Postmodern Conservative

I Believe in Christmas Day (But Happy Festivus to the Rest of Us)

Well, today, I’m told, is Festivus, the hilarious alternative to Christmas portrayed on Seinfeld. Festivus is my favorite alternative to Christmas because it really is an alternative. The other alternatives attempt to keep the Christmas moods about home and love and wonder and all that alive without the baggage of religious belief.  But Festivus is the opposite of  Christmas. Gratitude is replaced by the airing of grudges. And instead of bowing down before a newborn King, we pump ourselves up through feats of strength. A big argument about Seinfeld is whether it celebrates or mocks narcissistic nihilism. Obviously there’s some of both. Festivus, though, is clearly meant to be instructively repulsive and ridiculous. The holiday was invented by a man who also screamed “serenity now” without getting any therapeutic results. Can you celebrate both Festivus and Christmas? Well, probably not, although the former might be understood to provide the catharsis that prepares you for the true spirit of the latter. Seinfeld himself, of course, doesn’t see the personal need for either.

I usually leave music to Carl, but I have, in the past, managed to say something about a Christmas carol. My favorite American Christmas tune remains “I Wonder as I Wander.” You can find out why, as well as read a number of Christmas musings from not so long ago, by buying my “Allergic to Crazy.” This particular micro-essay has been reprinted in several places, and I’m going to give you my gift of the link to the version found on The Imaginative Conservative, just in case you didn’t know about that diverse and often genuinely imaginative storehouse of conservative reflection.

My lame Christmas musical message this year comes from my appreciative listening to FM 95.7 (the Ridge) in Rome, Ga., at noon while doing various Christmas errands. First there’s Elizabeth Davis’s “Motown Monday,” which featured this week the definitive Motown versions of many of the various Christmas classics. Most memorable was Stevie Wonder’s fine version of  “Ave Maria” (not exactly a Christmas song), featuring his reverently inventive interlude on the harmonica. As Elizabeth observed, “Stevie did a bang-up job pronouncing those Latin words.” He also reminded me he can really, really sing. This show is on every Monday at noon, and it’s the loving project of a real expert. It is also just fun. Elizabeth, at a certain point, gave us a break from all that Christmas by playing “Brick House,” remarking that she just couldn’t locate a Christmas message from the Commodores.

Tuesday’s noon show is “Fab Tuesday.” The fabulous treat for today was the Beatles’ Christmas messages to their fans from 1963 through 1967. Well, they get stranger and stranger. If I remember correctly, 1965 included some of the lad’ raucously singing, to the tune of  “Yesterday,” ” Oh, I believe in Christmas day.”

And they added, “Bless you all on Christmas day.” In subsequent years, their message was not so clear or edifying, although it was always fun.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...


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