by Lakshmi Sadhu

“The term ‘grinchy’ shall apply when Christmas Spirit is in short supply.” ~ Mayor May-Who

There’s something more potent than the flu virus in the air these days. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, uncontrollable bursts of shopping for things you don’t really need, spasmodic episodes of carolling and, in really severe cases, decorating your porch with ginormous mistletoe wreaths. Yes, you guessed right: I’m talking about the Christmas bug.

 

It took me a lot of courage to write this post, at the risk of getting harangued on campus by those of you who are already wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. Some of my own friends are terrifying Christmas fanatics. So much so, that all it takes from them to start carolling is for the clock to strike midnight on October 31st.

 

A close friend of mine christened me “Grinch”, a term I think does me grave disservice. My heart is neither two sizes too small, nor am I a sickening shade of green. The only attribute I share with my namesake is our mutual distaste for the holiday spirit.

My problem is not with Christmas itself, it’s with the way Christmas is celebrated. Specifically, my beef is with just how asininely early it’s celebrated in Toronto!

There’s something he can’t do, and it’s even.


Toronto transitioning from October 31st to November 1st.


Starbucks already has its iconic red Christmas cups out, and Tim Hortons isn’t far behind with its own Christmas themed cups, even though Christmas is virtually a WHOLE month away!

 

Exterior of apartment door with a big red bow on it

I went to visit a good pal only to see this. Can you guess which one is her door? Suffice to say, I felt deeply betrayed.

 

The following pictures were all taken in the span of a SINGLE day:

Christmas tree near the Gardiner Museum.

Christmas tree near the Gardiner Museum.

Christmas tree in Yorkville, Toronto

Another random Christmas tree around Yorkville.

Christmas tree at the top of stairs

I thought I was finally safe when we entered a cafe. Apparently not – this is the first thing we saw when we climbed up to the seating area.

Tim Hortons window with Christmas-themed stickers

Forget Christmas trees, my local Timmy’s is already a step ahead of the game with their Santa Claus and reindeer stickers.

What makes a festival exciting is the anticipation of it. Celebrating any holiday, let alone Christmas, a whole month or two in advance puts a damper on that, elusive to me, “festive spirit”. So why do people do it then?

“Why do you want to be sad, when you can be happy?”, was the perplexing reply I got to my question. While that did nothing to actually clarify what Christmas means to those who celebrate it, or why the holiday spirit seems to prematurely infect everyone more powerfully than the flu, it was as good an answer as any, I suppose. Yet, that logic can be applied to any day of the year. Why wait for a holiday to be happy? Yes, it’s a time when the whole family gathers around a single table to share food, wine and laughter, but there’s something tragic about the fact that we arrange quality bonding time with our loved ones. And if you have quality bonding time with your family on several occasions other than Christmas, then what makes Christmas so special?

Is it the presents? After all, the Christmas tree is one of the most archetypal symbol of Christmas. And we all know what’s under Christmas trees…GIFTS!

 

As Christmas time gets closer and closer, retail stores start dropping discounts faster than we can drop our credit cards into their hands. Neck deep as we are in the parasitic disease that is consumerism, Christmas is the one time of the year when no one will judge you for shopping with the same fervour as a drug addict seeking his next fix. Most importantly, you won’t judge yourself, because “Christmas”. Christmas has become the socially justified excuse we use to awaken the sleeping consumerist dragon within, and “buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like”.

 

I totally understand why you felt the need to buy $200-worth of candy cane-scented body products and candles…because “Christmas”
 

I think the true spirit of Christmas got extinguished long ago; the only thing we celebrate now is our own blatant consumeristic tendencies.

 

So where does this leave us? If this is your first time – as it undoubtedly will be for many international students – in a country where it snows and which is so openly festive about a certain holiday, then don’t be deterred by my own reservations about the celebration of Christmas. While what I said is definitely something worth thinking about, there are a lot of fun things you can do in Toronto being the Christmas newbie that you are! 🙂

As for me, my quest to understand what the holiday spirit really means, still continues.