the invention of gift cards.

    – The war on the perceived War on Christmas (i.e., getting offended at the phrase “Happy Holidays”).

    – Yesterday morning when local firemen with Santa hats and cute children were knocking on doors for fund-raising while fire trucks blared through the neighbourhood, making me think that one of the buildings was on fire or there was a gas leak like a few months ago. Philanthropy fail.

  7. The entire country depends on the consumer madness of Holiday shopping to save the “free market, capitalist, free trade, NAFTA, global market…” economy.

    We don’t even know what makes it work. It is obviously not self correcting or self regulating.

  8. Only things that bother me about the holidays are the traffic jams and the people whining about how much they hate the holidays.

    I’m all for consumerism, except that it’s what creates the bad traffic.

    I just created my Christmas playlist. While i’m a little tired of new versions of the same old songs there are some good ones. Reverend Horton Heat’s version of We Three King is bad-ass. Mostly i prefer original Christmas songs like St. Stephen’s Day Murders by The Chieftains, Father Christmas by The Kinks, and Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.

    I also really like finding the perfect gift to get someone. I also like doing all my shopping online and then showing up to the malls and Target and Wal-Marts anyway and laugh at people doing it the hard way.

  9. Nothing drives me insane. I don’t shop, I stay out of malls, I go for a walk instead of wasting a morning watching people muddle through a room knee-deep in “presents.” I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, play music, smile, give money to people who need it, put up sweet-smelling greens, and go visiting in the afternoon, after the insanity is over.

    I don’t laugh at anybody, but I don’t choose to join in the crush and the excess.

  10. The absurdness of the IF YOU DON’T GIVE ME MONEY RIGHT NOW YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. This is with bell-ringers especially. If you don’t give and give visually you are evil. Anon donations are not cool anymore.

    I also hate that holiday music has seeped past turkey day. I do not like.

    I do like that winter lights come out in October and stay til March. Not the decorations but just the nice little white lights on all the bare branches that help light up the long long long long……zzzz

  11. Ditto most of what everyone here has already said: mall horror (it’s like that Star Trek episode about the planet where death was rare and people were shoulder to shoulder everywhere), Salvation Army bells, same music over and over and over, starts too early (nothing “Christmas” should be showing until Dec 1).

    I’ve always prefered Halloween. I think next year I am going to make Halloween my Christmas in that I am going to send out cards with a great photo of me in my Halloween costume and I’m going to give people presents of their favorite candy (w/ a gift certificate to their favorite store).

    Keep it simple, keep it yummy, and let people I care about know I’m happy they have stayed out of the Grim Reaper’s reach one more year.

    There’s already been a War on Halloween for a while so atleast no one can pick a new fight.

  12. The goddamn commercials. The fact that they imply that the festive season is not complete without their stupid product. Coca-Cola have got it locked down with theirs.

    Also, that goddamn awful vomit inducing Paul McCartney song ‘simply having, a wonderful christmas time….’

    VOMIT!!!!!!!! BLEEDING EARS!!!!! ARRRRRGH!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!

  13. Wow, what a banquet of irritants to choose from. However, one stands out. As a longtime RETAIL worker, the worst thing about Christmas is Christmas Shoppers. They may be perfectly nice people in their regular life, tireless charity workers, kind to children and pets, but the moment they take on the mantle of Christmas Shopper, they lose all reason, compassion and all sense that they are Not The Centre Of the Flipping Universe.
    Xmas shoppers FAQs
    1) How can you be out of stock? I was here last month and you had plenty.
    2) Can’t you order it in? I need it tomorrow.
    And the question that drives me to murder in my mind
    3) Where’s your Christmas Spirit?

    This last infuriates me more than anything. People see Christmas spirit as something that should be extended to them, without them ever exhibiting it themselves.
    And I hear it all the time.
    When we’ve closed the door at the end of the day and someone wants to come in, they use the christmas spirit line. They ignore the fact that Staff have been serving for 9 hours and we have homes to go to, things to do.
    When two days before christmas we’ve sold out of something and can’t order it in time, they inquire as to my Christmas spirit. I’ve been accused of ruining Christmas for several children because I lacked the Esp to know they would come in on the 23rd and therefore didn’t save the item for them. Your child gives you a letter for Santa on Sept 1, you wait to the 23rd to buy stuff, but oh yeah, I’ve ruined Christmas.

