The word Christmas is on everybody’s lips. Yes, some mention is made of the “holiday season,” but often it seems more an attempt to avoid saying Christmas too much in one sentence.
Shoppers have played their part in the Christmas pantomime — since Thanksgiving, they have been falling over each other in buying their Christmas gifts, stopping only to administer some seasonal pepper spray. Why, even the elves on Wall Street took notice of consumer confidence and this helped lift the stock market. (The same thing happened long ago with the price of frankincense and myrrh.) So peace on Earth and goodwill among men — and ho ho ho to shopping. (Hey, give that video game to me, I saw it before you did!)
Christmas is good for everybody in his or her own way. But something is still missing. What is it? Ah yes, I remember now. The old chestnut has not been fully pulled from the fire: the one about the supposed war on Christmas.
Already the grinches are preparing a new campaign of seasonal grouchiness and never mind that just a few days after Thanksgiving, the part of our brains that stores the word “Christmas” is aching from over-repetition.
Already I have received the annual email that says the Obama administration has banished Christmas from the White House and the Christmas tree has been renamed a holiday tree — all of which is total nonsense, which explains why it is widely believed in the America of today, land of the free, home of the gullible.
Already I have received the poem written in the style of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” but this one, with a wonderful disdain for effective poetic scanning, declares: “Twas the month before Christmas/When all through our land/Not a Christian was praying/Nor taking a stand/See the PC Police had taken away/The reason for Christmas — no one could say ..”
Really? Not in my church. In fact, pull my other leg, it’s got a Christmas bell on it. But reality never intrudes on the fun of nursing this seasonal grievance. Every year without fail, sanctimonious grinches — seeking to promote a further sense of grievance among the chronically aggrieved — declare that Christmas is under secular assault because some stores, not knowing the religious affiliations of their customers, dare to wish their customers “Happy holidays.”
Well, while I would prefer to be wished “Merry Christmas” myself, I think happy is as happy is wished, and a good wish of any type is better than a poke in the eye with a burnt holly stick.
Further, any good wish at this time of the year is a genuflection, a nod, unwitting or not, to the eternal season of goodwill among men — and, of course, among those women who do not turn the shopping experience into a rugby scrum. Surely there are some.
My view is rooted in the conviction that the sacred Christmas has about as much chance of being supplanted by the secular Xmas as thin Santas have of catching on. People can shop until they drop, kids can sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” instead of “Silent Night” in schools, stores can endlessly wish their customers “Happy holidays,” and even when stripped of all the commercial glitter, what is left is still the peaceful glow emanating from an ancient manger.
It is said of hypocrisy that it is the homage that vice pays to virtue. That is the same function that the commercial Xmas serves in relation to the religious Christmas. Indeed, without a commercial Christmas to publicize the religious event, Dec. 25 might just be another easily forgotten church holiday. Where would we be then? With no Christmas fruitcakes serving as door stops, for one thing.
But that is not the most perverse part of the imagined war against Christmas. No, that distinction rests with those who lap up the annual Christmas-under-assault fiction, because they actually seem to enjoy feeling resentful and offended. They pile their imagined fears and lurking resentments on a Christmas bonfire of the mind and warm themselves in the self-righteous glow.
Instead of that, how about some Christmas peace and goodwill, just for a change. How about smiling instead of snarling when greeted with “Happy holidays” in the spirit of the season. How about some faith that the baby Jesus is not going to be upended by Frosty the Snowman.
Will I ever see such a Christmas? Probably not. The usual suspects can hardly wait to trot out the same old baloney. And baloney is no meal to serve up at Christmas.
Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.