Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas Nazis

     I'd like to say I have nothing against Christmas, but that's not entirely true. I resent it a little bit. I feel like I can't really admit this, though, because I'm Jewish and I don't celebrate Christmas anyway. It probably requires a devout Christian to stand up and say, "OK enough with the crappy music piped in through the mall, enough with the crass commercialism, enough with the stupid notion that if you don't send everyone you've ever met a card you're a bad person. That's not Christmas." It probably requires that sort of person, so I won't say it. My job is to say, "Of course I don't mind being bombarded with lousy music, pushy salespeople, people asking me if I've got my tree, or when I as a kid, asking me what I wanted Santa Claus to bring me. I love the season because it brings out the best in people, plus the lights are so pretty."
     That's what I'm supposed to say. I think. Except that it's bull. I know most people love this season - they approach it and turn into kids again. Except I guess most people weren't very good kids. The fighting in the stores is the least of it. The gluttony of the month is disgusting and the lack of personal self control is appalling. The manager of my company gym told us today that the average American gains 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Even the Canadians who celebrate Thanksgiving 2 months earlier don't gain that much!) Think - an average of 7 pounds. That means there are plenty of people out there gaining 10 or 20 or 30 to make up for those of us who aren't stuffing our faces. Then of course there's the inevitable intolerance.
     You know what I'm talking about. It happens every year. It even happened this year at Easter. People stop being happy and start being angry. I think they forget that Christmas is a one-day holiday. They demand that stores and people they meet on the street celebrate Christmas all month long. If a cashier doesn't wish them a "Merry Christmas", they blow up. If a store sign says, "Happy Holidays", they write an angry letter. Forget that the owners may not celebrate Christmas. Forget that not all of their customers celebrate Christmas. Forget that they may not even be in a holiday-related store. They're not looking to celebrate Christmas early - they're looking to force everyone around them to pretend to celebrate.
     Someone I know (who shall remain nameless) works for investor relations for a large company. That person showed me a letter send to the company from a very angry man about the use of the words, "Happy Holidays".
"I would like to provide feedback on the customer profile of the vast majority of your customers. I would like to repeat, ?The vast majority of your customers?. Everyone I know is offended by companies trying to take CHRISTMAS out of CHRISTMAS. I suspect that sales would flourish to retailers that aren?t afraid to call it what it is, CHRISTMAS. I also believe that retailers will find shrinking support for those who are attempting to secularize our culture. Since we celebrate CHRISTMAS on December 25th, I personally won?t buy gifts from companies attempt to disguise it as something other than Christmas. They are, in fact, Christmas ornaments, they are Christmas trees."

     Uh, OK. It's interesting that the demographic that is the first to say we can't tell corporations it's not alright to pollute is also the first to tell them how to recognize their religion. But let's go over this one more time. Just because the majority of this company's shoppers celebrate Christmas, it doesn't mean they are obligated to tell everyone "Merry Christmas". If that were the case, would companies have to tell you in the evening, "Have a good dinner?" How about, "Hope you have a good bowel movement when you get home"? "I hope you have good sex with your spouse tonight?" Most people do those things when they are at home. Why isn't this guy pissed off that the store doesn't tell him that? Or is it just the religion part that gets his panties all bunched up in a wad? Then why isn't he threatening to boycott them if they don't tell him, "Enjoy church tomorrow" on Saturdays?
     It's not just the lone wackos writing letters to corporate offices though. If that were the case, this would be a pretty stupid article I'm writing. It's mainstream right-wingers like Neal Boortz who keep propagating this bizarre idea. In this blurb, he basically echoes the nut in the letter above (Or could it be the other way around..... hmmmmm) when he says that 85% of Americans celebrate Christmas (I think it's more) so everyone has to say, "Merry Christmas". Somehow the citizens of America have turned "equal protection for all" into "if I have more votes, I win and you lose". Life has become a football game. But while Presidential elections have to have a winner and a loser (2004 had 2 losers), not everything else does. If you're ordering 4 pizzas for a bunch of friends and a 3/4 of them want pepperoni, you don't have to put pepperoni on all 4 pizzas just because you have a majority. That wouldn't even qualify as selfish, because it just doesn't make any sense and it wouldn't benefit you anyway. The best way I can characterize it is evil - you just want to see someone lose.
     So if you're shopping, and some of the people don't say "Merry Christmas", don't be evil just because you have a majority. There are other people out there who don't need to "lose". If you really believe that everyone has to conform to your beliefs in order to make your world bearable, well, Happy freakin' holidays, jerk.


kaitlin said...

