In Defence of the Dark Arts

Nothing brings out the goodwill and joy like suggesting people keep their Christmas lights off until December 1st. If you want to enrage the neighbours all you have to do is go into the Facebook group someone set up for your neighbourhood and put up a post about it. Granted, I was a bit smarmy, but I have perfectly good and reasonable reasons. None of that matters because apparently I’m a Scrooge McGrinch Level 100 troll who has no right to tell people what to do.


The first response to my post was, “Why?” Well, I didn’t want to get all in-your-face and ranty about it, so I gave a watered-down response. There was already enough, especially when you factor in the extreme over-commercialization of the holiday that’s happened over the last couple decades. So why not give everyone a break? A bit of a reprieve, if you will.

That just made things worse.

I’m a fan of the December joy, I really am. For the month of December, I always strive to be the jolliest asshole this side of the nuthouse(1). I love the snow and the lights and the whole general idea of giving more and not being a total ass to one another. I think it sets a good tone for the rest of the year.

But seriously, it’s getting a bit out of hand.

After Back to School and then Canadian Thanksgiving and then Halloween (stores are even putting up Christmas stuff before Halloween!) and then Remembrance Day (Canada) / Veterans Day (U.S.) and then U.S. Thanksgiving AND THEN December proper and 26 days of Christmas madness we take a (quick) breath and go straight back for more with New Year’s and just when you think you’re done the Orthodox folks jump in with their Christmas celebration on January 7. Oh, and let’s not forget there’s a bunch of other non-Christian holidays in there trying to get air time as well (more on that later).

Did you know that there are governments and military prisons that have used the persistent playing of music as a deterrent as well as torture? Well, welcome to certain radio stations and virtually every store in every mall in North America in December. Listen as they crank out Christmas music until you want to stuff an elf backwards into jolly old Santa’s milk and cookie piehole.

Starting November 25th!

Here’s a pro tip:
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be bombarded with Christmas 24/7/365. I am not a Scrooge or Grinch or Troll for having a lower tolerance for all things mistletoe. There’s the song 12 Days of Christmas and turning on the lights December 1st more than doubles the recommended serving of joy. That’s pretty good, no?

I think I brought the craziness to a close on that Facebook thread (at least I haven’s seen many comments since) with the following:

“Wow. I never said I wanted to make it a law. Amazing how quickly cheer turns into hate. Want to see people’s true colours? Challenge them on the internet.” 

Someone on my side (or at least not against me) replied to that with something about not messing with a woman and her Christmas decorations, and I replied with, “WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” It was a joke meant to play on the usage of the phrase, particularly with Tea Party Republicans in the U.S.

I shouldn’t have used the phrase because it’s not a war. It’s not a battle. It’s not a confrontation. It’s not even a heated argument. Hell, it barely meets the definition of a disagreement. Barely. So, to call it a war would be incredibly disrespectful to those who fight in actual wars. Which brings me to another thing: the November 12th People (N12P).

Now, I don’t know what veterans and service people think of the N12P, but I imagine members of the N12P taking in the Veterans Day parade waiting for the float with the replica of the tomb of the unknown soldier pass so they can push a button and have their Christmas lights turn on. That might be an extreme case and I’m certain that’s not what goes down for the majority of the N12P, but the simple fact that they wait until the 12th instead of, say, the 15th or 25th or the 2nd Sunday in November does give me the impression that they’re just waiting to get November 11 out of the way so they can get on with celebrating. Anyhow, that’s just an aside. I’ll let you think about it.


One argument I hear in favour of an early lighting is, “My kids get so excited!” Sure, Christmas is a wonderful time for kids. You know what, though? My kids used to get excited about having dessert after dinner. Now, for whatever reason they have it every night, and I couldn’t tell you the last time they were over-the-moon excited about 25g of sugar and chocolate.

I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to get someone really excited about something, tell them how awesome it is, and then tell them can’t have it until a certain date. I’m not suggesting we treat the turning on of the Christmas lights like the new Star Wars movie, but there is something to be said for absence making the heart grow fonder. I say make the kids wait as long as you possibly can and then watch as their heads explode with joy when they finally get to experience it.

(Hmm, I think the 40-year-old virgin may have been onto something.)

As an after December 1st argument, I’d also like to bring up cultural insensitivity. Maybe that’s not the right phrase. Cultural Christmaswashing? Think cultural whitewashing but with red and green candy canes and nativity scenes. I don’t know what you’d call it, but hasn’t the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture machine saturated the West enough over the last few hundred years? Do we really need to be standing on the rooftops for months at a time screaming, “CHRISTMAS! LOOK AT ME, I CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! CHRISTMAS MOTHER*****ERS!”

