Waging cheer

By CLIF GARBODEN  |  December 6, 2006

The War on Hanukkah, much like the less-publicized War on Chinese New Year, was, in recent decades, mostly a myopic sin of omission. (After the 1940s, young Hanukkah celebrants may have felt left out at the school Christmas party, but at least the teacher didn’t make them wear paper horns and sit in the corner anymore.) Who knew not everybody welcomed their children bringing crayon drawings of Santa home from school? All such shallow stuff is easily fixed once the majority is made aware of its faux pas — unless, of course, you live in some unyielding bigoted backwater (which, unfortunately, a lot of people do).

Make no mistake, in public schools near and far, the long-celebrated War Between Christmas and Hanukkah lives on in the hearts of small-minded parents of both persuasions. As if to redress God knows what ancient wrong, homeroom moms and dads turn any form of innocent fun into children’s crusades — as in “Here, kid, eat this Santa cookie!” “No, here, swallow this latke!” The cultural carnage extends even unto spiteful grab-bag duels: “Here’s a toy Rudolph, Happy Hanukkah.” “Merry Christmas, take this dreidel.” Such adult-inspired bad behavior is, of course, an object lesson in the worst possible things one could teach a child, and anyone involved should be ashamed.

The war on Sparkle Season
This one we endorse, actually, because for all that the whole “organized war on Christmas” theory is so much rubbish, the people who make a larger virtue out of “inclusiveness” than of their heritage can be a real pain in the ass too. Face it, it’s mostly the solstice crowd, and we suspect their motives are largely grounded in liberal guilt. They weren’t raised to worship the returning sun; they adopted that belief because it seemingly embraces a lot of other traditions and doesn’t really offend anybody. Sounds good. Like a nice compromise. Besides, it’s cool to be into something ancient and spooky.

But while some people feel fulfilled by going their own way (albeit a path first mapped by superstitious hunter-gatherers who also thought killing goats brought good luck), others need to indulge their inherited culture. Like Bill O’Reilly’s Christmas tree, our Christmas tree will never be referred to as a holiday tree. And by that, we refuse to offend anyone. If the guy next door wants to decorate a holiday tree or a sparkle tree or a Zoroastrian tree, fine with us. Let’s all just shut up about it and enjoy our trees. Or lack thereof.

The proper resolution to all this strife — real and invented — isn’t to neutralize cultural expression. Cultural expression is a powerful force — something people need. Having everyone walking around in blissful equality celebrating the solstice or some bullshit like Sparkle Season isn’t so much a utopian dream as a nightmare vision of an Orwellian future. Tolerance, not unanimity, is the key.

The Sparkle Season advocates are often the same people eternally yapping about the value of diversity, another positive concept that could use a little moderation. Diverse. Great, let people be diverse. Let the faiths sell each other’s holiday merchandise and market it however they like. Let this guy cheer for this intangible mythology and that guy root for that one. Simultaneously. What the hell difference does it make? You know, it’s all just made-up stuff to make people feel good. It really doesn’t matter what we chant or where we sit on Sunday. Or what makes us happy in December. Everybody grow up, okay?

Clif Garboden (Quaker, if you must know) loves Christmas things, as his father did, and thinks life’s too short to be threatened by what the rest of you do. He can be reached atcgarboden@phx.com.

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