I agree that people shouldn't expect a Merry Christmas everywhere they go. But some places are too sensitive about not saying the word Christmas. I mean, for many people who celebrate it, it's not a religious thing. And for some people it is. But more, it's a secular holiday that happens to have some Christian complement. Who knows. But the problem is people trying to be TOO politically correct. Yes, they're selling CHRISTMAS trees--they're not "holiday trees." You wouldn't call a menorah a "holiday candle holder" or something along those lines. It's just people take the politically correct thing too far, that's all.

I tell you what the worst thing is. Radio stations that play Christmas music day in and day out. Now, I can understand the week leading into Christmas, people sometimes like their Christmas tunes. And sometimes, interspersed in there during the earlier part of the month. I can even understand playing it after Thanksgiving because that's typically when a lot of people trim the tree (though not all). But, there are some stations that started, not after Thanksgiving...not ON Thanksgiving...oh, no, they started the DAY AFTER HALLOWEEN! What is that about? I mean, isn't two months of the jolly songs a bit much? Don't they lose some of their appeal as being connected to the holiday when we stretch it out so much? That's just what I think though...

Ben said...

I agree with Kaitlin. It's annoying when CHristmas is shoved in your face all the time, but it's also annoying when people deicde to repackage what is obviously Christmas stuff as "Holiday" whatever so as not to offend people. Heck, I even heard about a manger scene some private school was doing, and they removed the words Christmas and Jesus from it, and they put up menorahs and Kwanzaa whatevers.... That's just silly.

Someone at work this morning mentioned that it was only 24 days until Christmas, and I was like, "Great." So she's says, "Jews don't celebrate Christmas?" like this was some huge discovery. I'm constantly amazed at how many ignorant people there are out there.

Mainline Mom said...

Wow, I can't believe this, but I agree with Scott, kaitlin, AND Ben. As I mentioned over on Alisa's blog, I'm fine with people wishing me a Happy Holidays. I would feel weird if everywhere I went, people wished me a Happy Hannukah. (Why are their so many spellings of that word? It's confusing for us gentiles) I think a Christmas tree is a Christmas tree, and I wouldn't mind seeing more menorahs around. I had to point out to my mom last year that someone gave her a box of chocolates shaped like a star of David. She thought it was just the Bethlehem star, till I pointed out on the back of the box it was made by some Jewish company. Anywho, let me have my Christmas, and I'll be happy to wish you a Happy Hannukah.

Ben said...

Mainline Mom, you are obviosuly prejudiced against Kwanzaa and its adherents sicne you didn't wish anyone a Happy Kwanzaa. Perhaps you should go to a sensitivity training course?

ORF said...

I celebrate Christmas, but I could do well without the commercialism of the holiday for a couple of reasons:

1) Everyone in the ads act like the holidays are a time of joy and happiness, but if you actually had a deep conversation with anyone post-Thanksgiving, you'll find that about 75% of the people you talk to had some kind of mildly effed up story to tell regarding their family. I know I do. I really do love Christmastime and think putting up a tree is one of the most enchanting things I do all year, but I hate it when advertisers act like it's ALL fun and games and sunshine, rainbows and teddy bears. There is some rough shit that goes down for most people in re: their families during the holidays and I wish we could all be a bit more honest and realistic about how difficult the holidays really can be. Because if your holidays are totally shitty, then you end up feeling like you're a dysfunctional a-hole.

2)The constant barrage of advertising often guilts people into spending beyond their means. This is nothing new, but it's particularly bad during the holidays. I heard an interview w/ a woman on NPR yesterday who confessed that she'd set a good budget for the holidays for her kids gifts, but two of them wanted iPods and she'd probably give in and wind up going $500 over budget. Five hundred dollars!!!! That is nearly one-month's rent for me. I certainly could not afford to do that, and anyone who has to set a budget for holiday spending most likely has no business doing that either. But it's really not this woman's fault, because she's merely incapable of facing up to the pressure of marketing and society that says we have to get something for EVERY last person we know.

Erica said...

Christians are not the only ones that think that Christmas should not be taken out of Christmas. As a non-Christian, I actually find it somewhat offensive that Christmas trees and Christmas lights are being renamed as Holiday trees and Holiday lights. A Christmas tree (regardless of what you call it) is used to celebrate Christmas. It does not represent December, winter, the New Year, or America; it represents the birth of Christ.

I do not feel left out when I walk into a store and do not see a tree for me. I do, however, feel irritated when people or stores try to pretend that Christmas is for everyone.

By selling 'holiday trees', stores are not helping the ignorant who already think that Christmas is an American secular holiday. At my husband's last job, someone justified turining a celebration of the opening of a new building/holiday party into a Christmas party by saying, "Everybody celebrates Christmas. It's not a religious holiday."

sideshow bob said...

