Alright, allow me to clarify: I do get why Christmas is seen as “romantic” in the classical sense of “an idealized version of reality,” what with the sparkling trees and the spirit of generosity and chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that. I even associate the idea of Christmas with the idea of snow, even though I’ve never experienced snow during Christmastime once in my life (I live in Texas, so this is to be expected).
What I don’t get is why Christmas is seen as romantic, in the sense of kisses and dates and amatonormativity. And by “seen as”, I’m referring to everything from the romantic-sexual Christmas songs on the radio (from the uncomfortable “Santa, Baby” to the even more uncomfortable “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) to all the Christmas romcoms that exist for some unholy reason.
Admittedly, the mistletoe thing may have a big part in it. But according to my cursory research, the symbolism of mistletoe used to be more broad as well.
The Christmas holiday is not all that ideologically important to me, I should note, so this isn’t much of a bother besides the heterosexuals throwing their stuff in my face yet again. I just find it kind of mystifying.
Why not Easter, for example? I hardly ever hear of people romanticizing/sexualizing Easter, even though it’s traditions are ripe with potential. It has pagan origins as a fertility festival, for Pete’s sake. Rabbits and flowers and eggs as its symbols? What do you think all that is about?
Easter hasn’t made as much of an imprint on the American imagination, however. Granted, out of the two, Christmas is the holiday that’s easier to monetize (“celebrating the giving of gifts” vs. “celebrating new life”). But does it necessarily follow that what’s easier to market becomes that which is given more cultural precedence becomes that which becomes more romanticized and sexualized?
You might also argue that it’s because Christmas is in the winter (in this hemisphere), and cold weather inspires people to huddle together and share warmth. In the context of a culture in which personal touch is heavily coded as sexual and/or romantic, the entire idea of winter itself could be romanti-sexualized. But we equally sexualize the summer when it’s expected for people to show more skin and wear less clothing, for similar reasons. So why isn’t the Fourth of July, a summer holiday in America that encourages spending, given a similar treatment?
The romantic discourse swirling around Christmas may be intuitive on some levels, but it remains strange to me, not only because its current rendition is so far removed from the shabby Mediterranean birthday story it’s supposedly based on, but because I and so many others associate Christmastime with family time, for better or for worse. That doesn’t mesh naturally with dating and romance, from my point of view.
You could say I’m overthinking it, but it remains pretty dang weird.