There's a freshly laid garland snare on the sidewalk.
I pause in my perambulation and listen. The faint crunch of nutcracker soldiers approaching through snow is audible beneath the wind. A few of the snowmen along the street move slightly. An assemblage of diminutive figures bustles in the shadows. Toys, probably. Or elves. No doubt reindeer are performing aerial recon maneuvers.
Oh yes, I am being hunted again.
I've certainly left them a clear enough trail. My footprints etch a playful pattern through the neighborhood. On each house I pass the colored lights glow brighter, the inflatable displays grow a tad larger, and the animated figures move more articulately.
Something snags my foot. It is a tripwire ribbon strung taut across the walkway. I look up as a net made of tinsel descends on me. With a flourish of my cane the net bursts into a thin cloud of snow that promptly scatters on the wind.
An angel perched on a treetop sounds her trumpet. The snowmen turn as one and begin their charge. Other figures appear from behind trees and bushes. I sigh. We've played out this little drama so often that it has become a tradition. But I have much work to do tonight, and cannot be bothered by such diversions. With a brisk leap I vault over the rooftops.

It would be easy to say their relentless pursuit is driven by some deep-seated envy of my noble calling, but such a simplistic dismissal would smack of vanity. No, I fear their motivations are far more devious: they harbor an irrational hatred of the holidays.
"But wait," you ask, "are they not themselves symbols and avatars of the holidays?"
Yes, they have been the standard-bearers for years, but it was I who brought a scope and magnitude to the affair that they could never achieve, who unearthed the True Meaning, who made Christmas what it is today.
You see, there was a time when I dwelled in the shadows. I was a spirit of mischief then, a beguiling mountebank who would plant seeds of thoughts in the minds of others. My only goal then was to bring an end to the holidays, to leech the zeitgeist of joy from this time of year. Every year I did my worst, crafting subtle machinations to snuff the gaiety, convincing villains to kidnap an avatar or steal a cache of gifts. Time and again I would see my plans undone by something as ridiculous as a singing child or a wayward animal, and the ungrateful villains would repent. The world could not be denied its celebration. It was quite frustrating. After a number of dismal failures the truth of the matter sank in: nothing I could do would ever curtail the exuberant aura of the season. It was a juggernaut of light and song. It could not be stopped.
And as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them…

It was I who first whispered into the ears of retail marketing folk that the seasonal displays should be erected earlier. That was the beginning of my campaign. As I land unseen in the commercial district, I smile at the wonders I have wrought. The stores are festooned with overwhelming displays. Everything is bright and loud, a magnificent assault on the senses. And the people! The teeming crowd jostles and elbows their way to merchandise shelves, stern faces hardly acknowledging one another, voices raised into cellphones, and tired children dragged in tow.
One of my proudest moments was the day after Thanksgiving, when I coaxed a good portion of the population to deprive themselves of sleep and warmth in order to storm the entrances of stores that opened in the small hours.
My detractors claim that the behavior of these adventurous souls is rude, but I say they are merely focused, squeezing as much from the holiday as possible. Even now, nearly a month later, they buzz like insects through the aisles, their demeanors stoic and determined, lured back by new sales and bigger discounts. I pass between them, stir and agitate them, silently remind them that they want to be here, compelled by a longing to fill some dull aching emptiness within them. It is true that there is the occasional argument or fight, but that just proves their devotion to the season.
If that isn’t the spirit of Christmas, I don’t know what is.
Across the street a mass of moviegoers oozes into a multiplex whose marquee glows with the large number of seasonal films that are showing. I smile as I remember the time I spent in Hollywood. Never had I seen such a dearth of integrity coupled with a staggering abundance of cowardice. I told those producers that the only way they could be part of my new holiday plans was to ceaselessly churn out a large number of over-the-top movies near year’s-end.  It can be argued that they are poorly written, shoddily executed, and, in the end, disposable, but does that matter? Does not the fact they are released every year, and that audiences continue to support them, speak to the unstoppable spirit of the time?
My persistent trackers close upon me again. From nearby I hear the sound of pipers piping. I pass a man who smells suspiciously of gingerbread. With a tap of my cane I rise buoyantly into the night.

As the holidays acclimated themselves to my influence, I realized that this new paradigm would require a figurehead if it was to really succeed. After a number of models, most of them irreverent and filled with irony, I decided upon a playful impish form. It is derivative, I know, but I can alter it later once I'm established. Look at how many incarnations Kringle has had. I still haven't decided on a name yet, but there are market researchers and focus groups that can help with that.

