24 December 2007

2007's Christmastime Rant

The new issue of Wired magazine has an article explaining, using real science, how Santa Claus operates in our modern world. Part of it involves elves working for the NSA to find out who is naughty and nice. Apparently, the Patriot Act has helped out Santa’s endeavors a great deal. At least it’s good for something, right? And then there’s the part about scads of elves delivering the presents-- should they be caught by a child, they inject them with something that makes them forget, puts them to sleep and makes them dream of sugar-plum faeries. Which, strictly speaking, Wired people, is not really real science.

And while I kind of enjoy the image of presents being delivered by a covert, semi-corrupt government agency made up of tiny people in pointy shoes, this is the kind of crap that comes out every December and just drives me up the wall. I mean, is this necessary? Do we need to justify, under the guise of science, a fairy tale that we teach children in order to make sure they behave? How ridiculous can you get?!

Also, why is it that every time they do a story on the news that states the oh-so controversial opinion that Santa Claus may not be real, they have to issue a disclaimer to give parents an opportunity to shuffle the kiddies away for a few minutes. Freakin’ NPR does this! Which is patently absurd, because the only way a child young enough to believe in Santa Claus is ever going to pay attention to what’s on NPR is when you tell them not to listen. The rest of the time NPR just hums in the background as the dulcet toned white noise of the adult world.

Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible for major news outlets to, with a wink and a smile, play along with this myth every year from November to January first. They can’t talk about mall Santas, instead they need to talk about Santa’s helpers at the mall. Rather than talking about the real, tragic and terrifying consequences of global warming they jokingly give us images of Santa in a bathing suit and suggest that he might have to relocate soon because the polar ice caps are melting at a rapidly increasing rate. Of course, they neglect to mention that by the time Santa has to move, everyone and everything living on earth is done for, thus making a naughty/nice list moot. And while I feel for Santa in that moving an operation so large must be a difficult task, at least he won’t have to worry about setting up a functional toy shop because all the kids, good, bad, poor and rich will be dead! But thanks, Today Show for making jokes about Santa Claus in a speed-o rather than explaining the real and dire consequences of Global Climate Change. Really, I much prefer that children get a little giggle out of their morning news than begin to get some idea about how terribly the last few generations have hosed them—let’s wait until they’re old enough to not be able to do anything about it before we explain to them how their children will never get to make a snowman. Keep ‘em in the dark for as long as you can, that’s what I always say!

Which reminds me: Hanukkah. The festival of light. Eight freakin’ days for this holiday. Christmas is, what, one and a half? Hanukkah is eight days, but do any of the Gentiles out there know when Hanukkah even is? “It’s right around Christmas, right?” Right—but only if you count the entire month of December as being “right around Christmas.” Hanukkah has been over for two weeks! And yet, every time someone finds out you’re Jewish, I bet they still say: “Happy Hanukkah!” That’s like a Canadian saying to an American “Happy Independence Day!” on July 20! Get with the times, people. And, just for the record, “Happy Hanukkah” is not equivalent to “Merry Christmas.” Christmas is the big holiday of the Christian year, Hanukkah is, well, not so much for the Jews. So quit acting like it’s a fair trade, because it is not. You ignore the rest of their sacred holidays all year, and only acknowledge Hanukkah because you think its like “little Jewish Christmas” so when you say “Happy Hanukkah” they’ll give you the reciprocal pleasure you so desire and wish you a merry Christmas. Well nuts to that.

Why is it that every year around this time we start hearing complaints about greetings? “The ACLU won’t let us say ‘Merry Christmas!’” Bullshit. The ACLU is kind of all about letting everyone say anything they want—so long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others to do the same. What I don’t get is: what’s the problem with “Happy Holidays”? Pretty much everyone is celebrating at least two Holidays between the end of November and the beginning of January. There’s always Thanksgiving and New Years, if nothing else. Of course, if you’re not American and/or you are Chinese, you don’t really even have those two holidays—but as we showed in the 1940’s Americans aren’t too bothered by ignoring the rights of Asian peoples when it benefits the greater good. But then, that’s just one of the many ways we’re assholes.

So “Happy Holidays” is about as close to inoffensive to about as many people as you can possibly get. Some non-religious people even get irritated by “holidays” because it technically means “holy days” and, of course, there’s no such thing as a “holy day,” but frankly, those people are curmudgeons and need to buck up. Most non-religious people accept “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or even “Happy Hanukkah” for whatever ends it was intended. If it’s said as an attack, as it seems “Merry Christmas” increasingly is, then they’ll be offended, but if it’s meant nicely, it will be taken as such. It’s like when someone says “Bless you” after a sneeze. The worst is when I say “Happy Holidays” and someone corrects me with “Merry Christmas.” No, damnit, I said what I meant, now have some happy freakin’ holidays, okay?!

But, and I can’t stress this enough, why can’t we just say “Have a nice day?” Because, above and beyond anything else, each “holiday” is a day. And whether it’s a “holi” or not, I’m a big advocate of everyone spending each of their days happily. I feel like it’s silly to change the way we greet each other because some day we see as especially important is coming up. That’s like correcting strangers on your birthday when they say “Hi.” ‘Oh, no, sir, ‘tis my special day today and so I ask that you greet me appropriately with a ‘Happy Birthday.’ Now, try again.” And maybe there are people who do that, but I think we can all agree, that if there are people out there who behave like that, they are most assuredly douche bags.

The most heinous offense perpetrated around this time of year, though, are the people who want to “Take back Christmas” or “Put Christ back in Christmas” or “save Christmas.” What a bunch of hooey this is. You can’t take back something that wasn’t yours to begin with. This holiday has been celebrated for centuries, long before Christians co-opted it. And sure, it went by other names before, but all of the trappings of Christmas are pagan. Christmas tree? German tradition. They’d put candles on the tree because it was the darkest time of year and celebrate the return of the sun (that’s with a “u” not an “o”) using an evergreen, which was a symbol of how, even in darkest night, nature lives on. Yule log, stars, wreaths and gifts? All pagan. Even the virgin birth pre-dates Christianity. Ever heard of Mithras? Okay, maybe not, but the early Christians had. If anyone is going to take back the holiday, it should be the pagans. We should be celebrating Saturnalia or the earth’s axial tilt if we’re going back to the true reason for the season. But you know what? No one is going to do that. Sure, some of us staunch supporters of the separation of church and state might object to an unconstitutional establishment of religion, but we’ll also defend the free practice of your religion. Do some Pagans and tongue-in-cheek Atheists celebrate Solstice? Sure. And you know what? We can do it without taking away your Christmas.

There’s room enough this season for any freakin’ holiday you want to celebrate. Christmas does not need saving. The Constitution needs saving, sure, but Christmas is doing just fine. So, enjoy whatever you want to celebrate this time of year, I hope it’s wonderful. And let the rest of us celebrate whatever the hell we want to celebrate too!

Have a nice day.

1 comment:

Mike E said...

There are twelve days of Christmas. Haven't you heard the song?