I survived the endless rehearsals of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Over the past two weeks, our student council has been preparing for their appearance at our annual Holiday Assembly. Try as we might to be culturally sensitive and aware, the program has skewed pretty heavily to the Holiday to which our children look forward to with awe and reverence: The Orgy of Greed. Pardon me: Christmas.
I don't hear from kids about how they are looking forward to spending time with their families or how nice it will be to have those two weeks away from the grind of elementary school. Instead, I hear about how "I'mgonnaget," or "mymomsaidshe'dgetme." The quid pro quo has nothing to do with being good all year or any mention of what they might be presenting their parents for another year of patient upbringing. And this is why this happens: They are Americans, and they have been fed this capitalist fever dream of consumption for their entire lives. Even those most recent arrivals to our country, many of whom practice another religion in their homes, subscribe to the bottom line. They have their eyes on the prize, as it were. For fifty-one weeks out of the year, their lives are full of the have-nots. All of a sudden this winter solstice celebration shows up with the promise of toys that can barely be afforded and all is right with the world.
Maybe this explains the fascination with those twelve days. There isn't much interest in lords a leaping or turtle doves, but the idea of having twelve days in which your true love would shower you with gifts of any sort makes for a profound fulfillment of that American Dream. Each year someone on Al Gore's Internet does a quick tally of the current cost of the presents doled out over those dozen days. This year it would run you less than thirty-five thousand dollars to impress your true love. Or drive them away forever, citing fear of avian flu or a dairy issue as a result of all those maids a milking. An Xbox suddenly seems like a real bargain.
Meanwhile, down the hall, they have finished up this year's performance, and it will be another year before I have to endure the holiday version of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer On The Wall." And yet I still can't shake this urge to go out and buy my wife five golden rings.