Culture & Conversation

The posts of Christmas Past: No. 3

Happy to work over Christmas. Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol, 1951

Happy to work over Christmas. Alastair Sim in A Christmas Carol, 1951

In We Wish You an Oblivious Christmas, published Dec 29th 2011, Michael Mirolla tried valiantly, and perhaps vainly, to keep up the work ethic over the period of indulgence and enforced jollity.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas (or whatever the latest politically correct designation might be). I just don’t appreciate that it gets in the way. Difficult to put in 16-hour days with people waving bottles of fine wine, single malt, and five-star cognac under your nose. Even more difficult to keep up the jollity when you’re slipping further and further into the quagmire known as “the deadline” or “the pit of postmodern time.”

Take, for instance, the time it is taking me to write this piece. Here I am, complaining about quagmire slippage, when I’m putting aside a string of overdue tasks in order to wax negative about one of Christianity’s (and Walmart’s) most cherished festivals. It’s a bit like interrupting the earning of wages in order to attack the wage-earning system. But, being humans (rather than Rumi’s fish), we can’t seem to help it.

In truth, I have always looked upon the season as an interruption. At one time, in that surreal period called childhood, it was a pleasant interruption – from school tasks, family obligations, the day-to-day routine that sat on the edge of boredom. It also meant escape from the ongoing slashing and clashing that filtered down from the adult games going on around us.

Of course, being oblivious helped: amid the shouting and laughter, amid the hints and glimpses of paradise, all we were aware of was the flow of dishes to and from the table, the endless bottles of homemade wine, the once-a-year melt-in-your-mouth treats. What we didn’t realize was that, like all notions of paradise, Christmas was flawed at its very heart by an uneven division of labour: some were having the fun; others sweating to produce it.

Perhaps the redeeming factor — redeeming; now, there’s an interesting word — was that, as children, we still believed. We felt the tug of the mystery. We ran towards the light without assuming it was an oncoming train known as mortality. Perhaps that’s what made Christmas a pleasant interruption.

Today, however, there is little that is pleasant about the intrusion. We talk about shutting things down for a few days (as if we were automatons) in order to celebrate. Or we talk about moving at half-speed (as if that is going to regenerate us; or allow us to tack the other half-speed onto the end of the track of life). Or we decide we’re not going to answer those text messages … with potentially disastrous results.

But … family … you say … surely, if nothing else, that is worth the interruption. Well, let me see: although living in the same house, Jane hasn’t seen John (aside possibly from some path-crossing at breakfast) for more than a few minutes throughout the year. So now, they are going to gather around the Christmas dinner table to … ah, yes, share some memories … exchange gifts (mine was two days’ work while I see yours is only one day’s) … and be merry.

When it comes to family, unless we take the time to make each day of the year as warm and memorable as we pretend Christmas is, it’s not worth the effort. Cleaning out the Augean stables once a year of the neglect, inattention, relational sloppiness and general laxness built up for 364 days makes little sense. And, if someone were to tell me that they are respectful, attentive, cherishing and nurturing all year long, then what’s the point of interrupting that with Christmas?

So, now that I’ve finished writing this piece and pissing some people off, can I get back to my 16-hour day? Unless, that is, someone is willing to pass an uncorked bottle of Lagavulin under my nose. That interrupts me every time – Christmas or not.


Michael Mirolla’s novels, BERLIN, a Bressani Prize winner, and THE FACILITY are available from Leapfrog Press at and His novella, THE BALLAD OF MARTIN B., can be found at

  • 6 Responses to “The posts of Christmas Past: No. 3”

    1. marianne

      This year's Christmas week activities allow me only 2 hours of personal quiet time (not counting two phones at my side, ringing every 10 minutes). Nevertheless responding to Mike's hilarious and oh so true crusty meditation seems essential. Interruption is definitely the right word. But like the old joke – why does the newfie hit his head against the wall? Because it feels so good when it stops – I can only say that two family members who were not present at our noisy celebration this year did get the traditional phone call from excess HQ, and they were each filled with regret. There you go. The worst of time, the best of times. Mike, does this mean you are comparing writing for Rover to an uncorked bottle of Lagavulin? Now there's a marketing quote for sure… many many thanks for your year-round contributions. And bravo to a brilliant series Leila Marshy!!! xxoo Marianne

      • MichaelM

        Marianne — in keeping with my crustiness, when comparing writing for Rover to a bottle of Lagavulin, all I can say is that, while writing for Rover might be more satisfying, the re-sale value of that bottle would definitely be higher!!! An Oblivious New Year to one and all.

    2. Gary

      Interrupting my interruption is unforgivable – especially with no scotch. It's nice to know that I am at least still thought of as family by you … my only conclusion since I never see, or hear from you unless you are self-promoting. Wise fish and the endless oceans aside, it is still nice and somewhat necessary to be foolish now and then. It pays for the hootch.

      XO The lonely Jew at Xmas….

    3. Darlene Madott

      "the unequal division of labour…" from someone who have slaved non-stop in the kitchen of female adulthood for over a week, I cannot wait to go back to work! Ah, yes, and the memories of childhood, running toward the light and the mystery, before maturity and the acceptance of the loss of our dreams….

      Tough stuff, but then, I would expect nothing less of Mirolla, during an intermission or otherwise.

      Darlene Madott from Toronto

    4. Erika rummel

      Just discovered the joy of a daughter-in-law who does Christmas. So, life here went on practically uninterrupted: no cute kitsch invasion, no cluttered display of Christmas cards, no needle-dropping tree, no wax-dropping candles, no tangle of discarded wrappings, no artificial cheer. It was a humbug Christmas after my heart. I wish you all a merry daughter-in-law!

    5. Bianca

      "And, if someone were to tell me that they are respectful, attentive, cherishing and nurturing all year long, then what’s the point of interrupting that with Christmas?" I couldn't agree more! My best memories of Christmas are those from childhood–when the shiny candy wrappers were collected and traded long after the candy was gone. And in our case, a whiff of good grappa has never failed to distract the men in our family.


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