Look, it’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ OK?
Yes, there are some people out there who really don’t celebrate Christmas and don’t even feel like they’re missing out on anything. There are families in America for whom Dec. 25 is just another day and December is just another month and Santa and his reindeer are as whimsical a piece of folklore as Paul Bunyan and his blue ox. These people aren’t huddled in a basement, gaping abjectly out of a grubby ground-level window at the power-gobbling, billion-watt Christmas light display across the street. They also aren’t stressed out in a mile-long line at Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, spending the dregs of their paychecks on presents for those forgotten cousins and sisters-in-law.They get the day off, sure, but they’re not baking a ham or caroling just to keep up appearances. Maybe they’re eating macaroni-and-cheese out of the box or doing the laundry or installing a wood floor. Still, these Christmas-skipping Americans aren’t offended by their neighbors’ several-week-long celebration, either. Christmas spirit, non-stop Christmas commercials and surround-sound Christmas music in stores do not make them melt like the wicked witch of the west. The national buying binge doesn’t leave them feeling shafted. The only people who feel shafted are those less-fortunate Christian Americans who can’t afford a new plasma TV or a Gameboy – or their heating bill or a new coat or a trip to the dentist. Yes, we have toy drives and clothing drives and canned-food drives and bell ringers, but if the rest of us weren’t so crazed swiping our debit cards at big-box stores, maybe those less fortunate wouldn’t feel left behind this time of year. Some Americans just want to be politely excused from the religious-retailing extravaganza. Because the ultra right wing is right: For all the pagan garnish and overwhelming materialism, Christmas, at its core, is a religious holiday – the only one, in fact, that’s also a national holiday. The pope doesn’t stay up until midnight on Thanksgiving or Labor Day. So the ultra-right also is wrong: There’s absolutely no threat to the celebration of Christmas in America. There wouldn’t have been even had John Kerry been elected. But because Christmas a religious holiday, its presence is rightfully banished from public institutions like town halls, courtrooms and schools. This notion goes to the root of American Democracy – while there is religious freedom for everyone, everyone is also free from religion. Religion does not belong in the administering of government, justice or education. And that, unfortunately, goes for Christmas plays in public schools. In the private world, where most of us spend our days, people can of course do whatever they want. But how about dropping all this “happy holidays” nonsense? Let’s also ban the phrases “holiday tree” and “holiday lights” and go back to calling them “Christmas trees” and “Christmas lights,” because that’s all they are. Let’s say, “Merry Christmas,” because that’s the only big holiday in December. Hanukkah isn’t even a very important holiday. There are half-a-dozen more significant holidays most people have never heard of – like Sukkot (the harvest celebration) or Purim (the best part of which is the ceremonial cookies.) A menorah, although some are displayed in front windows, is not a decoration. It’s religious symbol, just like a cross. And Jews, for example, do not put up Hanukkah lights. If a Jew (like me) hangs electric icicles from his porch (which I did), they’re Christmas lights. The tree in my living room is not a Maccabi pine, it’s a Christmas tree and it has only Christmas presents underneath. So we can yuletide our brains out and carol until we’re frostbitten and worship at midnight mass, even if we aren’t Christian.Let’s just do it without worrying about what our neighbors may not feel like doing. City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 606, or email@example.comVail Colorado