    I’ve worked myself into quite a state now; I must go have a lie down and calm myself.

    I think this topic touched a nerve.

  14. The music. This year I’m feeling less irritated by Christmas – because last Christmas I got an ipod, so I’m able to drown out the repetitive carolling.

    They don’t call it “Jingle” Bells for nothing.

  15. The need to go overtop with the lights and decor. It’s ok if you want to do it. But I don’t anymore. I put up a small tree (table top size) and a wreath and that’s it people. My neighbors with children that are grown complain that we have “given up” as they string line after line of lights.

    Also, who buys the crap that is just… crap. I went to wal mart and they had Christmas CRAP. Like stuff you would buy because you have to buy something (for a teacher perhaps, as a teacher I can not tell you the crap I used to get). There were these horrifice “cookie mix in a jar” for $5. I used to make these with the kids at school using GOOD ingediants. Not this crap wal mart stuff that will just be thrown out. Or those horrific assorments of bath items. For $8 a basket of bath items are going to be horrific. these will sit in a closet until thrown out (I’ve thrown them out).

  16. The fact that Christmas starts right after Thanksgiving ends. I mean jebus, they already put Christmas decorations and stuff! I mean c’mon, they already pigged out and shopped like rabid sheeps in a rampage. Don’t they need a few moments to rest? Jeez!

  17. Christmas as a whole doesn’t really bother me. Yes the music is cheesy, the decorations are tacky and Christmas shoppers are downright crazy. However, what annoys me is when co-workers try to guilt trip me into decorating my desk and the office, taking part in the god awful and frankly downright embarrassing Christmas video and about being excited about the Christmas season. The fact I don’t celebrate Christmas and make this fact widely known is apparently me just being grumpy and all I need to do is to take part in the whole Christmas mess to find my happiness again or some crap.
    Their lack of respect of my choice not to celebrate Christmas is what is driving me insane about this whole season.

  18. For the first time, possibly ever, I’m really enjoying the holiday season. Truly and unabashedly loving every moment of it.

    Sure, I loved it as a kid – but that’s different. You wake up and there’s a mountain of presents waiting for you. And all you have to do in return is a) behave for a week out of the year and b) hand a poorly crafted school art project to your parents.

    When you get older it begins to wear on your nerves. You realize there are a hell of a lot more people to buy presents for (by which I mean at least half-way-decent presents) than you ever thought, and you are starting to accrue bills which don’t wait for the holidays to be over. While I am always happy on Christmas morning (sometimes the Eve as well, in anticipation), I have dreaded the holidays since I was old enough to work for my own money and then realize how little I actually had.

    Losing family sucks. It sucks no matter the time of year. But regardless of when you lost them, the holiday season is a sharp-toothed reminder of their absence. This is my 6th Christmas since my dad passed away (in fact next Saturday is the 6th anniversary). I’ll probably never make it through the holidays without that nagging feeling of missing him.

    That being said… this is my last holiday as a childless adult. It’s also my 3rd with my wonderful husband. There is so much excitement in our lives this year that I can’t even help the fact that all I want to do is decorate our apartment and listen to Vince Guaraldi (the guy who did the Charlie Brown music) and “Holiday Jazz.” I don’t even like jazz!

    The part that will always always bug the shit out of me, make me cringe and sometimes cause a violent outburst: Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Words cannot express the hatred I hold for that abomination of “music.”

    Anyway… so… Happy Holidays! :D

  19. Pink foil Xmas trees. Pink flocked Xmas trees. Dogs dressed up like Santa. Cats, birds, elephants, crocodiles, small children, large children and fire hydrants dressed up like Santa. Santas in shorts. Santas wearing black socks with sandals. [Any time of the year, that one.] All WalMart adverts [ Any time of the year, that, too.] The entire lack of blood sacrifices made to guarantee the return of summer, er, dumbed-down holiday rituals. Vampires [zombies, werewolves, fairies] dressed up like Santa. The lack of snow in Southern California. Paparazzi dressed up like Santa stalking celebrities dressed up like Santa. The lack of a paparazzi hunting season in Southern California. Because, damnit, I want to hang a paparazzo liver on my Jul tree. [See “blood sacrifices”, hereinabove.]

