It’s become a new holiday-season tradition: every year about this time, the right-wing loonies on the Internet and Fox News start their jabbering about the supposed “War On Christmas”: The insdious, ongoing (imaginary) effort by the “Secular Left” to stigmatize, suppress, and ultimately destroy the holiday.
Anyone who’s ever spent five minutes in an American city in November or December knows perfectly well that Christmas is doing just fine. It feels the height of understatement to say it is in no danger of extinction. But the fact that some people prefer to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” to strangers, thus acknowledging the possibility that said stranger might not actually be Christian and celebrate one of the other holidays that happens in December, represents to some an assault on their right to celebrate Christmas.
It seems to have fallen out of use, but when I was a kid “Season’s Greetings” was a very common, secular alternative to “Merry Christmas” and no one seemed to mind it. But then, there wasn’t an entire sector of news media devoted to creating an imaginary sense of persecution and victimization among Christians (and Republicans in general) in order to mobilize them into voting against their own best interests in those days.
Even if it were under attack, which it absolutely obviously is not, Christmas is doing just fine. I for one love Christmas, and I say that as a proud member of the Secular Left. (You should see what we get up to at the meetings. Lack of dogma plus permissive mores equals wiiiiiild times!) I love seeing my family, getting my son together with his cousins, the insane frenzy of the little kids opening their presents, the movies from It’s a Wonderful Life to Die Hard, the Bing Crosby and Elvis Christmas albums, the frosted snowman cookies — I love it all.
And yet, I am starting to feel it’s time to grab a helmet and a rifle and enter the fray and join the War on Christmas. Not because I hate it, or want it stamped out, but because it is outgrowing its already ample territory — the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years — and is threatening to overtake Halloween. It’s spreading, like Communism or reggaeton, and if we don’t contain it, none of our other holidays is safe.
The natural order of things is: Scary Halloween decorations in October. Squashes and turkeys and horns of plenty in November. And then advent calendars and mistletoe and Santa hats in December. That is the way things are supposed to be. But when Christmas trees are going up weeks before Thanksgiving and stores are advertising Christmas sales and Bing Crosby can be heard crooning “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” at Starbucks the week before Halloween, that a crime against nature and my two favorite holidays (#1: Thanksgiving; #2: Halloween; #3: Christmas) and I’m prepared to defend them by any means necessary.
It would be one thing if an annual overabundance of Peace On Earth And Goodwill Toward Men were leaking into November and October. That would be lovely and hardly something to complain about/take up arms against. But let’s be real: the trees and the holly and the music and the tinsel are out this early solely to infect everyone with Retail Fever, that uniquely American affliction where there’s no such thing as too many presents or too much plastic crap.
I am going to buy my kid more than his share of toys that he’ll probably lose interest in after ten minutes (if the last few Christmases are any guide). That ten minutes feels great and I don’t and won’t feel any guilt about it. But Retail America putting Christmas (more to the point, Christmas presents) on his brain two full months before the holiday is sadistic. He’s already written three Christmas lists, each longer than the last, and it’s both setting us up for failure (because we can’t possibly buy all this shit) and teaching him that Christmas is about presents first, second, third and fourth, with Peace On Earth And Goodwill Toward Men a distant also-ran.
The presents are great, and I’m certainly not saying I won’t give any, or want to get any — after all, we need a new vacuum cleaner — but the holiday is supposed to be about family and community and taking care of each other, not a contest to see who can run up the biggest AmEx bill before the end of the year.
And, more importantly, it’s crowding Halloween and Thanksgiving. BACK THE FUCK UP, CHRISTMAS. You’ll get yours when it’s your turn. Quit your crying, or I’ll put some coal in your prematurely hung stocking.