There is something sinister in the forced expectation of cheer in Christmastime. It’s 2016, after all. This is the year of rock stars dropping dead faster than Facebook memorials can be posted, an election that resembled a clashing of cartoon villains more than a democratic process, and an onslaught of racial tensions. Spending time with family helps, but with everyone becoming slaves to iPhones and other shiny things, shaking the feeling of restlessness proves difficult.

The rub occurs because of the expectation of Christmas as a time of peace, love, and giving contrasts with the reality. Take Roswell, Georgia for example. It’s hard to believe that thirty or forty years ago, the town was all farmland. Roswell today wouldn’t know genuine Southern if it was pasted on a billboard, and the suburban blandness leaks into Christmas as well.

Come Black Friday, Wal-Mart can’t keep up with the lines of shoppers who barely digested their turkey before setting up camp on the asphalt. In contrast, there is the strip of local boutiques on Canton Street, famous for healthy eating and artisan products, fighting to survive another year. It is one Southern light bulb shining in a Christmas tree where most of the lights have flickered out.

Shoppers stroll past antiques and art in Canton Street.

Shoppers stroll past antiques and art in Canton Street.

A Nativity can hardly be found behind the towering blow up statues of Frosty or Santa and his reindeer. Some Southerners would rather shoot Donner and Blitzen, make a meal out of the beloved reindeer and mount them above the big screen TV they bought for 50% on Thanksgiving.

Let’s not pass by the buffet of bundt cakes, sugar cookies, and dried salami. Apparently, in a Southern potluck, good will towards man involves filling your stomach until it pops like a pressure cooker. More people that we would like to acknowledge are underfed while we gorge ourselves on Holiday gift baskets. The Salvation Army bells ring, yet the cycle continues.

Ultimately, the dream of a proper Southern Christmas and the reality never quite match up. It hardly ever snows here in Georgia, and certainly not at Christmastime. If it did, a grayish black slush would litter the ground, not the fluffy trademark of Hallmark movies. At Stone Mountain Park, they developed a gigantic snow machines to manufacture a snow hill for winter festivities. Christmas, made, bought and sold.

Stone Mountain's "Snow Mountain", a commercial Christmas paradise.

Stone Mountain’s “Snow Mountain”, a commercial Christmas paradise.

Despite this knowledge of Christmas and what it lacks, the Yuletide criticism derives from a desire to return the special day to its purest form. This is a time for family and friends to gather together and to celebrate each other, something more important than the self. Regardless of a person’s religious leanings, there is a definite spiritual quality to Christmas that cannot be diluted.

This Christmas, take the time to slow down, enjoy the blessings in life, and focus on more important things than what’s trending on Twitter. Call on an old friend, buy gifts for Toys for Tots, or merely be a bit nicer to your grumpy uncle or your spoiled niece. These moments make the world more peaceful, if only for a few days.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Southern Fried Karma!

-Kelsey Asher