12.17.2006

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We're ignoring the late-December madness completely this year. We don't celebrate any of these December holidays - we wait for the Most Important Date in the Kaminker-Wood household: January 3, the anniversary of our domestic partnership. Some years we send holiday cards, and some years we do our version of going all-out and make our own card.

But this year, we're moving, we have an anniversary trip planned in January - and Tala is coming! A lot to look forward to in January, and December is just another month.

Except for the ads, the Christmas muzak, the co-workers reciting litanies of what they bought for whom... This year I'm finding it pretty easy to tune out. Not working in Rockefeller Center sure helps!

I've noticed something new this year. Long ago, I blogged about platitudes, meaningless expressions that drive me nuts. Nuts! This year I'm hearing one that's new to me: "Why do the worst things always happen around Christmas?"

The answer is easy: they don't.

If by "around Christmas," one means December, then you've got a one in twelve chance of the Bad Thing occurring around that time. If you charted everyone's life histories, noting every Bad Thing, you'd probably find them pretty evenly spaced through the year. Even persistent urban legends like an increase of suicide attempts on New Year's Eve and an increase in domestic violence around Super Bowl have been debunked. Why did this particular Bad Thing happen around Christmas? Coincidence. Why does it seem like Bad Things happen around Christmas? Because those are the ones you're remembering.

But most people don't like coincidence, and they don't believe in them. Thus my least favourite platitude in all the world: everything happens for a reason.

In my universe, there are no reasons. There are only coincidences, and random chance.

14 comments:

James said...

It's all coincidences, but for some people the coincidences build up just by chance, unfortunately. For Lori, late Dec/early Jan is the anniversary of her father's death, her cancer, her grandmothers' deaths, one grandfather's death, one aunt's cancer diagnosis, her mother's death, and her hypothyroid diagnosis.

Some of it feeds on itself, too -- Lori gets stressed every Christmas because of the anniversaries, which contributed to the hypothyroid. I've been working on getting her to relax in December for years. Holiday-related stress contributes a lot to heart attacks, strokes, and other Christmas-time disasters.

L-girl said...

God, that's horrible. My point, though, is that all those coincidences in Lori's life could have happened in March or August - and in some people's lives, they have.

Holiday-related stress contributes a lot to heart attacks, strokes, and other Christmas-time disasters.

Is this true, though? Is there evidence that supports it?

L-girl said...

and other Christmas-time disasters.

People being crushed by Christmas trees, or falling off ladders while decorating them - I'll give you that. :)

Also, people falling through ice is more likely to happen in December than July. But that's not because of Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the least Christmassy people you could ask to find, but I miss the dickens out of Rockefeller Center. Yes, it's tourist central, but it's a central spot for New Yorkers too. And there is something about the unselfconsciousness of people skating that gets to me.

There's also the creche at the Met. Oh piffle, I'm really missing New York for the first time since I left.

On your other subject, wasn't there a study that showed there is a correlation between milestone anniversaries (not just centenaries), or tasks, and people dying shortly thereafter? I guess that's not a pure function of the calendar, though.

L-girl said...

I used to love Rock Center at Xmas time, too - until I started working there on weekends. It was a nightmare. It could take half an hour to walk one block. It got so bad I couldn't go outside all weekend - two 12-hour days without stepping a foot outside, and then a nightmare getting home.

That sure got Rockefeller Center out of my system!

Nigel Patel said...

I'm skipping Xmas this year and seem to be getting a pass.
A sign of uncondittional love, loving the flake who didn't get you any presents but he's here eating your food.
A weird world of options open up when you Flake Out.

L-girl said...

On your other subject, wasn't there a study that showed there is a correlation between milestone anniversaries (not just centenaries), or tasks, and people dying shortly thereafter? I guess that's not a pure function of the calendar, though.

I think I've seen that. I believe those were personal milestones in people's lives, though, not "the holidays". But I couldn't swear to it either way.

L-girl said...

NP, of course you get a pass this year. And some year in the future, when you're all emotionally fit and happy, you'll give someone else a pass.

Nice to see you here. :)

James said...

God, that's horrible. My point, though, is that all those coincidences in Lori's life could have happened in March or August - and in some people's lives, they have.

Oh, certainly. And there are others that got left out: the aunt who was diagnosed near Christmas died in mid-summer; the day of the funeral is when Lori's mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.

No mysterious meaning; just the way things happened.

Is this true, though? Is there evidence that supports it?

I believe I've come across a few studies that support it. It's not a huge effect -- not nearly the size of the "everything bad happens in the holidays" myth -- but unlike the "full moons make people weird" myth, there is a slight statistical correlation.

It's similar to the birthday effect -- for some people, Christmas is more personal than birthdays, for example (IIRC, there's at least one Christian sect that doesn't celebrate birthdays at all, but does celebrate Christmas).

L-girl said...

Boy, Lori can be forgiven for hating December. I'd be always waiting for another shoe to drop.

JWs don't celebrate birthdays, and I think they don't like Christmas, either. Easter's the thing, IIRC. We'd have to do a study to find out if JWs have the "everything bad happens around Christmas" effect. ;-)

Nigel Patel said...

I've always felt self consious about commenting on serious blogs since I'm such a belly-button-blogger myself.

L-girl said...

I've always felt self consious about commenting on serious blogs since I'm such a belly-button-blogger myself.

This blog is only half-serious.

Serious or no, your comments are very welcome.

James said...

Boy, Lori can be forgiven for hating December. I'd be always waiting for another shoe to drop.

Though, to be honest, she's working form a pretty small sample size. All of those only happened in two different years -- once when she was 20 (father, cancer, grandmother) and once about 12 years ago (mother, aunt, other grandmother, grandfather, thyroid).

She calls those the "years from hell"

L-girl said...

In fact, superstition is all about small sample size. The team won when I wore this shirt, a bad thing happened when I saw a black cat, I prayed to [whoever] and [whatever] happened...

Not in relation to Lori, of course, but whole religions and cults are founded on not much more than that.