tlf news Vol. xv #4 December, 1994

Christmas Perversities

These days, nobody thinks of God at Christmas. With such a clamor of horns and fireworks, such a dazzling array of wreaths, so many innocent turkeys beheaded and so much anxiety about overspending just to look good, does anyone remember that all this excess is to commemorate the birthday of a baby born two thousand years ago in a lowly stable near where King David had been born a thousand years earlier? Some 954 million Christians believe the baby was God reincarnated, though many celebrate as if they really don't believe. Many millions of non-believers also clebrate because they like to party; and so do plenty of others who would be willing to turn the world around if that would stop the believers from believing. It would be interesting to know how many of them also feel in their heart of hearts that today's Christmas is an abominable feast, but don't dare say so because of a prejudice that is no longer religious but social.

Most serious of all is the cultural disaster these perverted Christmas holidays are causing in Latin America. Before, when all our customs were inherited from the Spanish, the domestic creche was a matter of the family's imagination. Christ was bigger than an ox, the houses perched on hills loomed larger than the Virgin, and nobody noticed anything incongruous. The landscape of Bethlehem was completed with a wooden train and a plump duck bigger than a lion swimming in the living room mirror, or with a passing shepherd tending a flock of sheep on a corner in Jerusalem. Above it all hung a gold paper star with a light bulb at the center and a ribbon of yellow silk to show the Wise Men the route of salvation. The result was somewhat ugly but it was ours. Besides, it was better than all the primitive pictures badly copied from Rousseau, the customs official.

The mystification began by changing the custom of the Wise Men bringing gifts - as they did in Spain, with all good reason. Instead, Jesus was the gift-giver. We children went to bed earlier so the presents would come soon, and listened happily to the poetic lies of the adults. Nevertheless, I wasn't more than five years old when someone in my house decided it was already time to tell me the truth. I was disillu-sioned, not only because I really believed Jesus brought the gifts, but also because I would have liked to continue believing. Moreover, by pure adult logic, I then decided that other Catholic mysteries had been invented by my parents to entertain us, so I was out in limbo. That day - as the Jesuit teachers used to say in primary school - I lost my innocence, for I also discovered that babies weren't delivered by the storks of Paris; and that's something I'd still like to believe so I could think more about love and less about the pill.

Everything has changed over the last 30 years due to a worldwide commercial operation that is also a devastating cultural aggression. Jesus has been dethroned by the gringos' and the Brits' Santa Claus, which is the same Papa Noel of the French. We know him all too well. He came to us with everything: the sleigh pulled by reindeer and loaded with presents appeared in a fantastic snowstorm, driven by a usurper with a red nose and white whiskers who is none other than Saint Nicholas. I like St. Nick because he's the saint of my grandfather, the colonel; but he has nothing whatever to do with Christmas, much less with the tropical Christmas Eve of Latin America. According to Nordic legend, Saint Nicholas reconstructed and revived several students quartered by a bear in the snow, so he was proclaimed patron saint of children.

His feast is December 6th, not December 25th, but that legend became institutionalized in the northern Germanic provinces at the end of the 18th century, along with the decorated tree. A little less than a century later, the legend passed to Great Britain and France, then to the United States. From there, it was exported to Latin America along with the rest of the contraband culture: artificial snow, colored lights, stuffed turkey and two weeks of frenetic consumerism very few of us manage to escape. Perhaps the most sinister element in the consumer Christmas is the impoverished aesthetics it has introduced: tasteless greeting cards, colored balloons, glass bells, the bunch of mistletoe hanging in the hall, songs of mental retardation that are carols translated directly from English and so many other glorious stupidities unworthy of the invention of electricity.

All this for the most horrendous fiesta of the year: an infernal night when the children can't sleep because the house is full of drunks who open the wrong door to go to the bathroom, or bother another man's wife as he's nodding off in the parlor. It's not a night of peace and love; just the opposite. It is the solemn occasion for being with people you don't like and the providential opportunity to get out from under the commitments made in desperation: the invitation to the poor blind friend nobody wants to entertain; to cousin Isabel, widowed 15 years ago; to the paralytic grandmother kept in hiding. This is happiness by decree, affection from guilt. It is the moment to give because we owe or in order to receive, and to cry in public without explanation. How wonderful that the guests are drinking everything left over from last year: creme de menthe, chocolate liqueur, banana wine. Sometimes the party winds up with a shooting. Nor is it unusual for the children who witness such atrocities to become convinced that the baby Jesus was born, not in Bethlehem, but in the United States.

--Gabriel García Márquez

To contribute to the work of teatro la fragua :

Donate Online

Donate By Phone

Donate By Mail

Click here to make an online Credit Card Contribution.  All online donations are secured by GeoTrust for the utmost online security available today.

Call us from within the United States at 1-800-325-9924 and ask for the Development Office.

 Send your check payable to teatro la fragua to:

teatro la fragua

Jesuit Development Office

4517 West Pine Boulevard.

Saint Louis, MO 63108-2101

Return to the index of tlf news

Return to the home page of tlf

Contact teatro la fragua

Copyright © 1998 por teatro la fragua