MCHENRY: Dealing with Grinches

They do not like the winter cold. They think your cheer is getting old. Their Thanksgiving breaks were short and bad. Their take on snow (“It’s mush! Just slush!”) will make you sad. They don’t say “happy holidays,” (and worse) they judge your stupid jolly ways.

They are the Grinches: a rare December specimen of Yalie that, like its Dr. Seuss-inspired counterpart, appear in the winter and strive to make everyone miserable. If you want to ensure a stable successful December, it’s best to identify and manage the Grinches in your life early on.

Latent Grinch tendencies may be identified as early as November. Key candidates are: friends who use “Black Friday” and “what is state of today’s world?” in the same sentence, people in section who complain about the frigid weather, yet are not from California, and, most worrisome, those who announce a preference for standard Starbucks cups over the holiday-themed red ones.

If Grinchiness is caught early, treatments are possible — pumpkin spice lattes, fall colors, the sight of Old Campus in the snow — but full recovery is not common. The hellish workload that is the two weeks following Thanksgiving break usually proves to be more than enough to push Grinches back into their old, Yale Compliment-deriding ways.

The knee-jerk response to Grinch behavior is to ignore it. You’re in college! Line your room with enough Christmas lights and extension cords to trip up a jewel thief. Run Mariah Carey’s Christmas album on repeat. Take time off before a test to make latkes.

But, after participating in a poorly conceived attempt to carol on Old Campus last year, I’ve realized that some of the standard Grinch grudges should be taken at face value. Maybe it is facile to simply assume that a month will make people happy. Maybe spending your entire reading period watching a steady rotation of holiday movies on Netflix is just a seasonally appropriate form of procrastination.

I don’t think that, as college students, we really know how to celebrate the holidays. We could probably parse religious texts for the beginnings of tradition or predict the economic implications of end-of-year sales, but how much do we know about the authentic spirit that underlies the ceremony?

According to the Grinch, not much is of value; it’s all superficial. According to the Grinch, that holiday sweater you’re wearing is just a defense mechanism. You’re just hiding in the crowd, pretending, like everyone else, that winter nights are cozy and comfortable, when, in reality, they are simply long and lonely and cold.

But Grinches aren’t always right. In fact, they are almost never right. Winter does suck, that’s a fact that even early man could understand, and nobody likes frostbite. But whoever aligned Stonehenge to mark the winter solstice also knew something else that the Grinches forget — that winter doesn’t last.

The winter holidays are, in reality, about endurance: In Kwanzaa, the values that bound a people throughout a troubled history are remembered and rekindled. In Christmas, the birth of Jesus marks the possibility of redemption. In Hanukkah, a flame clings to life for a tribe that has all but given up on it. Unless the Mayans prove to be correct this year, the world does not end in late December — it begins again.

And that’s a fact so utterly ridiculous that I can forgive the average Grinch for forgetting, because why should we get another chance? The semester is over, the grades are sent and the friends are made and lost. We shouldn’t be given another try and yet, every winter, somehow we get one.

I’ve seen people crack under pressure in college, convince themselves that they’re not worth it. And when hit by an unexpectedly low grade or biting comment from a “friend,” it’s easy to let your cynical, Grinchy side well up from time to time. What chance do you have of catching up if you’re not on the right track now?

But if you’re going to make it through the depths of winter (finals or not), you need to have faith in something else. I don’t care whether you believe in religion, in family and friends or simply that, just for a moment, the taste of gingerbread will make everything better. Grinches like to say that winter is about darkness, but if you have something to celebrate, the light never leaves.

So let your heart grow three sizes. It’s not over yet.

 

Jackson McHenry is a sophomore in Silliman College. Contact him at jackson.mchenry@yale.edu.

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