Happy Christmas Friends,
I’m coming to you live on Christmas afternoon, lounging on my parent’s sofa and watching “The Royal Tenenbaums“.
Historically speaking, by Christmas afternoon, the blues start to creep in a little. The holidays take so long to get there; the anticipation of the gifts under the tree, the excitement, the magic and then…it’s over. It’s never quite what you built up in your mind. Although my relationship with the holiday season is a little more complex than the average person.
Well…I hate to break it to you Reverend Swisher, for me, Christmas is my actual birthday. Listen, I’m not in the business of overshadowing Jesus, but there wasn’t a calendar in my mother’s womb and I really lost track of the days in there. Although depending on who you ask, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. Once while walking off our Christmas breakfast, we were approached by a power walking, arm pumping, grinning woman, who was full of holiday greetings. “Many Blessings to you this fine Christmas morning”, she beamed with light and love. “Do you know who’s birthday we are celebrating today?”
“Jesus?” we all respond. “That’s right!”, she smiles, breathing deeply. “Actually”, my brother Matthew gestures towards me, “It’s also my sister’s birthday”. Her smile drops and her neck snaps in my direction, steely eyes squinting my way. “You know it’s not his actually birthday, right? Jesus was born sometime in October, during the harvest”. Which makes sense, the weather does look rather mild in all artist renditions. Riding round on a donkey, being turned away from hotels, giving birth outside surrounded by farm animals…well if you ask me, that’s got summer time written all over it.
Meanwhile, being that this was well before the days of the GPS, three wise men were using a star to guide them to little baby Jesus. They meet up with the Little Drummer Boy, and they all roll up together victoriously with their gold, frankincense and myrrh. Poor Mary. After all that wandering through the desert on a donkey and giving birth to the Son of God on a stack of hay, she probably would have liked a morphine drip and an ice pack, but myrrh is good too.
My mother has a ceramic nativity scene. Growing up, it was my favorite decoration of the Christmas season. The Virgin Mary was blonde, beautiful, wrapped in a blue robe, eyes downcast modestly. Joseph looked looking slightly perplexed, like…”How did I get roped into this?”. There was a shepherd and the wise men, a camel, a cow and some sheep. For years I used to play out detailed soap opera scenarios with the figurines, the most popular game being “Who was the real father of Jesus?” And for whatever reason, in my head Joseph sounds like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life“. “Mary? How did this happen?” My mother finally overheard, and that was the end of my gig at the Wildly Inappropriate Nativity Theatre. She also gave me a quick history lesson and explained how the Shepherd could not possibly be the actual father of Jesus.
The Christmas pageant at church was always a big event, and I had secretly hoped to be the Virgin Mary. She was so lovely in every Christmas card. Olivia Hussey played Mary in my mother’s favorite biblical movie (the one with the “good looking Jesus”), what better role could an eight year old want? Year after year, I was cast as the narrator. My mother said it was a compliment. Mary never actually says anything, and it would be a shame to waste me, seeing that I was such an eloquent speaker. Until I eventually stopped going to church, I was always the narrator, never the virgin. Just once I wanted to stand by silently and serenely, and let someone else do the talking for once.
Regardless, this woman on the street couldn’t have known my weird Freudian holiday hangups, so she was awfully surprised when I attacked her. “What? Next thing you’re going to tell me that Humphrey Bogart wasn’t actually born on Christmas Day but on January 23rd? And that with the invention of new calenders Issac Newton was actually born in early January? Sheesh–a man loses his birth certificate and people think they can just change your birthday? If it can happen to Jesus, surely it could happen to Bogie. As Newton always said, “What goes up must come down”. I don’t know how that applies to this, but it’s my goddamn birthday so I’m going to jam it into context like a fat foot in a Manolo Blahik.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, may this day be lazy and full of love, food, forgiveness and good fortune.