In the air I tune my senses in to the radio frequencies, and what I hear makes me weep with joy. The spectrum hums with cellphone calls. People everywhere partake in aimless conversations that convey nothing of importance or interest. Can there be a greater sign of the holidays than communication itself becoming decorative and ornamental?
And then there are the music stations. I, muse-like, have inspired even those devoid of talent to try their hand at holiday classics. With a brave, almost pioneering spirit they graft familiar songs onto untenable rhythms and pepper them with incompatible vocals. Such an act would be admirable enough, but I don’t stop there. I make sure that music plays from speakers everywhere. The background environment thrums with the sounds of the wholly unskilled and barely coherent, who want nothing more than to be part of the grand tradition. My erstwhile adversaries would be satisfied with trite carolers. They lack the vision to imagine the sounds of the season being so pervasive. I also gave the world the growing number of bombastic Christmas music stage productions, and the unending glut of off-color carols and parodies.  
Holiday ringtones? That was me. I'm particularly proud of that one.
I look down and see an ambulance passing beneath me. The opposition has repeatedly claimed that this new era of celebration is a direct cause of stress-related heart-attacks, nervous breakdowns, and suicides. This is, of course, preposterous. Every day the news is full of tales and doom and misery, society is rife with bad habits and bankrupt philosophies, and yet somehow I, who brings only good tidings, am the one to blame for the spike in hospital admissions.
That it not to say that there haven't been drawbacks. The slow-moving lights of a nearby highway and the myriad planes that cruise overhead are sad reminders of my disappointments. As much as I wanted to bring more people together for longer periods of time, I found that I simply could not improve upon the state of holiday travel.
I alight upon some cables strung between poles, and let the signals they carry fill me. Once holiday television was a wasteland, supported by a handful of so-called “classics” and hobbled by an unwarranted sense of moderation. It was I who persuaded it to fulfill its potential, bestowing upon even the most forgettable of celebrities the ambition to embark on lavish holiday specials, and ensuring that every program on every network spends a minimum of six weeks dedicated to the season. They are my unrelenting propaganda machine.
And the internet, oh, my finest playground. I bend and touch the cable. With a flash I send a part of myself into the realm of information. That interactive electronic medium that connects everyone, a trove of knowledge and wonders that trickles down to phones and handhelds. From 1s and 0s I weave holiday scams, advertisements, recipes, animated cards, sales notices, and chain letters spreading falsehoods and urban legends. I watch people’s faces light up in wonderment as my gifts fill their inboxes. Under a thousand aliases I insinuate myself into the greatest aspect of the web: chat rooms. Here, those who prefer reclusive lifestyles spend hours bantering behind the shelter of anonymity. I post messages, start arguments over the new movies and holiday songs, mock obsolete beliefs, and belittle those who complain about the current state of Christmas. The discussions are joined by others. The bandwidth bursts with instantaneous dialogs. My endeavors bring people together more than the old regime ever could. They will be up all night insulting and disagreeing, fuelled by spite and caffeine, warm in the knowledge that they alone are right.
Could there be a greater gift?

I dance sprightly along the cables into yet another neighborhood.
There was a time when a modest string of lights and a candle in the window were sufficient. But this is a modern age for modern folk, and I compel them to outdo themselves with decoration. Behold the grandeur that has accreted around each house! The dazzling retina-searing displays! The massive animatronics! The many inflatable figures and creatures! The streets pulse and undulate. My rivals say these are a useless consumption of power and materials, but when have the holidays been about restraint?
Indeed, and therein lies the True Meaning. The holidays set the conditions that shape the character of a culture, and I have made them openly obtainable for everyone: the ignorant, the mediocre, the ethically challenged, the corrupt. I take the reins of the season in their name, to demonstrate what "good will towards all" really means.
Yes, I have worked arduously to usher in this age, but not everyone is enamored with the results. Some claim the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is now too contrived and packaged, or that it is taken too seriously. Fortunately these misguided souls are usually shunned or labeled as persecutors. My pursuers, however, are not so easily deflected. They have passed judgment on me, deemed me unfit to spread holiday cheer, labeled me the Bane of Christmas. But I say hogwash! How dare they criticize my fabulous handiwork! They are fools, arrogant enough to think they are better suited to this task than I, and blind enough not to see the truth. I am the future of the holidays, and they hate that. Why else would they malign my work and commit themselves to stopping me?
Let them come. I am the harbinger of all things glorious. I will not rest until every molecule resonates with holiday spirit! Until every iota of existence is saturated with songs and light! Celebration shall be mandatory! They shall sing my name (whichever one I decide upon), and my dominion shall be at hand!

I stand in the street amongst the gently falling snow and let my pursuers catch up to me. A volley of icicle projectiles shunts into the ground nearby. A formation of heavily-armed sugar plum fairies begins its approach. The martial din of toy drums and sleigh bells fills the night.
Come forth, my enemies, and do your worst.

Copyright 2007 Bad Day Studio