Back before the ideologues of the far-right started the hype about the "War on Christmas," there was so little to laugh about during the holiday season. The holidays were a time of panic about the expense of holiday shopping, hordes of sidewalk clogging tourists, and weight gain brought on by the cookie-baking mania and excessive partying. It was easy to feel resentful as a fully secular communist Jewish type when I was struggling through the crowds at Macy's to buy holiday gifts for my secular pinko-communist Jewish friends and family, or tripping through the pine-scented streets on my way home from work.
But the very propaganda of the "War on Christmas" has given me something to be part of during the holiday season. Instead of feeling excluded, I now belong! I belong to an army of disgruntled secularizers. It's kinda fun. In fact, the "war on Christmas" and the Christian right's excesses have brought all the cranky Jews and Pagans out of the closet to celebrate the holiday in all its non-Christian glory. I used to, in respect for other people's' religious beliefs, say "Merry Christmas" quite jovially to people far and wide. Not now. Commercial culture is even catching on and giving up the holly and sleighbells. In a hip, commercial decorating magazine, I read about how I might craft my very own Festivus party.
Everywhere you look, there are people cracking jokes about this ludicrous claim that began with a bunch of Fox news hacks and wacko evangelicals. Check out the Cafe Press items on sale. Look at the battlefield photos at Flickr, and Stephen Colbert has a whole season's worth of material.
However, the fact of its absurdity doesn't make the "War on Christmas" rhetoric a mere comedy vehicle. The war-on-Christmas story is a case of first time as farce, second time as tragedy. There's something truly pathetic about the fact that some people actually believe that such a war exists, and are willing to spend their money to fund the Christian soldiers of the solstice season. Last night on the train, I chatted briefly with a trainer from my gym, and before heading back to my earphones the 12/16/06 podcast of my favorite radio show, which right then, was doing an interview with the Reverend Barry Lynn of "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State" about his new book and what the Bible actually say, I said to this dark haired, small sized New Yorker, "Happy Holidays!" After all - he might be celebrating Channukka, and I was feeling friendly. "Merry CHRISTMAS!" he responded with vehemence and a fierce teeth-bearing grin.
Since when has saying "Merry Christmas" been a way to release your aggression at unsuspecting Jews? I thought that was an EASTER tradition, for Chrissake!