How much of your Christmas is live? How much is on television? Of course it’s all live even if all you are doing is watching television. Except if you are the Steelers fan who was laid out dead in the funeral home as if he were at home watching football on tv… because he was actually dead, which hardly qualifies as “live.”
So back to “live” television. There was an interesting article in the Washington Post a while back entitled “Chestnuts roasting on the high-def screen.” In it, Hank Stuever wrote about how “everything we know about how Christmas should appear and feel, we learned from watching Christmas happen on TV to people who don’t exist.”
He debates whether the totems of Christmas should be segregated in homes, with the “live” things like Christmas trees and stockings in one area and the television, where everyone will gather to “experience” Christmas by watching idealized shows, housed in another room.
Though I think it can be a fun tradition to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or “Charlie Brown Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I also find Stuever’s sense of inevitability terribly depressing. Writing of the year that cable TV emerged and the fact that opening presents on December 25 was the only TV-free zone that year, he says, “But at some point someone turned it on; someone always does. What is Christmas without the sound of sports announcers and instant-reply swooshes? What is an advent season without the ritual of anticipatory TV — Charlie Brown and Rankin/Bass and Rockefeller Center and the Food Network, all connected by a gooey concoction of commercials? Sometimes we complain about this. (Q: What did you do for Christmas? A: We watched too much TV.)”
I think sometimes we get into routines without realizing that they’ve supplanted the things we most wanted — deeper connection, conversation, family interaction. But then again, sometimes the routine is watching a show together in the TV room and having a family watch-fest. It’s one sort of tradition, but not the only one!