Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Porcupine Says Humbug

In response to recent Christmas posts, my dear friend Porcupine has requested five minutes for rebuttal. I yield the floor to him now. Respectfully Yours, Cricket


humbug (hum' bug) n. 1. Something intended to deceive; hoax. 2. One who tries to trick or deceive. 3. Nonsense; rubbish. [Orig. unknown.]

I hate to say it. I really do. Ten days until Christmas and I'm already tired of the whole thing. It wouldn't bother me a bit if it were suddenly ten days since Christmas. Not a bit.

Of course, there are some things that don't bother me. Tidings of comfort and joy. Peace on earth, good-will to men. A candle in the window and a fire on the hearth. Those things are all right. Even an old porcupine still gets misty for that. And fruitcake. Good fruitcake with lots of rum and nuts in it. I like that, too.

But then there's the rest of it: the humbuggery. I like that word. My dictionary includes it and I think it's just about right. The hoax, the nonsense, the rubbish. That is what I could sincerely do without.

Porcupines are solitary creatures, you know. We enjoy being left to ourselves. It's in our nature. We aren't good mixers. We dislike small-talk. Porcupines can go for days without speaking to anyone. That's a fact. You might think it would be obvious that the best thing to do with a porcupine is leave him alone.

About the worst thing you can do to a porcupine is bring him to a series of parties, each more lavish than the last. Mandatory merriment is what it is. Porcupines don't like mandatory anything. Neither are we particularly merry. We can be happy, or content, even sometimes lovable, though you don't see children cuddle up with a stuffed porcupine too often, do you? Why might that be? Hmm?

Then there are gifts. Porcupines live simple lives. Check the Forbes lists someday. You know what you won't find? Porcupines. No, porcupines don't go in for extravagance. We like useful things, mostly. But an old porcupine already has most of the things he wants, and the things he needs don't make good gifts. You know what I need right now? Dental work. Good luck putting that under the tree.

We porcupines always get the feeling around Christmas that something has gone wrong. Maybe it's just us. Porcupines don't do merry very well. We're much better at a well-placed barb. Still, I'd like to put an idea out there for your consideration. It's probably too late for this year, but there's always next.


I realize this is going to be a tough sell. It doesn't play well in my own house. Mrs. Porcupine and the porcupets all have their own ideas about Christmas. Of course, Mrs. Porcupine is only a porcupine by marriage. That has a lot to do with it. The hold of tradition is strong. All I ask is that you consider it, ruminate a bit, if you will. Things weren't always as they are. Maybe they could be some other way.

One day I was singing along to some Christmas music and I found myself changing the words. I sang: we need a little less Christmas, right this very minute. Well, I was feeling contrary. But still. Think about it. How many things do you do at Christmas because you have to, or worse, because you think you have to? What would happen if we did only the things that we enjoy? Would it be so bad?

For starters, what if Christmas gifts were just for children? Say 12 and under. Young enough for Santa. Young enough that toys and sweets mean something. It works at Easter. Why not? I appreciate the thought behind most gifts but I don't really need more things. I could do with just the thought, myself.

And Christmas cards. What's the cost-benefit there? I could probably count on one hand the people who would notice if I did not send one. I don't mind getting them but I couldn't tell you offhand who sent one and who didn't. Add up the cost, plus postage, and you could probably put a fine meal on your table. Or someone else's, for that matter.

And parties. What would happen if we only attended the ones we wanted? I'd say we'd have parties where everyone was happy to be there. Not so bad. More celebration, less obligation. What do you think?

What if we figured everything we spent on Christmas and gave half to the truly needy, bought gifts for the children in our lives, and pocketed the rest? What if we got together with our family and friends for a fine dinner and left it at that? What would happen? What would Christmas be like? Would there be more joy in the world or less?

The retailers wouldn't like it. They'd probably tell us it's unpatriotic. There's always some talking head ready to tell you that the economy is going south because we didn't spend enough on Black Friday. I don't buy it, though. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. The poor people have all the money. Right.

It's a tough sell, I know. Still, I wonder if I was wrong about the song. We don't need a little less Christmas. We need a lot less humbug. I think if we tried that we'd get a lot more Christmas in the bargain. It's probably too late for this year, but there's always next. Ruminate, if you will. And know that, despite my prickly exterior, I wish you and yours a wonderful, humbug-free Christmas, with tidings of comfort and joy, a candle in the window, and a fire on the hearth.

Very Truly Yours,




lime said...

here's a twist i am trying to institute among my extended family. last year there was much mention of certain members opting out of the secret santa because they couldn't afford it so maybe we should scrap it. it was decided by the rest that we couldn't abolish "tradition." i suggested rather than obligatory gift giving which strains personal finances that we pool whatever we could to give to heifer international or a local food bank or something like that. that idea was poo-poo'd so i went along with the old way. this year when i put in my "wish list" for the name exchange i listed 3 charities to choose from for the person to donate to. i'm hoping the idea catches on.

thanks for the call to rumination and consideration. may you find peace and goodwill.

Suldog said...

Some sound suggestions, Porcupine.

As you know, I've been a proponent of less Christmas for some time now. My specific area of interest is prior to Thanksgiving, but still.

I'd reconsider the 12-and-under thing, though. Some folks get more joy from the giving, so the more opportunities to give, the better. Of course, feeling like you have to give someone a present isn't the right spirit at all, so that's something that shouldn't be part of the equation.

Definitely some good questions to ponder, though.

Porcupine said...

Suldog - How we answer these questions is less important that that we ask them. My side of the family does not do gifts. We once suggested that we each bring a crisp $100 to our party, sit in a circle, and pass the bill to the right. We thought that would be funny. Mrs. P was outraged. And so it goes.... I would say whatever leads to more celebration, less obligation, whatever that is, is the right answer.

Unknown said...

Good ideas porcupine, but it's also good to give when there is no special occasion, especially if the receiver is not expecting it.

San said...

I enjoyed this thoughtful post. And I congratulate you on your Post of the Week honor.

Thanks for stopping by my own place. I hope we will visit each other often.