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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wishing You a Merry Christmas - Like It Or Not

It’s only been a couple weeks since Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter helped orchestrate putting the word “Christmas” back on the sign for the, uh, Christmas Village on a plaza next to City Hall, but I’m pretty sure the world has continued to rotate. In fact, I’d bet anything that it will keep spinning long enough for next year’s debate over whether or not a free country should allow its vast majority of people to openly celebrate one of their most important holidays of the year.

The annual complaints about the mere mention of Christmas in public has become almost as much a part of the holiday as putting a green wreath on the front door. While I’m glad to see that the majority is finally pushing back on this issue, the mere fact that it comes up every year is symbolic of a bigger problem with this country.

Last time I checked, Hanukkah came and went without a hitch. I feel extremely confident that Kwanzaa will do the same. I’m also absolutely sure there will not be an outcry to have absolutely no mention of Kwanzaa in public because recognition of the holiday would be such a devastating affront to those who don’t celebrate it. Odds are much better that some people will complain that the holiday established in 1966 isn’t getting enough attention. This is a holiday created to, according to Wikipedia quoting the creator of the holiday, Maulana Karenga, “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”

Yet, the holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ more than 2,000 years ago should be ignored.

The logic from those complaining about public displays celebrating Christmas . . . see, here’s the problem.

Those complaining never quite spit out the actual basis of their whining. They offer up the notion that all holidays should be celebrated equally in such a diverse country or other non-specific, intangible nonsense. What they never explain is why the public recognition of the holiday celebrated by the vast majority has to be equivalent to the holidays celebrated by the minority. They also never quite get around to explaining the implication that their celebration is diminished by the abundance of Christmas displays.

In a country that debates whether or not there should be a mosque near “ground zero,” site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, many actually believe that wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is politically incorrect. Apparently, we will go out of our way to defend religious freedoms of a minority even when they chose to show absolutely no sensitivity to the feelings of millions who suffered at the hands of extremists from their religion. Yet the majority must cower in the corner when they celebrate a religious holiday so as not to offend any individual who might not share in their religion.

The individuals complaining about the word “Christmas” being on a sign aren’t worried about equal rights. They haven’t been told not to celebrate their holiday, nor forced to celebrate one they choose not to. They’re not worried about getting equal time off from work for their holidays. I’ll support anybody who argues that people who want to work through Christmas to take whatever time off they would have had during Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Problem solved?

Didn’t think so.

The basis of the complaints seem to be about jealously. Daniel Rubin wrote a great piece in the Inquirer about the uproar over changing the Christmas Village sign. A few lines have stuck with me:

I stood in a media scrum Tuesday - news of the name change had made the Drudge Report - as city Managing Director Richard Negrin explained how he'd received complaints from city workers and residents about the market, how unwelcoming it was to those who don't do Christmas.

He told of how a little girl and her father had been walking by the market the other day, and the girl, who was Jewish, had asked, "Don't we get a village?"

That is the type of logic driving this ridiculous debate every year, and I realize I am butchering the term “logic.” The word “jealously” is clearly much more appropriate.

Unwelcoming? No, it’s part of the culture those who don’t celebrate Christmas choose to live in. If they feel unwelcomed because that culture doesn’t bend to their individual likes and dislikes, they need to go back to high school and learn how cultures are supposed to work.

And, what is so terrible about telling your little girl that more people celebrate Christmas, so it tends to get more attention? Is the child going to wilt right there on the sidewalk? If so, maybe parenting skills should be more of a concern than being offended by the existence of a holiday you don’t celebrate. If the adult doesn’t treat it as some big disaster, neither will the kid.

Of course, that’s not the real problem. Most people who actually discuss this subject outside of the media talk about being inundated by the media with Christmas related material. They complain about the endless Christmas music on the radio, TV specials, and commercials offering one sale after the other.

I don’t totally disagree with the thinking. Many of us Christmas Celebrationists – sense the sarcasm – basically agree with it. I happen to like the music and the specials, and think there’s worse things in the world than a season that looks to inspire peace on Earth, goodwill towards men (and women), and general merriment. That said, jamming it all into a month is a bit overwhelming, if not a sad statement on society.

But the complaint is essentially about the commercialism around December 25th, and has very little to do with the Christmas holiday.

Trust me, if more people celebrated Hanukkah with an emphasis on gift giving, prime time television would be flooded with images of menorahs and specials with titles like A Very Feldman Hanukkah.

To me, the biggest holiday casualty of the media frenzy over Christmas is Thanksgiving, which I happen to miss. Not the actual day last month, but in general. I’m just barely old enough to remember when it was more than “the start of the shopping season.” I turned on the parade Thanksgiving morning for a minute, and began wondering if it was always one big commercial. This may be a little hypocritical coming from a guy who had an affiliate website for 5+ years, but somehow I don’t think my attempt to get a business going destroyed any holiday traditions.

If you want to complain that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS, The Grinch That Stole Christmas aired on ABC, and Christmas from Rockafeller Center was on NBC, all at the same time before December 1, fine.

You can even gripe about how early radio stations start playing Christmas music all day, every day.

But the people who complain about seeing the word “Christmas” near City Hall are kind of like the people who love to talk about how the birth of Christ was actually in March. They’re not doing it because they care, oh, so much about historical accuracy. (Do you ever hear about these same people celebrating Christmas in March? I don’t. Yet, somehow they make themselves heard in December.) They’re doing it to be different, to be the contrarian.

People whining year after year about public Christmas displays are trying to play the role of the proverbial “little guy” getting stomped on by the herd of the majority. Sadly, the media annually hands a megaphone to this very un-silent, very un-persecuted minority never understanding that nothing is being stomped on. No injustice has occurred.

Allowing the minority to stifle the majority has become the bastardization of this country’s love of the underdog. Somehow allowing everyone to celebrate has become an obligation to make sure that the majority doesn’t celebrate too loudly because it might offend someone.

Hopefully, Nutter’s effort to put Christmas back into the holidays is just a start to reversing the trend of the majority bowing to the minority for nothing more than some twisted version of equality.

Nutter put it pretty well in a recent tweet, “From the City Hall Christmas Tree to the Rittenhouse Square Menorah. What a great city.”

Rubin put it even better in his article, “Yes, it's the Christmas season. Get over it. I have.”

Or don’t get over it. Celebrate your own holiday or don’t celebrate any holiday. That’s your right in a free country.

Just don’t try to deny me the right to celebrate my holiday. And to wish everybody a Merry Christmas!