'Tis the season for mixed feelings. The joy of giving; the agony of shopping. The pleasure of gathering 'round the family hearth; the pain of gathering 'round the family hearth. Ambivalence is as much a part of the holidays as mistletoe, menorahs, and slaughtered birds.
This year, though, seems a bit more ambivalent than most. Never in our memory has the true spirit of giving seemed more urgent; never has the ritualized exercise of giving that defines modern-day Christkwanzakuh seemed more rote and empty. It's hard to get into the giddy enjoyment of getting and distributing stuff, or give in to the comforting glaze of holiday sentiment, when we're wondering if the mall is a target and scrutinizing the return addresses on the greeting cards.
We are cognizant of the call from every quarter to return to normalcy, and to a degree we buy it (so to speak). There is reassurance and resiliency in the everyday concerns, mundane pleasures, and petty irritants that keep us sane. Life Must Go On, otherwise the Terrorists Have Already Won. The president himself is leading the way, sounding the call for massive corporate tax cuts--why, it's as if Sept. 11 never happened!
So we'll do some shopping, engage dutifully in the required routines--like putting out this annual double-wide seasonal sampler--and find succor in the expressions of caring and sharing that are the best thing about this time of year. But not without a certain guilty feeling that we should be thinking and doing more than simply enduring, and contributing to, the endless commercial bleat.
Hence, perhaps, the bipolar nature of this year's Holiday Guide. In place of the usual list of things to buy, and in hopes that the generous post-9/11 spirit can be sustained and localized, we offer a range of worthy causes that need the gift of your time and money (page 18). But, in deference to that normalcy thing, there's also a roster of wrapping-paper-and-bows-type suggestions, albeit with a decided Baltimore accent (page 22). While Adele Marley offers tips on day-trip shopping in Manhattan (page 28), Tim Hill explores the anti-consumerist phenomenon of Buy Nothing Day (page 30).
Some things never change, though--like the presence herein of our exhaustive guide to holiday happenings (page 33). And the hope, expressed best by the jolly fat guy to the right, that in the true character of the holy days we celebrate (and don't forget Ramadan too), peace on Earth and goodwill toward man and woman will eventually reign. Sooner rather than later.