  20. I’ve managed to get the art of ignoring Christmas down to the point that I barely realize it’s almost here. iPod to cancel out the crappy music, ability to skip over commercials, agreements w/ people not to get consumed with gift giving, don’t bother with decorations. Only annoyance I have left is that people can’t understand why I may not want to spend time with my family. Something one would understand if one spent a holiday with them.

  21. Besides the crowds, if I make a mistake of wandering too close to a Disney Store or some other similar place, I hate the piles of shiny crap in the middle of department stores that are prepackaged for giving. It’s like you walk into Macy’s with a stopwatch, and are hoping you’ll find something for Aunt Gladys in 20 seconds or less. “Oh, here’s a sparkly rhinestone Frosty the Snowman pin! On a pile of totally identical Frosty the Snowman rhinestone pins! Thank Dog! I’m saved!!!!”

  22. The forced niceness of the season. Some people really need to be told to go screw themselves as opposed to a Merry Christmas.

    Also, the office Christmas party. I managed to miss this year’s (last weekend) by being 2500km away in Calgary for the Grey Cup. The sole redeeming factor in those things took place last year when I snuck “A Jingle With Jillian” into the CD pile. The two minutes of watching my coworkers faces contort with revulsion and puzzlement almost made up for spending 3 hours with people that I only spend time with because I’m paid.

  23. @James Fox: I’ll gladly concur with that, and move that as atheists (and fellow travelers), we call off the War on Christmas and start the War on the Price of Scotch.

    Oh…and “Feliz Navidad.” There are several radios at work, tuned to different Pop, R&B, Rock, and Rock en espanol stations. Throughout December, any of these stations threaten to play “Feliz Navidad” without warning. Thirty some-odd years of memories of this song are enough. Basta.

  24. The thing that annoys me the most is probably all the TV commercials where they take one of the standard X-Mas tunes and rewrite the lyrics to sell their stupid product. Seems like cell phone companies are especially guilty of this.

    This is why I get all my TV from BitTorrent, where all the commercials have been removed.

  25. I <3 living on a college campus. The only sign that Christmas is approaching that I have seen on campus is a single tree with white lights, on the academic side of campus. More may pop up as the day approaches, but most people are too concerned with finals to give the holiday a second thought.

    I also hate most Christmas music. There are three songs that don't set my teeth on edge. "O Holy Night," "Carol of the Bells," and "Sarajevo (12/24)." Unfortunately, these do not mark them among the most common songs.

  26. As part of my job, I get to make photo Christmas cards. While I love the creative challenges, there are a lot of unrealistic expectations between what the customer has for me to work with, and what they want it to look like. They want it to be perfect and represent the ideal family, even if Billy’s eyes are closed, and the dress isn’t the exact color of peach. Normally reasonable people become raving lunatics complaining about head sizes being too small and fonts not curly enough. I know it’s the traffic, and the crowds and the music all getting to them to, but just take a deep breath and calm down. I think that’s what gets to me the most- being the last straw on a bad day. That and crowded parking lots.

  27. I hate all the moaning, honestly. Both the “Oh, it’s so hard getting ready for Christmas,” kind, the “I put off my shopping to the last minute, why don’t you have what I want?” kind, and the “Screw Christmas!” kind.

    I also hate the music, with the sole exception of Carol of the Bells, and I only really like that if there are no vocals. Because the lyrics are awful.

    But I really like the gift-giving tradition, even if I don’t believe in Jesus or Pookong anymore. I’d honestly like to see that expanded somewhat in American culture, to the point where an exchange of gifts is considered a usual thing, rather than once a year. It might encourage some extra gratitude to sprout.

    Christmas is also a bit sad for me, because it reminds me that I’ve lost my faith. While I don’t really want it back, I miss having answers to the tough questions.

  28. -The fact that my local store had Christmas crap before Halloween this year.

    -My children demanding things they’ll play with once.

    -Never being surprised anymore. “Oh the Harry Potter movie I’ve been waiting for.”

    -The fake “war” on Christmas.

    -Not getting to eat ham (husband is a wavering Muslim).

    -Having to do all the shopping, wrapping, cooking (ibid).

  29. Ridiculously long queues in all the stores.

    The fake war on Xmas.