I’m no social justice warrior but I have to wonder what all this feels like to the new immigrant or someone trying to celebrate their own holiday – or no holiday at all for that matter. I’d love to see some Diwali lights displayed in my neighbourhood but it’s awfully hard to pick them out over all the Christmas stuff. Then again, maybe it just looks like a party’s about to break out at any minute and everyone thinks it’s just fantastic (judging by the number of “likes” on my comment and the number of other people who are in line with my post-November light turny onie decision I’m guessing not).

Also on my new favourite Facebook thread was the comment that I can’t tell people what to do. To be precise:

“You can close your eyes you have no right to tell people when then can and can not [sic] decorate”. 

First, I don’t recall telling anyone to do anything. I posted a smarmy, “How about…? Mkay, thanks.”

But it did get me thinking… What about an individual’s rights? I have every right to question your judgement if you put up your Christmas stuff in the middle of August just as you have every right to put it up whenever the hell you want. But unwritten agreements exist all the time and work just fine without being formalised into law. I simply want people to come to an arrangement. A reasonable compromise that takes everything I’ve just written about into account.

I can imagine the person from the above quote sitting on the porch in their rocking chair with an armful of flashing LEDs, or walking around WalMart with a giant battery in a backpack powering Christmas lights strung all around their shopping cart. When approached and asked about why they’re doing what they’re doing they reply with:

“The 87th amendment to the Constitution clearly states that ‘A well regulated Neighbourhood Community being necessary to the celebration of Christmas, the right of the people to keep and display Christmas lights shall not be infringed’,” and then every argument from then on that even remotely appears to contradict the 87th amendment is met with, “CHRISTMAS MOTHER****ER!”

So there you have it. Do with this information what you will. I’ll be lighting my house and Christmas tree up like a Christmas tree on December 1st and shutting the lights off when I go to bed on December 31st, happy as a clam the whole time and trying not to be an ass to people the other eleven months of the year after that.

As for peace on earth, goodwill to men? All I have to say to that is it’s not gonna happen so long as there is an Internet – and a comments section.

(1) My all-time favourite Christmas movie.

~ Andrew

2 thoughts on “In Defence of the Dark Arts

  1. Jim Tigwell

    There's a bunch about this that rankles me, but I think it comes down to the assumption that you're entitled to an explanation, and then to evaluate that explanation based on your own criteria. The original Facebook post wasn't included, the but text alludes to it being a \”May I ask why X\” or \”Do you have to X\” sort of question, both of which seem uncontroversially coded as \”Please stop X\”.Further, I'd make the case that there are no good arguments for putting up Christmas lights. Similarly, there are no good arguments about wearing argyle sweaters or listening to the rain. They are not the kind of thing arguments can be made about. The answer in all three cases is \”Because I want to,\” and that answer is sufficient. Anyone who presses you about why you like listening to the rain has already stopped listening. They have discarded your genuine reason in the face of pursuing their own line of discourse. The same seems true for Christmas lights. People can articulate any nearly any reason they want, and that reason ought to be sufficient. Why are you wearing argyle? Because it's Tuesday. The argument about exciting children exercises the same privilege of perspective. I imagine everyone has been on both sides of the following conversation: \”Oh, I do it because Y.\” \”Let me tell you how to really Y.\” Truly, nothing is more revelatory than being told that the best way to Y is to stand on my head, smoke weed, wait until the last possible moment, etc. It's even present in the remark on individual rights. You have the right to question someone's judgment about when they put lights on their house? If you have the right to question someone's judgment, whatever that means, over something as small as lights, wouldn't that just empower you to question people's judgment all the time? \”Vikas is listening to jazz again. What's up with that guy?\” \”Seriously Brenda? Socks? With those shoes? I have a right to question your judgment about that.\” It polices their behaviour by making you the arbiter of when things should happen. \”Because you want to isn't good enough. Justify yourself to me.\” It's adolescent reasoning, and is beneath you.

  2. Andrew F. Butters

    I knew you'd have lots to say, Jim. Thanks as always for commenting. My mother reminded me that the first Advent candle is lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas with subsequent ones being lit each Sunday thereafter (representing joy, hope, love, and peace respectively) with the fifth candle being lit on Christmas Eve (\”the Christ candle\”). The first candle typically aligns with the start of December so that's just when things got going with respect to Christmas in my family growing up. I suspect I've carried that tradition along over the years, even after it detached from its religious origin. Then again, maybe my project management brain just *has* to have start and end dates for everything lest I get all twitchy over the uncertainty of it all. For me, today, Christmas is choking out a lot of other great stuff about this time of year and I see the \”early\” lighting is a manifestation of that. I saw a comments in other friends' feeds to the extent of \”Can we get through Thanksgiving first?\”. I think it's a good question. Why not corral it a bit and provide a little breathing room? Others feel that more more more all the time is just dandy. If your answer is, \”Because wanting people to do that makes you a dick,\” then fine, I can accept that. On this topic I'll continue to be a dick. I take comfort in knowing I'm not alone with these thoughts. There are many of us. A bag full, probably. I'm really just looking for a way to get the phrase \”bag of dicks\” in there because I think it's funny.


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