Oh, Bah, Humbug on All That Bah, Humbug!

You know what really makes me tired and stressed this time of year? Hearing all about how tired and stressed people are this time of year. Enough already, out out outta here with your abject tales of how rough you have it from Thanksgiving through the New Year! This is what you want to spend even two cents of your emotional capital on?

I know, I know, families can be complicated (religion even more so), rampant consumerism carries a lot of baggage (and too damn much crazy packaging!) and the cost of a Christmas tree seems to have gone as far north as the North Pole.

But still.

In the sum total of such things, we celebrate so very little in this life of toil and loss and worry that our team will yet again miss out on the World Series next year.

And if your vote is to cancel five or six weeks of this darkest time of year, when basically all of your ancestors stretching back to the Caveman Boulevard days somehow found the gumption to rub a few sticks together to cast just a smidgen more light upon their beleaguered dark days, then when exactly were you looking to light up your life and the lives of those around you?

For a few hours around someone’s birthday next September? At some resort bar in Cabo on cinco de mayo?


Our house, is a very very very lit house…


My own tradition from my Hungarian parents was that Baby Jesus, with a huge assist from his Squadron of Angels, would come flying into our and a few billion other homes around the world with armfuls of presents on Christmas Eve.

Only, that is, if we had been more good than not through the year, and most particularly on that very night.

That’s when the four (later five, and then six…) of us got locked into a back bedroom with board games & such, there to while away the anxious few hours that would allow the descending band of gift hoisters to get themselves, our gifts, and our Christmas tree in though a living room window. Our parents were tasked with helping them decorate the tree.

Meanwhile, in the back bedroom another miracle altogether was unfolding.

This most blessed night also featured the one span of time in the life of all us younger siblings when our oldest sister did not dedicate her own life to torturing us in the multiple, diabolical ways that she had buffed to a fine sheen on every other day of the year.

Believe you me, that fact alone had me believing in the magic of Christmas.


In any case, when Baby Jesus and the angels’ work was done, they rang a bell and then loudly slammed the window on their way out.

That prompt led to us kids to somehow manage not piling up and asphyxiating one another in a raucous stampede through the doorway, make it down the hall, turn the corner into the living room, and…oh, ohh, ohhhh, wow…

Here’s the image that is emblazoned upon my memory from those moments (was it but one moment in one year?…multiple, nearly identical moments over multiple years?…who knows, who cares, the emblazonment is there and so very alive today):

Dazzling, almost blinding-but-peaceful light from the tree.

Colors upon colors of wrapping on gifts piled around it.

Our beaming parents.

And before the mayhem commenced, a sense of profound wonder at this most glorious display, and of all the forces that had brought it to me in this suddenly, renewedly beneficent universe.

So these decades later, jaded and grizzled and stripped of literal belief in angels and gods and the possibility of the Giants getting back to The Show next year, I’m supposed to Bah, Humbug! my way through the one time of year that is dedicated to proclaiming, “Stop it, NOW! Get over yourself, get out there, spread some joy— if only so you can feel it, too!”

Because here’s the thing: We are programmed for it. Yeah, I know, we are also programmed for fear and conquest and I Got Mine.

But eons & eons ago, the ancestors we have all—ALL!— descended from got out of their caves, lit a few sticks and started us all—ALL!—on a trajectory that has led us right to here: to the ever-present possibility of joy, of calling on the light living deep within us in an often torn and tempestuous world whose inhabitants too easily fall prey to dwelling in darkness.

After all, it wasn’t just me turning that corner and beholding the light and colors in the seeming miracle spread out before me.

Those lights and colors live within all of us as a birthright, yes they do. And we are mighty fools indeed not to surround ourselves with them at every grace-full, well-lit, love-infused opportunity.


Had tickets to see this show a few days ago in Chapel Hill, but alas, circumstances intruded. Yet: the light shines!


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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Christmas ornament by “Photographer,” Columbus, Ohio https://www.flickr.com/photos/fensterbme/

House photo by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/

Joyous Grandson photos by Joyous Grandson’s daycare providers, Ana and Juan, long may they flourish and spread the joy they do!

8 comments to Oh, Bah, Humbug on All That Bah, Humbug!

  • Chris A Hidas  says:

    Hi Cuz,

    Just a quick response to say I too remember a similar sense of excitement as I alone was closed into a room awaiting the bell to release me on that magical night. I am so very thankful to still have one of my Hungarian parents to ring the bell!

    We wish you a very Merry Christmas!


    The Monterey Hidas clan

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Oh man, Chris, suffering all alone through that waiting sounds almost unendurable, but I suppose the silver lining is you didn’t have my sister bending your fingers back & kicking you in the shins under the table….Oh, wait, that was the one night of the year she was the very portrait of charity, so we probably should have lent her to you so you could stay occupied with a lonnngggg game of Monopoly!

      Very happy to have stirred these memories for you, Cuz, and please wish your clan and especially your Mom a Very Merry for me.

