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Loving and loathing the holidays

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Just when it seems like I'm hitting my stride, the end of the year draws near, and I find myself saying, "I can't believe it's December. This year flew by."

Although this is the time that we're supposed to be winding down, it seems like life speeds up and the to-do list grows by leaps and bounds. While I'm always thankful to see another year, some aspects of the holiday season grate on my nerves. Like many of you, I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

Love: Hearing Donny Hathaway's rendition of "This Christmas" in perpetuity. Pound for pound, this is the best version of the classic holiday song ever made.

Loathe: Radio stations that play all Christmas music, all day -- from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. Like Sunshine Anderson said, we've heard it all before. And thanks to Apple, Pandora and Rhapsody, we can program our own Christmas music.

Love: The smell of holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove and the smell of a homemade sweet potato pie baking in the oven.

Loathe: People who choose the holidays to start cooking healthy meals. This is not the time to go on a butter and sugar strike. Save that for your New Year's resolution, and don't make me suffer because you feel bad for letting yourself go all year. I want all my trans fats, please. And like you, I will work out like a madwoman for the first three weeks of the new year before my unrealistic fitness resolution goes to pot.

Love: Making your list and checking it twice -- and knowing that your gift is going to make someone's day and maybe his/her year priceless.

Loathe: Purchasing said gifts. Packed parking lots, stressed-out people, crowded stores and some un-Christ-like behavior pretty much ruin the experience. People are short on patience and long on attitude, which undermines the whole purpose of the holiday.

Love: The birth of Christ.

Loathe: Most people have forgotten that this is the point of the holiday, not said gifts listed above. Why be stressed out when you've been given the gift of life and salvation? Why measure a holy day by how "perfect" the dinner is, the house is, or the gifts are? Christ doesn't care, so why should you?

Love: Football, football, football!

Loathe: My Dallas Cowboys can't seem to win in December, notwithstanding our recent beat down of the Saints -- who have been threatening our position as America's team. Thanks for the gift of a win that nobody saw coming. Geaux Cowboys! Let's hope that we get the gift of a new coach for the 2010 season, and I get tickets to the Super Bowl (hint, hint).

Love: Being privileged enough to have time off to spend with friends and family.

Loathe: Spending time with friends and family. It always seems like a great idea until it happens ... for too many days in a row. Then you realize there's a reason why the term "alone time" was invented.

Love: The care and concern for those less fortunate. People give of their time, money and energy to help others who are suffering or down on their luck. The spirit of volunteerism is unparalleled at this time.

Loathe: How quickly people forget that precarious situations and circumstances exist throughout the entire year. Giving is something we should do year-round and the holiday should serve as a gentle reminder to make it a part of our lifestyle.

Love: The story of Christ -- the manger, Mary, Joseph and the big guy in the sky. Regardless of your beliefs, it is one of the greatest stories ever told.

Loathe: The overflow at church of C.M.E. (Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter) members. This is the church equivalent of people who hog the elliptical machines at the gym after New Year's Day, while dedicated gym rats have to rework their schedule to accommodate those who are just pretending.

Love: Christmas stamps.

Loathe: Long lines at the post office. A reminder of why they lost $38 billion last year, and it's not solely because of the recession; understaffed, overworked, underpaid and underprepared should be their motto.

Love: The spirit of love is in the air. People seem nicer, even at the post office. This time of year is a reminder that love is the center of all things. With love in our hearts and minds, anything is possible.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and writes the blog Tune N (http://nsengaburton.wordpress.com), which examines popular culture through the lens of race, class, gender and sexuality.

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