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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Christmas — true Christmas — can only inspire happiness

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By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two people within two hours said something that made me question the very foundation of my beliefs:

"I hate Christmas."

Impossible, I thought.

How could anyone so openly loathe a holiday that comes complete with its own soundtrack?

Sure, one of my anti-Christmas friends works in the newsroom, where cynicism strong-arms romantic notions of Santa and good will toward men. The other has no money, so I understand his pain.

But it's one of those holidays I can't see anyone despising so much.

Hearing Harry Connick Jr.'s rendition of "Sleigh Ride" on the radio, smelling sugar cookies baking in Mom's kitchen, watching ponytailed girls ask Santa for pet horses and PowerBooks with 1-gigabyte PowerPC G4 processors and a gigabyte of RAM — what's not to love?

Maybe my sentimental view on Christmas comes from a slide show of memories: Being pried from my bed at 6 a.m. to wait in the hallway before my dad managed to set up the movie camera to capture our yawning toward a Christmas tree with a string of flashing lights that had a mind of its own.

Mom had already been up since 5 a.m., cooking shredded potatoes, buttery biscuits and vinha d'alhos. (Dad was up, too, but battling the movie camera that never wanted to cooperate on the only day of the entire year that he used it.)

The rest of us sat around in the living room, half-asleep, waiting for Christmas.

We did this every year, even when we weren't living at home anymore. Same scenario: The kids, now fully employed adults with credit-card debt and student loans, waiting in the hallway, waiting for my now-retired dad to set up the digital camera, waiting for Mom to prepare the same menu, now including lactose-free milk and packets of Equal.

Every time I think back, I can't help but smile. Who cares if I never got that Easy Bake Oven? I had something better: a place to belong, a home filled with people who know how to laugh and love.

Christmas, to me, has never been about bow-topped presents or one-day sales.

It's always been about laughing around a dinner table crowded with platters of baked ham, kalua pig, teri beef, fried noodles, sushi and crispy gau gee. It's about competitively decorating sugar cookies with my highly creative little sister. It's about getting up before the sun to spend an hour with my closest friends surfing at our favorite break.

If Christmas were what you see at the mall, then I can understand the bah-humbug: long lines of agitated shoppers, reluctantly handing over their nearly maxed-out credit cards to disgruntled seasonal salespeople who have been standing in heels for the past six hours.

More humbug: the long lists of Christmas gifts you have eight days to buy for people you don't know very well — or like — but feel compelled to spend 20 bucks on because of that pestering Christmas sentiment called obligation.

But that's not Christmas; that's commercialism at its worst.

Feel free to hate that.

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.