American standard bearers regard certain words as inappropriate or offensive. One prominent “bad” word begins with the letter “C.” But we’re adults. We know that people frequently use this word, often in polite company. I refer, of course, to Christmas.
Should I feel guilty for mentioning this word during the Holiday Christmas Season? I don’t. Christmas is a fact of life. True, it’s not my holiday. For that I offer another “C” word: Chanukah. But according to a 2014 Pew survey, 71 percent of Americans identify as Christians. Another 23 percent claim no religious identity, although many probably have Christian backgrounds and celebrate Christmas in some manner. That’s why “Holiday Season” and “Happy Holidays” strike me as lame. Worse, they’re deceitful.
One example: An automobile company sent me a card. The photo on the front displays five of their vehicles parked on a snowy meadow. Each has a tree tied to its roof. The copy line says, “Happy Holidays from BMW.” Oops. I spilled the beans. But here’s the point. There’s no such thing as a Holiday tree. If by “Happy Holidays” BMW means both Christmas and Chanukah—and perhaps Kwanzaa (Devali was November 11 this year)—then the automaker has insulted me. Christians and some non-Christians who just like Christmas decorate trees. We Jews light candles in chanukiahs (menorahs have seven lights, chanukiahs nine). And don’t let anyone BS you about “Chanukah bushes.” They represent attempts to alleviate fears of feeling different (obviously we are in some ways) and being left out or even shunned.
“Happy Holidays” doesn’t cut it. While the term suggests inclusiveness, it totally ignores the holidays of non-Christians. That’s because “Holiday” symbols abound, all suggestive of Christmas. Like the decorated trees in malls, department stores and even public spaces, such as San Francisco’s Union Square. And the carols you hear at malls and in retail districts. Not to mention images of evergreens, snowflakes, snowmen and, of course, Santa Claus.
And how about “winter vacation” from school? As a kid and college student, I was off for Christmas vacation. It interrupted, not concluded, the first semester. Would schools close around December 25 if Christmas fell during the summer? Has anyone suggested moving “Winter break” to January? Government offices, banks, corporations, small businesses—almost everyone—close on Christmas. They don’t close on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur or on Muslim feast days, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. But Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others all manage.
Yes, religious minorities also get Christmas off. Unless we volunteer to work at necessary jobs and free others to celebrate. One Christmas at Fort Sam Houston I filled the post of Officer of the Day so another officer could enjoy his holiday. I was glad to help someone out. Moreover, the Army never interfered with Jewish holidays. Unfortunately, some Jews outside the military still have a hard time taking off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur even if the pressure on them remains covert. I doubt “Happy Holidays” will change that.
So if you celebrate Christmas—Merry Christmas! Jewish? Happy Chanukah! African-American? Happy Kwanzaa if you do that. In fact, it’s time to bring other “C” words out of the closet. Because life is complex and political correctness only makes us hypocrites.
Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.
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