22 December 2011

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays, Some Yuletide Thoughts

One Christmas when I was a mere lad of 22 years I wished an acquaintance a Merry Christmas. I was unaware of the fact that the recipient of my seasonal greetings was Jewish. He (figuratively, of course) bit my head off. A few thoughts: 1) I was likely the latest in a long line of ignoramuses who's bestowed a Merry Christmas on him and he'd reached his limit. 2) He over-reacted. 3) Is it so horrible to have someone offer you good cheer for a holiday you don't celebrate? No.

That story now having been related, I must further add that this is the only time in my life anyone has snapped back at the proffering of a Merry Christmas. I have since been careful to go with the sanitary Happy Holidays when there is any question as to whether the other person celebrates Christmas.

American society has done a good job of recognizing that not everyone in this land makes merry on December 25. Allowances are now made for those of other faiths. True, some have gone overboard such as in calling a Christmas tree a Holiday tree. Come on, the only holiday the indoor tree with the trimmings can be for is Christmas. 

Christmas still reigns supreme as the holiday of the year in terms of shopping, decor, ubiquitous music, TV specials, adverts and the like. Yet there are still those chuckleheads at the ever hilarious Fox News that whine incessantly about a War on Christmas. Their primary complaint, of course, being the the re-branding of so many things that are Christmas, like trees and parades, with the word Holiday. At worst the whole deal is a tad silly, but a war? Would that all wars were so benign.

I have loved Christmas from the time I was a small child, through my teen years, young adulthood and now as I approach geezerhood. It is a life long infatuation that has had next to nothing to do with what some call "the true meaning of Christmas" i.e. the supposed birth of the savior. Christmas is wrapped up (no pun intended) in a lot more than Christian beliefs. There is of course the fact that the time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus was appropriated from the pagan solstice festival. But Christmas has come to have a lot of goodness associated with it that no amount of commercialization can destroy. (And by the way, the first complaints about the over commercialization of Christmas date back well over 100 years.)

There is a spirit of Christmas that doubtless has its origins in Christianity but is largely non denominational. Two of the better examples are Dickens' A Christmas Carol and the classic holiday film, It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Two stories that are timeless, not to mention beautifully told. A Christmas Carol has been made into a whole slew of feature films, several of which are quite good, one of which stars Jim Carrey. It is also been part of TV plots since the birth of the medium. 

In both stories visitations from the dead are required to set a man straight. George Bailey of IAWL doesn't realize how wonderful a life he has and how positive an impact he's made on so many lives. The angel Clarence shows him the light and thus earns his wings. In ACC, visitations by four ghosts (I'm including Jacob Marley) show the, let us say, Scroogelike Ebenezeer Scrooge, that holding tightly to all his monetary gains, especially at the expense of other, while ignoring the plight of the less fortunate, is a morally bankrupt way to live and die. You might say this is the original clarion call of the 99%.

There are hints to the birth of the holy redeemer in both tales, but these are essentially secular stories. Their messages are of loving one another, appreciating who we are and what we have, taking good and proper care of these lives and friends and family that we are so lucky to enjoy.

Christmas, many of us lament, comes but once a year. So too Groundhog Day and Presidents Day Weekend, but no one gets all weepy about their quick departures. Christmas gives us color (the trees and their lights alone) carols, and presents. Yes it is better to give than to receive but that doesn't mean a wrapped box with your name on it is anything to sneeze at.

I conclude with the following wishes to you all: Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Hyvaa Joulua, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten Buon Natalie, Lacus non leo and of course...Happy Holidays!

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