Right now I feel like a little piece of towel fuzz that has fallen into the bath water. The water is rushing toward the drain and I’m in the little tidal-wavey part at the end going, “Heeeelp! I’m going under!”
So much for the joy of the season. I’m in the final days of a massive food drive that I’m running out my house (because I’m a complete idiot), plus I have a work deadline. Oh, and the other thing that I have? Christmas. That slobbery, rude beast (according to my last post) is currently sitting in my living room in his underwear with his feet on the table. He’s got the remote and has taken total control of the TV (“Hey! There I am again! Look! I know you’ve seen this a hundred times but it never gets old, does it? Whaddaya know? I’m on THIS channel, too!”) and he keeps asking for refills on his egg nog. He’s trying convince me that I should string my own popcorn and cranberries, and I’m like, “Look, dude, I know that’s very cozy and folksy and all, but did you notice that I have a toddler? We’re already whistling past the graveyard by putting up a tree in the first place. Now would you mind moving for a sec so I can retrieve that pile of clean laundry that you’re sitting on? I know it’s the holidays, er Christmas, whatever… but some of us still have things to do…”
So I’ve been neglecting the little bloggity blog. But I miss you all so much. So right now, when I really, really should be working, I’m here with you. Christmas just slunk into the kitchen and gave me a thumbs up. He must think I’m working on my Christmas newsletter to the family… Any day now..
But don’t get me wrong. I love him. I do. He’s sort of a high-maintenance houseguest, but we’ve known each other a long time and we’ve had a lot of great memories together. He doesn’t even get mad that I personally wish strangers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
I’ve been doing that for a long time and not because I’m some self-satisfied whiney liberal but because I’ve always had Jewish friends. I have always been aware that not everyone does the Christmas thing. It just seemed polite that if Ididn’t know any better, I should go neutral. But then the last few years this whole Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays thing has turned into some sort of hot potato. The Sears near us a few years ago was having a “holiday” sale. On the windows facing the parking lot, they had a sign that some employee had obviously just printed out in the office. It said, “Merry Christmas.” Each big black letter filled a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 copy paper. My guess is that someone called the store and said that they weren’t going to shop at any “holiday” sales.
And here I echo the wise sentiments of my old college roomie, Renee, who commented under the Christmas Song Game post: Don’t we all have better things to worry about? If someone innocently wishes you incorrect holiday wishes, so what? Now if someone is purposely being ignorant about it and only says “Merry Christmas” to people simply because it’s December, that’s another story. (No, I don’t know of anyone doing that. Although I’m sure that guy is out and about somewhere, scowling as he walks around public places just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing.)
Now I will offer a guilty confession: I have sent many of my Jewish friends Christmas cards on purpose. And here’s why: When I’m sitting there, sending out greetings to everyone I love in the world, I want to acknowledge my Jewish friends, too. The problem is that I was born with a sad birth defect in which I lack “the shopping gene.” I’m sure that I’ll tell you more about this in future blogs, but what it means for our topic today is that I never have any Chanukah cards. So I take Christmas cards and cross out the word “Christmas” with a black marker and scribble in the word “Chanukah.” It’s incredibly stupid. But I also think hilarious. And I have great, funny friends. They already know that I’m a goon and that I have a weird sense of humor. I think they probably laughed. (Did they? I hope so…)
To me, the Christmas/Holday things seems more like a marketing problem. The people in my life are aware of what holiday I celebrate and I am aware of what holiday they celebrate. Sears and the mall don’t know us. They just want us to come in and shop. The whole “holiday sale” thing has always been a wink-wink thing anyway — it’s a bit disingenuous to say that they’re covering all of the holidays when the mall nearby is festooned (love that word) from top to bottom in red and green and then there is one menorah on the second level, so plain and unobtrusive that it could be part of a safety railing.
My Jewish friends tell me that Chanukah isn’t the same caliber holiday as Christmas, in that it’s not one of the big-deal holidays, religion-wise. I think it’s funny that marketers have tried to make it so in order to appeal to everyone. It’s like all the Christmas people are sitting down to stuff themselves silly with gorgeous filet mignons — and on their plates, the Jews each have one Slim Jim. As the Christmas people take their first bite, moaning at how good their steak are, they look at the Jews’ plates and go, “Oh, that looks good, too. Bet you can’t wait to dig in.” It’s not the same and we’re not kidding anyone to pretend that it is. That’s not to say that Chanukah is an inferior holiday. I’m just saying that it’s not the holiday where they’re breaking out the fancy food. In fact, a lot of my Jewish friends say that they order Chinese on Christmas day.
Doesn’t the whole debate seem kind of pointless as Christmas has become so secular, anyway? Do you really need to believe that Jesus was the son of God in order to cash in when a big, fat man is offering free presents? And here, I’m going to defer to my friend Stephen’s awesome write-up about “Krismas,” which is in the comments section of the Christmas Song Game post. He wrote up a great explanation of why Christmas is now a secular holiday and to that I say, “Amen.”
Let’s keep our eye on the ball: this can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s use it to come together and show our love to the people around us, friends and strangers alike.
Just one last thing: Keep in mind that if you are going to be so insistent that people respect your holiday and only wish you a Merry Christmas, you must return the favor and be respectful of their holidays, even if you don’t understand them. Even if it’s Kwanzaa — a holiday that someone made up. (But aren’t all holidays made up?) But how are you supposed to know if someone celebrates Kwanzaa anyway? It’s not like they wear signs or anything. How can you tell?
Exactly. So Happy Holidays to you all!