Originally published in the Bristol Press, Middletown Press and New Britain Herald
Happy Holidays! If you’re naïve, you read that and thought, “How nice. The writer’s expressing a goodwill message to all of her readers who celebrate various religious or secular winter-themed festivals this time of year.”
Which is ridiculous. When you see “Happy holidays” in December, the sane and savvy default interpretation is, “That’s a deliberate slap in the face of every good American who celebrates Christmas.”
Seriously, Christmas-tree owners, “Happy holidays” insults us all. And I’m not just saying that because I drank too much spiked eggnog; I’m saying it because I drank too much spiked eggnog while watching TV pundits and stop-animation specials pontificate about the War on Christmas.
Balls and nutcrackers! That wasn’t an epithet; I’m cataloguing the Christmas decorations on display in my house. Balls, nutcrackers, stockings and a tree. This is the nth consecutive year I’ve celebrated the holiday, and TV shows about how it’s threatened are part of my annual tradition.
Sometimes Christmas is in danger because there’s a fog so dense Santa can’t fly through it unless Rudolph with his nose so bright agrees to guide the sleigh that night. Or perhaps Christmas hinges on whether it snows in Southtown, and it looks like the Heat Miser won’t let it.
While flipping through the channels this year I heard Christmas Warrior Bill O’Reilly announce a new threat: mean scary people in America want to repeal Christmas as a federal holiday, and make everybody work instead.
Was this before or after Burgermeister Meisterburger outlawed toys in Sombertown? I don’t remember; these cartoon Christmas threats all blend together after awhile. Either way, I’m sure something will save the day before the last commercial break, and O’Reilly will still get to celebrate Christmas with his family.
That said, if life really does imitate children’s holiday specials, I don’t want to side with the bad guys. So why didn’t I start this column with “Merry Christmas,” rather than insult you with “Happy Holidays?” God knows, given the current state of the newspaper industry, writers like me can ill afford to insult our readers.
But I also can’t afford to insult my friends, especially not the ones who invited me to parties celebrating “Hanukkah” or “Eid” or “the solstice” or whatever. I’m not picky, this time of year; friends are friends and a party is a party, no matter which holiday justifies it.
That said, I’m glad that my parents refused when my childhood self asked them to convert to Judaism so we could have eight days of Christmas every year. Not all holidays are created equal, and “We had a day’s worth of lamp oil last over a week” doesn’t compare to “Santa Claus comes down the chimney and gives you cool stuff.”
The problem with Hanukkah is that the whole “eight days of lamplight” thing stopped being impressive once humanity discovered electricity. Nobody cares about lamp oil anymore. The holiday would hold more appeal for modern Americans if it switched focus so that a day’s worth of gasoline lasted over a week. And the menorahs and dreidels could be decked out with festive strings of colored light bulbs shaped like little gas stations.
Wow. That last paragraph might be the single most offensive thing I’ve ever written. Especially to embattled soldiers in the War on Christmas, under fire from annoying reminders that other people celebrate winter holidays, too.