I guess we all agree that whatever your religion or tradition, this time of the season goes is much more enjoyable if everyone removes the chips off of their shoulders.

And Scott, I hope you have sex with your wife tonight. Go for it, man!

Shannon said...

I always make it a point to send cards that say "Happy Holidays." I don't really care for Christmas much now. Ever since that Santa myth was blown wide open, the season kinda lost it's magic.

The week before Thankgiving, the cafeteria at work started playing the *1* Christmas CD on owned by the continual rotation. It's pure hell. Please, someone, call OSHA.

Sylvana said...

What exactly does a tree have to do with the birth of Christ? It began as a pagan tradition to celebrate rebirth. They would bring greenery into their home at the winter soltice to celebrate the coming of spring. So why are Christians so hot and bothered about maintaining a Pagan tradition? And the fact that a Christmas tree is indeed from another religion means that calling it a "Holiday Tree" is precisely in order.

I think that Christians like to throw their weight around and forget that not everyone is in their camp. I really enjoy it when they complain that they are descriminated against. SURE THEY ARE!

I personally do not like Christmas, well not the highly commercialized piece of crap that people so devoutly follow nowadays. I prefer to use this time of year between Thanksgiving and the New Year to reflect on the past year, consider what I have to be thankful for, help people that may not be as fortunate as I am, think about issues that may still be unresolved from the year, and then take steps to get them resolved so that I can start the new year fresh.

I do love to see the beautiful decorations and all the lights, but then again, I love that about Halloween (another Pagan holiday). I do not take kindly to people trying to shove Christmas down my throat. If I do not put up a tree, or send out cards, or wish someone a Merry Christmas, they should just suck it up and get over themselves.

Ben said...

I'd agree with you on the tree thing if I knew a single pagan who uses it for a pagan holiday. But in reality, almost eveyr single decorated tree you see is meant as a Christmas tree, and has been for a long, long time. Call it what it is to people today, not what it was to people a long time ago.

Sylvana said...

How many Pagans do you know, Ben?

Elizabeth said...

I think that everybody should say what they want, taking into consideration how they would like to be treated. If you want other people to force their religion on you, say, "Merry Christmas! 'Cause it's CHRIST-mas, a Christian holiday, and I think we'd all be better of CHRIST-ians!" or "Happy Hanukkah! That's a Jewish holiday, and I'm Jewish! We're special!"

If you want everyone to be tolerant, and thoughtful, learn about the people around you and greet them with the appropriate greeting. "Happy Hannukah, Simon! Hey, Mary, merry Christmas! Ah, Running Horse, happy birthday! Oh, is that you, Lucinda? How's the winter solstice festivities coming along? Ayisha- how was Eid?" Etc.

When faced with Christmas Nazis, we should all smile and return the greeting appropriate for our own holiday. They'll melt.

"Merry Christmas, Jane!"
"Thanks, and happy birthday to my brother Alex, Melissa."

Otto Man said...

Nice idea, Elizabeth. If you'd like to go for a celebrity angle, just wish people a Happy Sissy Spacek's Birthday on the 25th.

I think the whole War on Christmas thing is just the latest faux outrage from Faux News, but I have to agree that it's a Christmas tree. Yes, it's pagan in origin and yes, I have Jewish friends who used to get a tree (they called it a "Hannukah Bush"), but it's a Christmas tree. "Holiday lights" I can live with, since they can -- as I proved in college -- stay up all year 'round.

In a larger sense, the complaints about the "War on Christmas" go hand in hand with the false argument that America was founded as a "Christian nation." There's a great book by Stephen Nissenbaum called "The Battle for Christmas," and he demonstrates that our current conception of Christmas is really an invention of the mid-19th century.

Heck, the Puritans -- our spiritual Founding Fathers, I guess -- even outlawed Christmas celebrations because they thought it was a pagan holiday.

Bobby said...

I'd just like to throw in something here. A Ukranian Jew told me that in Ukraine, Russia, etc., the Christmas tree had evolved into a New Year's tree. Therefore, maybe holiday tree is appropriate?

That said, this is not Russia. We are Uh-mericans and we have Christmas trees! I believe in preserving what we can of honest language. This despite the fact that I use Christmas lights for my sukkah.

Ben said...

Sylvana, that depends on what we define as pagan. If it's anyone that's not Christian, then I know plenty. And I know a bunch of Jews that have Christmas trees. They know what it is and what it stands for, they just think it's pretty and like having one. At the same time they willingly acknowledge that it's a Christmas tree and that anyone that sees it will assume it's there for Christmas.