A Holiday Tradition that Just Won’t Die

December 14, 2011

By Gary Laderman from Religion Dispatches
It’s that time of year again. Shoppers are looking for gifts, It’s a Wonderful Life is starting its endless loop on television, families are making plans to come together for the traditions that mark the season, and the pervasive awareness that another year has passed is creeping into our collective consciousness. For as long as I can remember, the buildup to the New Year in holiday media coverage has included one particularly poignant element that now, as I come ever closer to 50 years old, haunts me more than arouses curiosity—the rollout of the year’s important deaths. The lists this year are noting the deaths of Joe Frazier, Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, Bubba Smith, Andy Rooney, Clarence Clemons, Geraldine Ferraro, and many others—some rich, some poor; some famous, some rather obscure; some young, some really old. So why do the dead crash the holidays, year after year? I do not know the longer history of these year-end death lists, or why media both old and new have embraced this annual practice. The lists are neither exhaustive nor comprehensive—most of them are cultural repositories of once living people who are no longer, ghosts now brought to the public eye and representing… what? Fame? Accomplishment? Impact? Tragedy? All these are relevant, no doubt.
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