Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 22, No. 6, 2023
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Robert J. Lewis
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

twas the season



For more of Liz, visit her fashion/brenda website.


Santa’s peeved and you can hardly blame him.

He’s dealing with ongoing supply chain snarls, inflation killing his margins and his Zoomer staffers all want a WFH arrangement and yet another day off, this time to attend a friend’s fur baby’s ‘life celebration.’

Like us, he’s feeling unsettled by the state of things, while the state of things steadily sucks the joy out of the Yuletide season.

The first sign Christmas 2023 was in crisis appeared in Washington, DC when gusty weather toppled America’s National Christmas tree and the wall-to-wall reaction on social media was ‘Oh look! That’s our country right now!’

The town of Orillia saw DC’s fallen tree and said ‘hold my beer.’ Simcoe County has more than 13,000 hectares of forest yet for its annual tree reveal Orillia’s BIA (Business Improvement Area) settled on a dead one…

Reactions on social media ranged from WTF? to WTAF? I showed the picture to my friend Joanne who commented, in a tone as brittle as those limbs too lifeless to hold ornaments, “That’s Canada’s economy.”

Right now, in Iowa’s State Capitol, there’s a satanic altar on display, featuring a gilded-goat-headed figure of the pagan idol Baphomet, cloaked in red and holding a pentangle. A satanic tree strewn with blood-red lights resembling little demon eyes is currently on display at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. Last year, the Satanic Temple of Illinois wedged a crocheted serpent on a pile of apples in between a Nativity scene and a menorah.

Ugly trees, satanic shrines and altars, retailers struggling under the weight of inflation and now a logjam in the Panama Canal delaying Christmas decoration deliveries—none of these are related but added up it starts to feel like Christmas is under siege.

On top of all this, as the season was gearing up, we lost Shane McGowan, the man behind Fairy Tale of New York, a song that swings from merriment to misery. It feels like a poignant overlap that he would make his exit during an especially miserable period in New York’s history.

Back in the day, we had Miracle on 34th Street, the timeless Christmas classic about a Manhattan department store Santa who swears he’s the real thing. This year, a few blocks from 34th, at Rockefeller Centre’s annual Tree Lighting, it was a miracle nobody died. Mayhem ensued when the “river to the sea” mob arrived and picked a fight with the NYPD. One protestor tore down an American flag and shouted “Allahu Akbar,” another stole a cop’s hat and set it on fire and yet another barked at a line of NYPD officers “which one of y’all want to get Derek Chauvin’d?”

The late writer and notorious humbug Christopher Hitchens was a hawk when it came to both Iraq and the War on Christmas. He famously described the season as a “moral and aesthetic nightmare” and complained about the “tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations” of canned Christmas music. Since he was such a contrarian, I’d expect him to soften on that position now that most cultural institutions and big corporations have erased Christmas symbols and traditions from their day-to-day.

It’s hard to fathom the level of cultural self-hatred that allowed this to happen. What began as a milquetoast attempt to show good manners and consideration to others in the name of racial diversity and equity morphed into “Happy Holidays,” holiday trees, replacing nativity with ‘winterludes’ and vegan-centric Christmas tables consumed in grim athleisure.

Hitchens wrote his anti-Christmas diatribe in 2008, at the height of the War on Christmas, which started sometime in the early 90s, steamrolled during the early 2000s and waned slightly in recent years. Lately, things have been heating up. For this, we can thank the KKK (Killjoy Kristmas Karens) who use climate as a stick to beat the remaining traces of joy out of the season. Christmas, according to environmentalists, is the world’s greatest annual eco-disaster, like Chernobyl but with glitter and shortbread. The ugly Christmas sweater (the very essence of ‘fast fashion’), meat consumption, lights and flights to visit relatives are a partial list of things supposedly ruining the planet.

Have you seen this?

A snap-less Christmas cracker, like a paper straw, is no fun. Well, who said anything about fun? What do you think this is? Bedford Falls? Santa’s Wonderland? Nope. This is 2023. If you want fun, buy a time machine.





Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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