Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

Family
poll

Most Popular
Articles

Viewed

A Special Gift

The Author Speaks: Christmas—America’s Most Chaotic, Expensive, Anxiety-Ridden and Occasionally Joyful Event

Interview with Hank Stuever, author of Tinsel: The Search for America’s Christmas Present.

Q. Speaking of manufactured Christmas products, one phrase is repeated over and over in the book: “Fake is OK here.” Is it?

A. I think it is. For Americans to really submit to Christmas, you have to get into the artifice of it. If you want to have the perfectly decorated suburban house, you probably don’t have a real tree or real greenery; it’s easier to have pre-lit greenery and trees. You may have those little porcelain snow towns that depict worlds that never existed, like Dickensian villages and Bedford Falls. At Christmas, you have to submit to a series of myths.

Q. Myths?

A. You have this idea that we’re all going to be happy on Dec. 25, that we’re all going to be together, the family drunk is going to be sober, that old sorts of resentments and difficult relationships in families are going to be set aside for the day, that the world is going to be at peace. So if you’re really going to fall in love with Christmas, you have to fall in love with the biggest shadow game we got going—that the world for one day is all wonderful and all hopeful.

Q. Why do we put ourselves through it all?

A. We’re making the moments of our lives. That’s why we so obsessively photograph and videotape Christmas. Like Tammie, we’re all hoping for what she calls the “total moment,” when everything comes together in a big way. And some people go to extremes to find that.

Q. What do we really need from this holiday underneath the decorations and the presents and the shopping lists and angst?

A. We hope that somewhere in all of the family BS is a reminder that we’re loved. There’s a strong desire to connect with humans and know that we’re not alone. For Christians, it’s the story of a savior coming to tell us we’re loved. But everyone at Christmas needs a reminder that there’s love.

Carol Kaufmann is a contributing editor for the AARP Bulletin.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Grandparent
Resources

GrandFacts

National and state fact sheets listing services, programs,  benefits, laws and policies for grandparents raising children. Read

GrandFamilies Guide

Information, tips and tools for grandparents raising grandchildren. Read

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

1-800flowers.com (1-800flowers.com)

Members save 20% or $20 on purchases of $79.99  from
Fruitbouquets.com.

Collette Vacations

Members save up to $200 per couple on select tours with Collette Vacations.

Live Nation

Members save 25% or more when buying tickets in groups of four from Ticketmaster.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Being Social

Featured
Groups

Wisdom Circle

Join our circle to ask for — or give — advice on topics such as love, friendship, grief, parenting and grandparenting. Discuss

Grandparenting: Joys & Challenges

There are many joys from being a grandparent, so let's celebrate them together! Discuss

Raising Grandchildren

Grandparent caring for grandkids share tips and discuss challenges, solutions and triumphs along the way. Join