    People who say “Happy Holidays!” and not “Merry Christmas”.

    People who know I’m an atheist assuming that means I don’t celebrate anything at this time of year.

    The phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season”.

    People putting tinsel in their hair.

    People wearing reindeer antler headbands.

    All the shit Christmas films – nothing is needed past “It’s A Wonderful Life”.

    The Queen’s Christmas Message on TV.

    Channel 4’s “Alternative Christmas Message”. Was good when they got Marge Simpson to do it, not good when they get the president of Iran or Sharon Osbourne to do it.

    I’ll probably think of more later.

  30. Say, can we actually start a war on Christmas? Many of us here seem to be really annoyed by it in one way or another, so let’s jut go ahead and be the vanguard of an actual war on christmas. Why not?

  31. @plumberbob: WANT! NEED! (thanks)

    Also, from my husband’s ONE Christmas season of working at a mall store, the mad rush in the few days before Christmas and the surprise that they couldn’t get MORE of a deal than the crazy deals they were already getting. Oh and of course the “We’re both Italian, can’t you hook me up?” WHAT?!

  32. I’m agnostic, but even if I become atheist in the future, I’ll always celebrate Christmas. There are a lot of things I like about it, and it’s one of the few times I get to see my whole family. I like shopping on black Friday, although I don’t go all crazy and get up at 4 a.m. I also love exchanging gifts, and I especially love picking out gifts for my nieces and nephew.

    However, there are two things that really drive me nuts about Christmas.

    1) Not one, but two radio stations out of the 6 pre-sets in my car have been playing Christmas music exclusively since before Thanksgiving. I like a few of the songs, but most I’m just completely sick of most of them, because it’s the exact same songs every single year. And why does every singer insist on doing their own version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”? Who can listen to 10 versions of the same song in a row without going crazy?

    2) A few of my co-workers complain constantly about this made-up “war on Christmas”, even though not a single person in our office has complained about anything Christmas-related. They think that “Happy Holidays” is some recent pc invention, but I’ve seen my mom’s vintage Christmas cards from the 50s, and some of them say “Happy Holidays”, or even (gasp!) “Season’s Greetings”! The reason people say “Happy Holidays” is because there are two holidays a week apart, even for Christians. I’m always tempted to give out cards that say “Merry Christmas but Crappy New Year”, but I’m sure they would fail to see irony.

  33. Two years ago a local (NYC) radio played *nothing* but Christmas songs from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Fortunately they’ve never repeated the experiment.

    Andrew Nixon :

    ‘nothing is needed past “It’s A Wonderful Life”.’

    Sacrilege! (j/k) everyone knows the *only* decent Christmas movie is ‘A Christmas Story’.

  34. I hate the crowds in stores myself, but I absolutely am disgusted at how commercialized X-mas has become. It’s very materialistic these days. It’s all about getting expensive electronics and jewelry or so it seems from all the commericals on television. People should just focus on getting together and having a good time, not how much money they spend on each other.

  35. Oh yes, another thing I hate is that all the X-mas stuff is up in stores before Halloween is over and one of my local radio stations starts playing X-mas music non-stop the day after Thanksgiving. X-mas has become one of my least favorite holidays and i can’t wait to get it over with.

  36. As has been noted by several other comments I get upset when christians claim there is a war on christmas and then extrapolate the non-existent war on christmas into a war on christians.

    It is like the shcoolyard bully who complains that he is picked on when the new kid kicks his ass.

  37. Christmas movies SUCK, except “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and “A Christmas Story” (‘You’ll shoot yer eye out!’)

    Some Christmas music is actually quite nice, but after 300 times in a 24 hr period, for a person who has never celebrated the holiday, it does tend to grate on one’s nerves a bit. Like, to the point of sticking a hot poker in each ear so I don’t have to hear it anymore.

    Then, there is this:

    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    I gotta run.
    I gotta run.
    I gotta run.
    I gotta run.
    Don’t bob for fries in hot fatty meat.
    They hurt bad and so do skin grafts.
    Would you like an apple pie with that?
    Would you like an apple pie with that?
    Where is the bell?
    Wait for the bell.
    Can’t hear the bell.
    Where is the bell?
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    I work at Burger King making flaming whoppers. I wear paper hats.
    Would you like an apple pie with that?
    Would you like an apple pie with that?
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.
    Ding! Fries are done.

