Humbugged 

Watch sentimental Christmas movies. That is an order!

A week ago, I discovered that my fiancÇe is part of a misguided group out there that refuses to watch Christmas movies!

I was stunned by this revelation. I told her that it is a tradition for me and that I watch all of the best of them every year. It's just not Christmas without them. "Oh, spare me!" she said. "You can get warped by those things. Yecch!"

"But Christmas is Christmas movies," I opined. "Oh, puhleeze!" she replied. I tried to ask why, but I'm sure I was stammering. Eventually, she got my meaning and said, "They're all so cheesy and fake. And where is all this sentiment the other 11 months of the year?"

"But that's just their point," I said, with a Bob Cratchity air, "to encourage you to keep the Christmas spirit in your heart all the months of the year." "Bah, humbug!" she rejoined -- or words to that effect.

Now it should be noted at this point that this is not a flinty woman of unfeeling bitterness. She is demonstrably kind and caring and capable of great depths of tenderness. How, then, can generations of delightful moppets and jolly old men, long-suffering heroines and loving reunions have failed to tap this mother lode of sentiment? I investigated.

"How about Miracle on 34th Street?"

"Never saw it."

"The Bishop's Wife?"

"Nope."

"A Christmas Carol -- the one with Gene Lockhart?"

"Unh unh."

"Christmas in Connecticut?"

"No."

"Well, what the hell have you seen that seemed so emotionally bankrupt?" I inquired, having momentarily lost patience and some Christmas spirit of my own.

"Oh, lots of those TV specials -- you know, Christmas on Walton's Mountain, Whoopi Goldberg as Ebenezer Scrooge, Happy Holidays from Gilligan's Island. Nobody watches that really old stuff anymore. They're all the same."

"All the same?!" I choked. "All the same?! Yeah, all the newer ones are the same as each other but not the same as Frank Capra movies!" No wonder her perception and that of her holiday-challenged ilk were so warped! Capra equals cable? Ridiculous!

There followed a mutual diatribe that endangered our relationship. She was stubborn; I was stalwart and nobly persistent as a plan formed in my mind. I could see that the only way my fiancÇe could experience the true Christmas spirit is the same way we're helping Iraq to experience democracy -- brute force.

For the good of the season and these misguided people, for the salvation of Christmas itself, a new holiday tradition must arise: For each of the eight days preceding Christmas (my Jewish friends should enjoy the irony), loved ones should be made to watch at least one of the prescribed films. In my fiancÇe's case, I will be at her side with a box of Kleenex to dry tears and answer questions. There will be a fire on the hearth and a nut-encrusted cheese ball on the table. Naturally, to make this work, she will be subject to restraint, so I'll be gently lifting an eggnog to her lips from time to time. (I'm leaving a small hole in the duct tape over her mouth for the straw.)

I am convinced that after a few days of this, she'll come around and see that Christmas is indeed not about us but about something larger -- like America, Hollywood, or Madison Avenue.

Come to think of it, maybe I have seen Miracle on 34th Street one time too many.

Dan Johnson is director of computing services at Exel Transportation Services, Inc.

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