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    This is my “Child’s Christmas in Carlinville.” It always began on the fourth Sunday before Christmas when we lit the first of our advent candles. Before the match was struck, Mom gathered us together around the dining room table and told us the Story of Advent. Shortly thereafter our home life was consumed by the “inking” of Christmas cards. Mom would draw her image onto tracing paper, turn it upside down, use carbon paper to transfer it onto the linoleum block itself, dust off her Speedball cutters, meticulously carve away her picture and words, oil ink it, place a piece of rice paper upon the inked block, slowly rub a spoon over it, remove the rice paper and hang it on a clothesline which was strung across the art studio. The smell of oil diffused throughout the second-floor bedrooms. Once dried, all the cards were rubber-cemented to construction paper, attached with a $0.03 stamp and blithely mailed to an almost endless list of friends and relatives. The house sighed when the post office handled the last card.
    Our Christmas Eve was insane. I now shake my head in disbelief and wonder what in the world made my parents decide to cram so much into a single day. The morning opened with my Dad proclaiming, “Let’s get a tree, boys!” He would pack us into our Ford station wagon and make haste to the Christmas tree lot, where the evergreens sold for about $6.00. Finding a tree that met Dad’s standards didn’t lend itself well to a quick sale. Too tall. Too short. Too few branches. Too wide. Too expensive. Then, out of nowhere, he would roar, “There it is!”
    The stringing of lights always without fail inflicted an unforgiving migraine on the entire household. In those days, the strings of colored lights were designed in a schematic series, which utilized a single wire connection between the bulbs; one burnt out bulb killed the entire linkage. Talk about a pain. This was excruciating. We would be forced to test each bulb until we found the culprit and prayed it was the sole misfit. Peace only arrived when all the lights blazed in unison. Now the trimming. The ornaments were hung in a very specific manner. Large ones occupied the lower branches, and the smaller ones lay near the top, just below the golden star. Once this task concluded, we boys were exhausted, a condition hardly conducive to a patient tinseling. Our sole objective was to rid ourselves of those silvery aluminum strips as quickly as possible. Clumps dotted the entire tree, smothering ornaments and lights. Inevitably, my dad would yell, “God damn it!”, and Mom would quietly rebuke him, “Now, Spence.”
    As dark descended, we dressed for the annual Forbes’ holiday party. It was joyous occasion, but we couldn’t wait for it to conclude because we still had to go home for our family tradition of Dad reading “A Christmas Carol”. He slowly read the first lines of Stave 1—”Marley was dead, to begin with…Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.” Not long after “doornail”, we fell asleep except for my oldest brother who forced himself to stay awake for Tiny Tim’s “God Bless Us, Every One!”. Chocolate chip cookies were then placed on a plate near the tree. Finally, we marched to bed. We never heard the reindeer nor saw Santa coming down the chimney but on Christmas morning the chippers were gone. Not a crumb. Thus, Santa existed. Period. It was the single most magical day of childhood. Today, as I reflect upon Christmas in Carlinville, I just say, “Wow. All of it in a single day. Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Robert, I was going to insert a line somewhere in this welcoming readers to share their own Christmas stories, but by the time I finished up I had forgotten to do so. Glad you penned this charming tale as soon as you did, so it can stand as an open invitation.

      Oh, the things we owe to loving parents, though not all of us were so fortunate, and no parent, in any case, is without flaws, foibles & blind spots. After all, we have a large therapy and self-help industry in need of support!

  • Moon  says:

    I’m giving the gift of your blog to people who do not know you, and are unfamiliar with the voice of our “growing up in So Cal in the 60’s “ generation! If I’ve not said it enough, I’ll ( shamelessly )repeat it here: thanks so much for your regular insights and musings. It enriched my life, and I’m sure others as well.

    BTW, Happy Holidays

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Great to hear that, Moon, and i thank you very much for it. Blogging is a fine way to discover what one thinks about any given matter, but it doesn’t let the blogger know what OTHER people think–something I remain quite interested in! So unless people let me know, blogging is nothing more than keeping a diary, which certainly has its uses but isn’t what I have ever had in mind for this. Sometimes readers ask me, “Is it OK if I share your blog?” It seems a bit odd that I have to remind them it’s a public enterprise, available on the entire Internet, so sharing it is at least part of the point! Glad you’re doing some of that in this season of sharing, and I hope it gives your “giftees” something to think about (in a good way).

      Meanwhile, cheers to you & yours and see you on the other side. (Of the season, not of this life…)

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Oh my how your disgust and fatigue with all the stressed out,’ I’m-too -busy to even-think” crowd resonates with me. As you point out, the holiday season really brings it all to fore. In my view, it is always there, barely beneath the surface of daily existence for far too many people. People, I confess, that I struggle to understand. For many, being wacked out busy and stressed is a badge of honor or, more alarmingly, an essential part of their identity and sense of worth. To not be worried, stressed, and over-the-top occupied (and to incessantly share this neurotic way of being) is to be a person unaware or incapable of understanding the seriousness of hyperactivity, worry, and the proud mantle of being “so stressed out.” Many of us recall from our college days the pride with which many students declared with pride at semester’s end how many pages/papers left to written, pages to be read, and upcoming exams on topics for which the book has not even yet been opened. I suppose some level of sympathy and reassurances that everything will work out sustains and reinforces those who derive their sense of self-worth from being overly stressed and worried. To me, it is annoying to the point where I sometimes want to scream “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

    Alas, more often than not, I take the path of least resistance and endure the moaning and the frantic self-destructive and misguided behavior. Let there be light this season and thanks for providing the opportunity to get this off my chest so I don’t unload on some frantic Christmas shopper.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Jay, I’m thinking of that T-shirt we saw a lot of a few years ago, but by my observation, less frequently now: “Work hard, play hard.” While Lord knows I’ve done my share of hard playing in my life in the context of competitive sports, it seems to me there’s a whole realm of play that should just be, you know, “play”—frivolous, highly enjoyable, full of gaiety, nothing “hard,” as such, about it. This also brings back that ethos that was really rampant through the young turk tech world a decade & two ago as well, when rest, sleep & recreation somehow seemed to morph into an optional component of one’s lifesttyle and tech companies tried their best to develop a self-contained ecosystem—free food!…cots for naps!…volleyball courts!—in an attempt to basically chain their employees into a 24-hour, whole-life work schedule. This idea seemed to fall apart to some degree (not sure how much) with the pandemic and people, the young in particular, just coming to their senses about not wanting work to take up their entire identity, social circle and schedule. May that notion flourish!

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