Why I am so jolly

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An Eliotean and Nietzschean defense of Christmas decor before Christmas


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On this perfect day, when everything is crisp and the Texas leaves are turning brown, and the light of the tower has just fallen upon the Mall; I look back, I look forward, and have never seen so many good things at once: glittering lights about lamp posts, four wreaths on the tower, a Christmas tree through the windows of Braniff.

Perhaps it is audacious to make the words of Friedrich Nietzsche my own as I joyously survey the Christmas cheer that has taken campus like an elven thief in the night. But as my nostrils revel in the scent of cocoa, I look back on the rich tradition of the West and see that decorating for Christmas before Advent is only the beginning of the greatness to which our liberal arts education destines each one of us.

The reality is that Christmas is not a day, or even a season. Christmas is a feeling, and it is a feeling which students at UD desperately need at this point in the semester.

To quote the patron saint of the Christmas feeling, Buddy the Elf, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” What is the telos of our lyric study in Lit Trad II, if not to analyze and delight in the rich musical tradition that accompanies the Christmas season?

How can we not tremble in our innermost being upon hearing the words, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!” Do the sturdy series of trochees following the initial iambs not cause one to a-leap like a lord at the urgency of this message?

We do not need Christmas after four Sundays in preparation for the feast. We need it now. Patience is a virtue for the weak, for those who do not seize at the power just outside their grasp, who do not will themselves into that being which is not limited by time, but takes time into his own hands. Dear reader, you are called to be an übermensch, not an übergrinch.

Furthermore, as classes wrap up, we become accustomed to professors offering concluding lectures about “the end of all our exploring,” to quote T.S. Eliot. We find ourselves lulled into complacent acceptance by their melodious voices and eloquent exhortations concerning the innate desire for the true, the good and the beautiful, the glory that is found in the home and the family and the dazzling destiny of the human person.

This may be well and good for PhDs and those nerdy students who joke about German philosophy in their free time, but in all the frenzy of final papers and exam preparation, it is so tempting to lose sight of the real reason why we are at UD: to find the one. Not the One, abstract Platonic ideal, but marriage, ideally by the end of freshman year.

The earlier we decorate for Christmas, the earlier students can be reminded of what Peter Jackson calls “The great stories…the ones that really mattered.” Not “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey,” not Dante and Beatrice, but the good that Dante really desired: the Hallmark romance.

We have a whole business school sitting on our campus. We have stressed out women who ignore the wonder of the holidays in favor of checking off their to-do lists in color-coded planners. We may not have a farm, but we do have a duck pond nearby. Now that Christmas lights abound on campus, washing out the bricks almost as much as they wash out the faces of Hallmark actors, the set is ready for the most original love stories of all time.

Those who oppose decorating before Christmas do not merely oppose consumerism or liturgical heterodoxy, or whatever neat labels they assign to themselves to console their already uneasy consciences. They oppose love and art and all that gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless, formless life.

Of course, those who oppose Christmas decorations tend to be philosophy majors. According to Nietzsche, “Philosophy…means living voluntarily among ice and high mountains.” The philosophical life is a resignation to the same cold that gripped the heart of the White Witch of Narnia.

Let them freeze, with their Christmas dinner being the same poor fare enjoyed by the icy souls in the final circle of Dante’s “Inferno.” Let their violent intellects think that this is the twilight of the idols. But, like J. Alfred Prufrock, “let us go then, you and I,” through the evanescent Mall, merry in the warmth of a Christmas cheer that has no end.

Of course, the cheer will decay one day in the tremulous, scuttling claws of nihilism. But – oh! – happy last breath! When Mariah Carey’s vocals wake us.

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