A toast to the holiday season

For many of us, it seems the festive Christmas spirit came a bit earlier than usual this year.

Driving around town, I see more than a few Christmas trees in windows already happily lit. Scrolling online, I see more than a few of my friends shamelessly announcing they’re in full-blown Christmas mode, listening to holiday music, watching their favorite holiday films, making a significant dent in their holiday shopping.

Even the Hallmark Channel began their 2021 Countdown to Christmas before Halloween this year, on Oct. 21.

Perhaps we all need a little Christmas cheer a bit earlier this year.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I try to restrain myself from too much Christmas merry-making before Thanksgiving — but, this year, I have begun my holiday-movie-watching a bit early, finding comfort in the many familiar tales of comfort, cheer, and hope.

Since its 2018 release, the new adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch” has become one of my new favorite holiday films. The film adorably readapts the famous story of the Grinch and his pet dog, Max, as he seeks to steal Christmas from the joyous, ever-merry Whos in Whoville by stealing their trees, lights, presents.

But, much to his avail, he finds “It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

The Grinch then experiences the true meaning of Christmas, with the help of small Cindy Lou Who: togetherness, kindness, and love.

The story follows a familiar trope present in many holiday tales. Disillusioned, crotechty protagonist who has some sad memories of being alone or of some other event that happened during the holidays. Protagonist meets holiday enthusiast who understands the true meaning of Christmas and changes the protagonist’s mind with kindness, connection, and love.

The message of those holiday tropes has always been clear: regardless of the trials, troubles, and sadness we face, the magic of the holidays can cure every Scrooge or Grinch.

But what about Cindy Lou Who?

If we got our Christmas trees and our presents stolen and taken away, would we be so quick to forgive, so quick to show the Grinch kindness and love?

If we were the long-forgotten, long-ignored nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge, would we be so quick to believe that he has changed and welcome him back into our home?

For many of us, I assume, it is easier to focus on the promise of being transformed by the magic of the holidays than to offer that transformational kindness to others — especially to those we don’t agree with, those who have disappointed us, or those we may not understand.

We often look to the holidays to be reminded that our own stress, sadness, and heaviness can be transformed into feelings merry, hopeful, and bright.

How much more challenging it can be to give than to receive.

That transformation doesn’t just happen. It comes from the Cindy Lou Whos who dare to give it — and who understand, as the Grinch toasts at the end of the film, surrounded by the Whos at his very first Christmas that wasn’t spent alone: “To kindness and love, the things we need most.”

Anne Gentry graduated from Brown University with a degree in comparative literature and has studied in Italy and South Australia. She is currently executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.


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