Re: The Christmas Grinch – a response by B. Weynand

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Flashback to Christmas 2008 (WHOA!)

As promised, a response to The Christmas Grinch by Bryan Weynand himself:

My reading of “The Christmas Grinch” compelled me to author a guest post. The views expressed are, of course, my own; however, I do treat this as an opportunity to clarify the Weynand Family position on Christmas – and its maligned decorations.

I learned Christmas partly in the tradition of my mom’s family – that is, I helped my grandfather build and assemble a complete lawn ornament nativity scene, and spell “Jesus is the Reason” in lights on the side of his house. My suggestion that I would someday incorporate these elements in my own home helped Shannon and I realize the chasm separating our ideas of Christmas decorations. I initially thought it was a principled rejection of traditions, in which I am admittedly overindulgent. Yet I soon realized that Shannon’s family had plenty of wonderful Christmas traditions – most of them just didn’t involve decorations.

For this reason, perhaps Grinch is not precisely the appropriate nickname for my wife. Sure, the Grinch deprives the Whos of all of their decorations, but he does so out of distaste for Christmas itself; Shannon understands and values the Christmas season, but as she reveals in the questions she poses to her decoration-happy readers, she simply misunderstands the purpose of the extensive effort that we put into trees, ornaments, and lights.

“Why are we all trying to outdo each other with “holiday spirit” in decorating? Why? Then there’s the frustration of rearranging and redecorating. Home looks great the way it is – and the money: why pay for decorations that are only up one month a year?”

These questions are difficult to answer without resorting to sappy clichés, but when those clichés are true it is worth the task of trying.

Decorations have value because of the context they provide for our traditions; they are the setting for an enduring institution that persistently and purposefully brings families together for a celebration. To say that we decorate with intent to out-do one another is unduly skeptical toward our motives – we decorate because it makes us happy. But to the extent we are actually trying to out-do each other in our decorations, it is an arms race worth winning. Those of us who do, either through decorations or by some other tradition, have been gathering together, in the exact same way and observing the exact same traditions, long enough to drive us joyously to gather again, and to remind us we have the cumulative experience of many Christmases to show us how and why. Devoid of these traditions that provide a comforting, familiar setting, we would realize they serve an underrated function.

This post is not only a defense of traditions, though; it is also a defense of decorations specifically, which brings me to my other main answer to Shannon’s question: Decorations serve a special purpose because they are a public expression of this great institution. The nature of Christmas warrants such joyous expression, and Christmas decorations do so more effectively than we might think. Even after Charlie Brown thoroughly condemns the commercialization of Christmas decorations, and even after Linus explains to him the true Biblical meaning of the celebration, the group’s symbolic act of joy toward Charlie Brown is still to decorate a tree. Somewhat comically, they were motivated to do so by the same profound joy that motivates the ridiculous outbreak of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!” That we now share our happiness though online social media – as Shannon’s post seems to denounce – is merely reflective of our society’s chosen means of communication.

Shannon and I haven’t made much progress this year in developing what will eventually be our unique Christmas traditions, but they will certainly involve decorations. We will know where to start in building our family’s Christmas experience in part because of our previous experience of decorations, and I am confident that this extension of those traditions to the next generation will be a source of happiness for many seasons to come.

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