'Christmas blues': a myth debunked
The merry news this Christmas is that the infamous holiday blahs have been proved to be more theory than fact. You can wrap a gold ribbon around these good tidings and place the package under our tree. Year by year we've felt more and more, well, blah at the sight of guest psychologists commandeering talk shows and newsprint the first week of December to warn everybody against ''Christmas-depression syndrome,'' and worse.
Cases of melancholia, these experts have told us, multiply like snowflakes at the sound of the first jingle bell. Now -Psychology Today magazine comes along with its December issue to report that there are absolutely no data to support the psychologist-popularized notion of a gloomy, gloomy Christmas. According to the figures of the National Center for Health Statistics, there are actually fewer suicides in December than during any other month of the year.
In short, the so-called Christmas blues are mostly a rumor, verified by repetition.
We're prepared to grant the argument that too much shopping and partying can produce a dismal mood any time of the year. Overexposure to Bing Crosby on Muzak is also hazardous, and some people have been known to break into sobs after passing one too many windows with silver gilt glued to them.
But these are excesses that really have nothing to do with Christmas. We don't want to give the psychologists any ideas - they're quite capable of inventing syndromes by themselves. But they might as well babble about the Fourth of July syndrome, thus providing a highfalutin explanation for people whose heads buzz with melancholy from standing too close to the cannon crackers, not to mention the drum-and-bugle corps.
Everybody's so responsive these days to any suggestion that sounds clinical. Describe a symptom - any symptom. Adolescent stress? Middle-aged panic? We look in the mirror and find it every time. Christmas blues? Why, of course! That's it exactly!
When people don't know what they think, they think what they're told. When people don't know what they feel, they feel what they're told. And that's even worse - this packaged sadness, this prefab anger and ennui.
How eagerly we subscribe to every enumerated malaise, like hypochondriacs of the psyche!
The Christmas blues give the real blues a bad name. In its original use, the term ''blues'' applies to a very spunky music. Blues singers may feel so bad they could ''lay right down and die.'' But they never do. They defy with swagger the demons that beset them. They poke fun at their own self-pity. They issue an ultimatum to the troubles of human existence: ''Don't mess around with me.'' There is little of the passive victim to a blues singer.
When Jimmy Rushing included a reference to Christmas in one of his blues, the lines pealed out, jolly and ebullient.
You can't set a syndrome to music.
If there is a missing factor to Christmas nowadays, it may be music - and we don't mean ''White Christmas'' or ''Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'' What we're thinking of is the inner music - the irrepressible sound of joy that bursts from the heart of a carol.
Bells ring. Stars dance. Choirs of angels sing. Snow falls, innocent and white and rhythmic. The universe claps hands and signals its deliverance. It may be night, but it is a darkness ablaze with promises. ''All my heart this night rejoices,'' sings the caroler.
At this point, where song is pure celebration, Christmas knows no blahs. Christmas knows no blues.