Bah. Humbug.

Cooking Rudolph. Criminalizing Jingle Bells. Drowning Santa.

I'm figure we ought to abolish Christmas, and then pan-fry those wretched reindeer. Not just Rudolph, either. Donner and Blitzen, Anglo and Saxon, Dancer and Prancer (who sound gay.) They'll all be sausage. And I'll get that fat goober in the sled, too.

I've got no problem with Christmas. Or with Christianity. Either might be worth trying. If people want to decorate the tree, and give the kids a really magical time that they won't find out until later doesn't remotely match the reality of this dismal universe, fine. I like Christmas. For that matter, kids aren't bad.

It's that damned music.

The stuff is everywhere, like sin and phone solicitation. Several thousand times a day comes that insipid song about a White Christmas, and something about a snowman. It never stops. Chingchingchingaching ringringringading dingdingdinga, sleigh bells ringing…

Does anyone at all want to hear it? Or have the retailers found that it stimulates the shopping gland? It's probably in the pituitary. Have store-owners learned that, like Pavlov's dogs salivating at the sound of a bell, when we hear Frosty we buy unneeded junk? "It's Christmas. Buy toasters."

The other night I went to a local rib pit that has good barbecue and, usually, good blues. I wanted to get a huge messy pulled-pork sandwich and listen to the great bluesmen, which is what they usually have. Foolish me, I thought I could escape.

No. They had some guy trying to bluesify those reprehensible reindeer. It was ridiculous. Here was a black man, probably grew up on Chicago's South Side. He knew gin mills and hard times, good lovin' but lots of bad, lousy paychecks and rainy days in the projects and three a.m. in clubs you've never heard of with the dance floor full. First-rate blues guy. And he's singing, "Dingdingdinga sleigh bells…." He's never seen a sleigh or a sleigh bell in his life. You could tell he was bored.

Not even Muddy Waters could make Winter Wonderland sound like anything but what it is: lame, saccharine elevator music. I don't know who wrote it, but I'm going to stuff him into a huge red stocking, and push him into an industrial grinder.

I asked the waitress when they would turn off this horror. She looked sympathetic and said, "After New Year. How do you think we feel? We have it all day."

See? It's like the Chinese water torture. I turned and fled.

It's not just the music. To my way of thinking, the country becomes uninhabitable for a whole month in the Winter Shopping Season. You see fifty thousand people milling around in a mall, wandering the aisles with glazed eyes in search of something to give to Ronny, and Billy, and Aunt Elmira with the mustache, and the sound system soughing, "I'm Dreaming of a …."

Me, I'm dreaming of a tire iron. And a mall operator to use it on.

Thing is, the milling shoppers don't really want to get anything for Aunt Elmira. They have to, though, because it's the Retail Season. You've heard of duty free shopping? Not this month. It's a duty. They make lists, like grocery lists only it's minor relatives: "I've done Rita and Margie and….maybe Bob would like a too-large shirt with an ugly pattern, or a Swiss Army knife that he hasn't the slightest need for, but it's on sale and we gotta get him something…."

And the soulless musical joy never ceases. I find myself antisocially completing verses:

"…He's making a list and checking it twice…."I'll get a blowtorch and fry his rice, Santa Clause is turning…brown.

Back when it was called Christmas instead of the Holiday Season, you could at least pretend that it had some meaning other than massive sales of things nobody really wanted. It doesn't. It's a month of compulsory expenditure. The sincerity of Hallmark, the spiritual depth of Disney, the spontaneity of Muzak.

I'm not sure even the kids like it. The idea is that they will go to bed dreaming of what Santa might bring them, some magical thing that is barely possible but will make them happy. What one actually sees every year is spoiled middle-class kids, almost bored, mechanically opening present after present.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly… Santa's wife is a half-grown collie…

I know. I'm going off the deep end. Maybe I listen too much to the little voices. If they start singing about Silent Night, I'll blow my brains out.

Even in the grocery stores they have the music. You can't buy pickled garlic and anchovies without bathing in aural sappiness. There's plenty of genuinely good Christmas music, or at least Christian music. The Messiah, things like that. But we get chingchingchingaching from crooners with groany-sweet voices. They sound like child molesters.

Actually, I think Rudolph has a red nose because he's a drunk.

The season has the intense spirituality that I associate with tax returns. A giveaway is the phrase, "exchange gifts," as in "We'll exchange gifts in the morning." You don't give Uncle Albert something you think he will really enjoy, because you are deeply fond of him, and want to make his life briefly happier until the regnant miseries of life reassert themselves.

No. You give him something because you have to, and in return he gives you something because he has to. It's an exchange, tit for tat. (I've always wondered what tat was.) Sort of like a wash sale in the stock market. Calibrated, of course, to Al's place in the pecking order of retail cheer: He's a distant relative, sort of an adjunct member of the family, so we'll only spend fifteen dollars on him, now, what can we find that costs fifteen dollars, maybe this clever shaving soap in the shape of a burro….

It's supposed to be a time of joy, Peace on earth and good will to persons. Yet most adults seem to regard it as an immense nuisance, and the single ones are just depressed. Somehow it has become, for many, a time to feel sad because they don't have the warmth and love that most other people seem to have but probably don't either. I'll bet the suicide rate goes up. And everyone seems so glad when it's over.

I just don't do it. Maybe we should all stop doing it, except for maybe a few treats for the kids. Instead we could get together with people we care about and have a huge meal. That would be it.

And put a bounty on those singers.