Saturday, December 10, 2005


Bill O’Reilly – Mr. Falafel his ownself – is off ranting about the supposed War on Christmas, and several retail chains have drawn fire for instructing their employees to favor the more generic “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.” Meanwhile, you have the ridiculous spectacle of Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia throwing the switch to illuminate the “Holiday Tree.”

Political Correctness, meet Exclusion. Exclusion, Political Correctness.

Since this is my Personal Online Journal, I can use it as a Bully Pulpit to give my Esteemed Readers the benefit of my own worthless opinions on the matter. Worthless, because opinions are worth what you pay for ’em, and these don’t cost you a red cent. And, like opinions in general, they are similar to assholes: everybody has one, and everybody else’s stinks.

First off, let me say that it doesn’t make a difference to me how I am greeted by Strangers in Retail Establishments this time of year. This country has a sizable Christian majority, and if someone assumes I am a Christian and says “Merry Christmas” to me, I will respond, “Merry Christmas to you.”

If someone, on the other hand, says “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” to me, I assume they are trying to be inclusive, to cover all the eventualities. This season, after all, includes Christmas (the 500-pound gorilla of holidays) and New Year’s Day, as well as Chanukah and Kwanzaa. Some years, you can even throw Eid al-Fitr into the mix, depending on the vagaries of the Muslim calendar. “Happy Holidays” hits all the bases, without the need for excessive inquisitiveness.

Saying “Happy Holidays” does not “take the Christ out of Christmas,” for those who care about such things. We live in a pluralistic society, folks. Get over it. Nobody is trying to take Christmas away, nobody is “persecuting Christians.” Nobody with an ounce of sense, anyway. But if the occasional reminder that you’re not the only game in town is “persecution,” then welcome to our world.

As for this business of labeling Christmas trees “Holiday Trees,” that is taking Political Correctness way too far.

Christians decorate trees as a Christmas observance. It’s not a religious ritual - it is, in fact, a borrowing from pre-existing pagan culture – but it is a Christmas tradition, not a New Year’s Day tradition – and most emphatically not a Chanukah tradition. It is ridiculous to blur its distinctiveness by calling it something it is not…so knock it off. It is a Christmas tree, people.

The issue gets a little touchier when it comes to what is acceptable in the public schools. I believe religious observance has little if any place in a public school, but I am also a realist. If you’re going to have a Christmas play, or a Christmas choir concert, have one – and call it what it is, not some wishy-washy “Winter Festival.” All I ask is that if you throw in a piece of Chanukah programming in order to satisfy the Inclusion Gods, please make it something with a little soul. Ma-oz Tzur (“Rock of Ages”) would be a hell of a lot more meaningful than a stupid song about dreidels or potato latkes.

Face it. Christmas, to Christians, is one of the Big Two, right up there with Easter in terms of Dates of Religious Significance. Whereas to Jews, Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday. Post-biblical in origin, it commemorates a military victory and the rededication of the Holy Temple. The religious themes are there, but they are not of the transcendent nature of some of our other holidays – or of Christmas, for that matter. Using Chanukah as a stalking horse, trying to compete with Christmas, is absurd - yet American Jews have been doing it for years. Enough, already.

Christians: Enjoy your holiday season. Merry Christmas. Light up that Christmas tree and enjoy the splendor of the day with your families.

And if you want to get pissed off because someone is fighting a War on Christmas, look to yourselves. Look to the retailers, who trot out the Christmas decorations and start playing seasonal music before the Hallowe’en candy has even been sorted through. Look to the people for whom it’s “just business,” not a meaningful religious holiday. Then drive home from the mall and shut the hell up.

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