The signs are unmistakable: carols playing in stores and trees going up. On a personal note, my pre-holiday diet has failed and I have gone back to looking like a right jolly old elf.
As further resistance is futile, can I please tell you what I want for Christmas? I just want one yuletide in my lifetime free of the usual complaining about the alleged “war on Christmas.” Just one.
Silent night, holy night for me — not one full of yammering about political correctness. Is that too much to ask?
I know some of you like to get all righteously hot and bothered, but the rest of us need a rest. The part of our brains that processes stupid starts to ache about this time of the year. We want a Christmas that is long on peace and goodwill and short on argument and divisiveness.
Yes, I know it has become part of some people’s cherished Christmas tradition to assume a Taliban-like intolerance to those who dare to use the word holidays in the hope of being inclusive to others who are not Christian.
But it seems to me the anger so inspired is hardly conducive to recruiting more Christians. Who would want to join a religion that goes out of its way to be obnoxious to outsiders, in stark defiance of its own beliefs? Goodwill among men? Bah, humbug.
The great irony is that Christmas is a huge success story and has about as much chance of disappearing as me waggling my ears and taking off to circle the local creche while impersonating an angel.
Oh, yes, there is a parallel commercialized Christmas — aka the holidays — but that exists as a sort of knowing nod, in the same way that hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. At base, Jesus is always the reason for the season, although some of us have grave doubts whether a bad rhyme is pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
It doesn’t matter one whit whether a sales assistant wishes you a happy holiday in the parallel secular celebration. These intentions are well meant. What matters is that believers keep the holy Christmas holy.
So we are agreed then. Just once, we will have a Christmas that actually shows goodwill to all. Wish me “Happy Holidays” and I will wish you “Merry Christmas,” because fighting over this is not the point of the Nativity. Each to his own.
But what to my wandering eyes should appear but Sarah Palin. The ex-vice presidential candidate — whose industrial-strength cluelessness did more than anyone to elect Barack Obama in 2008 — is promoting a new book she has written about Christmas, just in time for the annual holiday spending spree. There’s irony enough there for those who can appreciate it.
Titled “Good Tidings and Great Joy — Protecting the Heart of Christmas,” it leans heavily on the myth about the war against Christmas. For example, there is this gem: “The war on Christmas is the tip of the spear in a larger battle to secularize our culture, and make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past.”
Now there is a load of tinsel-laden nonsense. It’s political paranoia dressed up in a red suit and big boots, yelling not “ho, ho, ho,” but “oh, oh, oh.”
To be fair, I haven’t read the book, because I respect my parents too much to imperil the education they gave me. It is enough that I have heard selected readings from the audio version of the book, courtesy of New York Magazine and the Daily Intelligencer. They have a little interactive Christmas tree set up on the Web, wherein you can hear Ms. Palin repeat the book’s various inanities by clicking on tree ornaments. It’s fun for the whole family, if you can stand the bitter laughter.
Will people actually heed this bad-tidings call to aggravation on Earth and discord among men? Sure, they will. They will run out and buy the book in great numbers and their resentments will simmer like chestnuts roasting on an open fire, which of course is the point. Heck, I might buy it for someone I don’t like, rather than waste a lump of coal.
Here’s a book Scrooge might actually like. The nation’s most irony-free person has used Christmas as just another excuse to prolong a rancorous political obsession. Peace on Earth and goodwill anyway.
Reg Henry writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.