When most folks think of a “traditional Christmas,” they envision old Currier & Ives prints of holiday revels or the bustle of mid-century downtown shopping district before Woolworth’s and Goring’s gave way to vape shops and title loan places.
For this sad casualty of the X Generation, however, the notion of traditional Christmas is firmly rooted in the earth-toned and over-decorated era of polyester-rocking malaise. Granted, it doesn’t take much to set me to contemplating the Seventies cultural experience, but something about the holiday season makes me especially susceptible to such Proustian reveries about the decade.
There’s no deep mystery behind it. The Seventies were where I spent the first half of my childhood, the part where everything felt larger than life and free of adult concerns. It was a time when Santa was real and the anticipation of Christmas morning occupied every waking moment.
It was when my parents would break out our home’s single Christmas LP — a Mitch Miller number — for continuous spins on the woodgrain hideaway turntable. It was a time when Christmas specials were appointment TV, not the stuff of bargain bin DVD releases, and shit like Royal Dansk sugar cookies and ribbon candy were special treats and not barely edible garbage foods.
Between the rattling of wrapped gifts and letters to Santa, the last couple of weeks before the holiday became an extended pilgrimage between holiday parties hosted by great-aunts and other distant relations — pinched cheeks and lipstick heavy kisses and “aren’t you a handsome young man” in over-decorated rooms thick with strange perfume and cigarette smoke.
If you were lucky, you’d find a similarly aged cousin to pal around with for the duration. You’d talk about Star Wars and Happy Days and Bigfoot as you made repeated raids on the buffet stocked with deli trays, surreal food-sculpture hybrids, and pancreas killing confections like “stained glass cookies” which were little more than a low-grade fudge roll studded with colored mini-marshmallows.
It’s a litany of things I’ve spent thirty years trying to avoid, and yet they’re the first things that come to mind when the season rolls around.