  38. I’ve learned to hate the passive-aggression my MIL radiates when we don’t spend Christmas there.

    She seems to have forgotten that in the 8 years I’ve been with my husband where we’ve done Christmas jointly (this is the 9th), we’ve actually spent 4 of our Christmases with them. If we spend one with my family, the passive-aggression ramps up. The two years we bagged traveling entirely, she’s been as close to pissed off as I’ve ever seen (or heard). This year she backed off – my family is spending Christmas together because my Mom has metastatic cancer and while she’s doing well on chemo, the long term prognosis just ain’t that long.

    [Note: My in-laws live in a not-easy-to-get-to area of Central NY and we are required to stay in a hotel and get a rental car by necessity when we visit because no one can put us up or pick us up from the airport; my family either aggregates in the DC area or at my brother’s home in CT. With my husband’s frequent business travel and current crop of PhD classes, sometimes he just can’t muster the energy or swing his schedule.]

    I wouldn’t mind so much, except in the 5 years we’ve been in the Upper Midwest, my in-laws have been here exactly once. And complained the whole time about how inconvenient it was for them (even though my FIL is retired and my MIL is semi-retired with lots of free time). We visit them at least once every year, and sometimes my husband has business in the area and he makes time to see them. And it’s not like they don’t travel – they snowbird to Florida for 6-8 weeks every year and take their other trips to beaches or to fishing or whatever. They just don’t want to go where they don’t feel like. Christmas multiplies that by 1,000.

  39. On the subject of holiday music, I was helping a friend organize her office, and she was playing some random music on the internet (thesixtyone.com). The song we kept coming back to? “Whoring for Hanukkah”.

    “We never left his office… but I took him to the Holy Land.”

  40. @Trotter Jelly: My idea of a fine cause to start a war over!
    I’m fine with the cultural celebration of Christmas and I’ll happily sing Christmas carols when attending concerts or a church service my daughter or wife is performing in. I love choral music and many of best pieces are certainly religious and some specifically Christmas. What would make me really happy would be to have the whole thing condensed to about one week with a fun party on Christmas Eve, a nice dinner Christmas day, a few small gifts and then be DONE! And then scotch drinking!

    @ZachTP: “Christmas is also a bit sad for me, because it reminds me that I’ve lost my faith. “ Same here, pretty normal grief stuff I think. Scotch helps!

  41. Got to be the consumerism for me.
    Didn’t used to bother me, but now it does.
    Since I rejected my faith (though I’m still “in the closet” about that, given that I’m still living with my folks), it’s even more unnerving to hear all the talk in church about having to change the attitude toward each other.
    Well geez, you hypocrites, why don’t YOU start by NOT condemming homosexuals!
    And of course, the radio stations play the same dozen or so songs again and again AND again, AND AGAIN!

  42. It’s simply too much build up to too little of an event. The music and advertising takes up too much of the year. The movies are cheesy and I won’t even mention the ones I’ve never seen because it makes me a christmas pariah, not indulging in the saccharine tablets of the season.

    I do like the high ideals it’s supposed to be about, the joyousness and generosity supposedly at it’s core. The consumerism, repetitive music, competitive gift giving, and road rage kill the mood for several weeks, however. Frankly if we tossed it all out and just had harvest and solstice festivals I’d be happy to celebrate without any mythology, simply because we should celebrate. We’re humans, we’re social. Let’s party because it’s freakin’ cold out and everyone could use a hot toddy.

  43. I hate that it is cold and dark, and that the religion simply oozes out of the air, not just religion though, whacky BS religion. It’s a time of year when it seems okay to be even more nutty in a religious sense.

  44. I think its the swapping of xmas cards,call me scrooge if you must,but it seems a funny tradition that everyone sends these bloody cards to each other every year,and if you receive one you reciprocate and send one back and it goes in circles,and we all say hope you have a Merry xmas and Happy New Year etc etc and I wonder is there is any real meaning behind it all.Why not if you happen to see a person you know in the street wish them all the best and that should cover it,instead of all this bloody card sending across the land.Hope you all have a wonderful xmas and a even better New Year ,there done I’ve covered everyone.Lets celebrate life!

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