5. Special Christmas Installments: When they're done poorly, they tend to be fun. When they're done well, they tend to be meaningful and deep. Whether in comics or in television, when a series stops to do their Christmas special, it's usually a breath of fresh air. I'm not talking about Hallmark made-for-TV movies or bands or sitcoms that reunite to do some cheesy Christmas special, either. I'm talking about the Batman episode "Holiday Knights," or the Justice League's fantastic "Comfort and Joy." I'm talking about the JSA issue where Ma Hunkle dresses up as Santa Claus, the JLA issue where Santa joins the League, the Superman "Metropolis Mailbag" specials, the one where Clark and Lois get gifts for the League members, heck, even "The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special." They might not all be well-written, they might be more sugar-coated than usual, but they're always bright and shining and optimistic, and there's always some enjoyment in that.
4. Gatherings: It's always nice to see family and have an excuse to eat a bunch of good, homemade food. Some people may have low levels of tolerance for their families, I sometimes certainly do, but there's always at least some good to be found in a big family gathering.
3. Christmas Carols: Contemporary Christmas music often sucks, but I enjoy most of the carols, as long as they're not done by lame Easy Listening artists trying to make a buck. Getting together and singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" or something classic like that is a nice way to get into the spirit of togetherness and celebration. I may not buy into the subject matter of most of the carols, especially the older ones, but I can enjoy the music and sing along with everyone else. It's nice to find common ground somewhere with religious people, even if it's just that we can both enjoy "Good King Wenceslas."
2. Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Humans: Because sometimes it's hard to believe that there's even the possibility. This season of life and celebration and brotherhood and sharing and giving is a boost to the optimistic spirit. Even hardened cynics can imagine a light somewhere at the end of the dark tunnel of human conflict. If this season can inspire people to set aside their differences just for a day, then it offers hope that it could be two days, or seven, or a thousand. If only every day could inspire that hope.
1. Christmas Movies: I'm about to start up "It's a Wonderful Life," a movie I first watched only three or four years ago. It's now one of my few Christmas traditions, along with "Scrooged" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." But no matter your movie, be it Frosty or Rudolph or the Grinch, be it He-Man or the Justice League or Buddy the Elf, you can count on a good Christmas movie to give you that warm fuzzy feeling more than any other type of film. The best ones are the ones that don't focus on Santa Claus and Jesus, but on normal people, or events that only obliquely relate to Christmas. What does "A Christmas Carol" really have to do with the holiday? Aside from inspiring typical Christmas themes of hope and humilty and generosity, there's really nothing particularly Christmasy about the Scrooge story. "Elf" and "Christmas Vacation" are about togetherness and family. And what about "Ghostbusters II"? No one remembers that as a Christmas movie, but it is. And New Yorkers unite together to defeat cynicism and hostility for the good of the world. It seems that, the less a Christmas movie has to do with Christmas as a holiday (like "Jingle All the Way"...ugh) or the regular cast of Christmas characters, and the more it has to do with the positive themes of the season, the better it ends up being.
So, I'm going to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Tomorrow, I'll be eating gyros, seeing a movie, and gearing up for wisdom teeth removal on Tuesday. Tonight? Tonight I say "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
And I really do mean "to all." Enjoy your solstice festivities, whatever they may be, and bask in the wonderment of being alive. And tomorrow, when the stores are mobbed with post-Christmas capitalism, remember that "peace on Earth" stuff, remember the spirit of the season, and do something small to make the world a better place. A lot of Christians may be off their nuts, a lot of others might be as well, but there's something to be said for that "love thy neighbor" stuff. Make every day a day of togetherness and giving and caring; it might make Christmas a little less special, but that's a small price to pay for peace.