Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wait, Christmas is a religous holiday?

Bill O'Reilly has taken it upon himself to "save Christmas." How nice.

Look, everybody needs to chill the fuck out. And I do mean everybody. Church and state are meant to be separate in this country. That means (among many other far more important things) no overtly religious imagery on government property. So no Baby Jesus in school or at City Hall. But hey, you know what? That Christmas tree is pretty. And pagan. It's not like Jim Caviezel is nailed to it, suffering. Let it go. I'd rather see a tasteful nativity than the scary-ass child-molesting Santa outside the deli down the block (I'll take pictures over the weekend and post).

I went to a secular private high school that was probably about 70% Jewish, maybe more. We had a holiday assembly every year in which the chorus sang 6 or 7 Christmas songs and 1 or 2 Chanukah songs, and nobody blinked. We did Secret Santas, and nobody ever demanded a change to Hiding Chanukah Harry. We were celebrating a secular winter-holiday-mishmosh, and what could be more American than that? There are many more good Christmas songs than good Chanukah songs (or bad ones for that matter), and while we did avoid anything too Jesusy, ultimately it was about listening to pretty music. I'd rather hear "Silent Night" than "I Have A Little Dreidl" any day. There's no good Chanukah music because Chanukah isn't traditionally an "important" holiday. Pretty much every religion in the world has a holiday that acts as an excuse to light lights during the darkest part of the year. Christians chose to make this their holiest day, but the idea of Chanukah as "the Jewish Christmas" is purely an accident of the calendar and the secularization of both holidays. Traditionally, gift-giving is small or nonexistent. Of course I love my eight nights of presents, but that's not really what it's about. Nor should that be what Christmas is about.

I support Macy's decision to instruct its clerks to say "Happy Holidays," not because I'm offended by Christmas (hello, the entire Herald Square store is draped in garlands and lights and wreaths) but because I think it's a lovely gesture of the season to be as inclusive as possible, and hoping that people have happy holidays -- whichever holiday or holidays it is that they celebrate -- does just that. But if someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas," I'm not going to turn around and say "Fuck you, I'm Jewish stop oppressing me!" I'm going to thank them, because I do hope to have a merry Christmas. And a merry New Year's. And a merry Groundhog Day. Hell, Merry Arbor Day to everyone! I don't think wishing someone well should ever be frowned upon.

O'Reilly and his band seem to be defending the trappings of Christmas more than anything else. What's more important, a high school production of Dickens, or going to church to reflect on the birth of your supposed Lord? Jerry Falwell goes after the "radical secularists and school board do-gooders determined to 'bring about their own Godless version of this nation,'" but hasn't that already happened? I think it's safe to say that for most of us, religion is all but gone from Chrismahanukwanzakah (perhaps the speed with which this word from a cell phone commercial, and "Chrismukah" from The OC have caught on is evidence enough), replaced by trips to...Macy's. Using religion for political gain is certainly nothing new, but O'Reilly and Co. are making a mountain out of a molehill and I find the hypocrisy of this particular battle revolting.

Nobody I know wants to ban Christmas or Christianity. I don't want a nativity on government property, or children in public school being forced to sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but is anybody really complaining about trees and lights and pretty things wishing goodwill towards men? I think both sides need to get over it and remember the true spirit of the season.

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