Televised Days of Christmas: Christmas Comes But Once a Year

[Is there a better way to celebrate the manger-birth of a superpowered messiah-baby than watching television? Hell no! Join Rendar Frankenstein as he navigates Spaceship OL through the Televised Days of Christmas!]

There is something to be said of the idea that human beings need excuses to party.

Think about it – holidays have been celebrated since the advent of the human species. While the pretenses and customs vary from tribe to tribe, most cultures have set aside days specifically for the purpose of cutting loose. Work is momentarily forfeited, and individuals are encouraged to engage in social events so that they can relax, enjoy the kinship of their peers, and contemplate concepts that transcend the corporeal.

It’s basically psychic catharsis.

Again, such is the necessity for relaxation that it has been prescribed by multitudes of societies. Anyone doubting this need only consider the confluence of December-holidays: pagans honor the winter solstice, Christians eagerly anticipate Christmas, Jewish folk rock Hanukkah, and of course the saturnalian Romans go bananas for Saturnalia. These holidays are different, for sure, but the common thread is that all celebrants look forward to shirking responsibilities and spending time with loved ones.

For many, the holiday season serves as the canvas upon which some of life’s most cherished memories are painted.

But what about those individuals who, for one reason or another, are without their families during the holidays? How would you feel if in the time between one Christmas and the next, you divorced your spouse and could no longer see your kids on a daily basis? What if you didn’t want to burden friends with your grievances? In what ways would this alter your attitude about the most wonderful time of the year?

If you’re Don Draper it means that you take a swig of booze, bang your secretary, and woefully declare, “I don’t hate Christmas, I just hate this Christmas.”

Christmas Comes But Once a Year is the second installment of Mad Men‘s fourth season, and boy oh boy does it explore the more depressing ways to celebrate Noel. At the forefront of this episode is Don Draper’s inability to cope with post-divorce woes, which leads him to drink like he’s never drank before! This is especially impressive when one considers the fact that Draper has earned a reputation as being a boozehound capable of drinking with the best of `em.

While the holidays are often synonymous with elevated blood alcohol contents, there’s no mistaking Draper’s drunkenness for liquor-fueled jubilation. Draper’s inebriation is so excessive in Christmas Comes But Once a Year that he actually starts making decisions that negatively affect his work. Examples? Well, how about when Don (perhaps in a state of hangover-agitation) walks out of a market research session being conducted by the fine-ass Faye Miller? Or what about the fact that Draper (for the first time in his career) bangs his secretary? For a dude who often defines himself by the excellence of his work, these are not minor foibles but serious infractions.

The titan of Madison Avenue has never been more broken.

Unfortunately, Don isn’t the only guy at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce having a bah-humbug Christmas. Thanks to the inane demands of the agency’s most important client, the office serves as the venue for an over-the-top Christmas party. Which would be awesome if everyone was on board for slingin’ shots with the boss and wearing lampshades on their heads. But Lane Pryce doesn’t even want to shell out company dollars for a small celebration, let alone a huge rager. At the very same party, Roger Sterling is coerced into donning a Santa suit. Of course, he’s belittled every step of the way and hates every moment of it.

In short, Sterling and Pryce are more than willing to hop on Draper’s bandwagon o’ X-Mas loathing.

To top it all off, even sweet Peggy Olsen is having a Grinch-tastic end to the year. Although initially excited to learn of Freddy Rumsen‘s return to the agency, she quickly tires of his chauvinism. After all, Peggy is an independent woman in male-dominated era and she doesn’t want to lose the little clout she’s managed to obtain. Additionally, Peggy acquiesces and finally sleeps with her new boyfriend, but she doesn’t know how to go about telling him that he’s hardly her first partner. Yikes.

So what can we glean from Christmas Comes But Once a Year? Well, in terms of understatement, it doesn’t hurt to recognize that every Christmas isn’t going to be a whiz-bang! miracle. The fact is that some Christmases might downright suck. There’s no stopping life’s bastardy-roughnecks if they want to mess us up in the midst of the holiday season: divorce. unemployment, depression, substance abuse, they can all come for us.

There are, however, a few things that we can do.

First, we can always fondly reflect on those years of Christmas past in which magic was made. Friendships formed. Love kindled. As long as we live with these memories, we can always return to them for inspiration.

Second, we can make a point to extend ourselves to others. If you come across a Donnie Draper, Roger Sterling, Lane Pryce, or Peggy Olsen, make a point to lend a helping hand. It’s corny and trite, but this is the time in which doing something small for someone else can make a huge difference. After all, Christmas comes but once a year…

So where’s the shame in helping our fellow man enjoy the only time of year specifically set aside for contentment?