I sent out 15 Christmas cards on Monday with greetings of “Joyeux Noel et bonne annee.”
At no point during either the design or delivery of the cards did I devote a second of ponder to the possibility that they might put some noses out of joint. I mean, it’s a card. It’s a greeting. It’s my way of telling someone that they’re dear to me and I’m thinking of them. Can’t get more harmless than that, right?
Except it has come to my attention that card-sending can be a risky bit of business.
United States President Barack Obama, for example, is again under heavy fire from conservative extremists because, in keeping with the tradition of his eight years of residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., this year’s official White House Christmas card is not a Christmas card. It is a “Happy Holidays” card that makes no mention of a messianic birth in a Bethlehem barn some 2,000-plus years ago.
This omission, apparently, qualifies him as President Bah Humbug and aligns him in league with the Devil.
“Merry Christmas…er…scratch that. We are the Obamas and it’s Some Random Holiday,” was a sarcastic, snotty, how-dare-he tweet from that noted still-wheezing Alaskan gasbag Sarah Palin, a self-described “Bible-believing Christian” who, along with her hard-core conservative ilk, ignore the reality that the winter holiday/festival season is not the sole province of Christians.
There are approximately two dozen celebrations between Nov. 1 and mid-January that involve Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religious or secular groups. Yet President Obama must, must, must give Christmas top billing, otherwise he has launched a scud missile at the very heart of America.
“Protecting the heart of Christmas will lead to protecting the heart of our nation,” is how Palin puts it.
Yes, by all means, in his quest to “make America great again,” surely president-elect Donald Trump’s first order of business once he’s hunkered down on Pennsylvania Avenue NW must be to put the words “Merry Christmas” back on White House stationary. ISIS, terrorism and building border walls can wait. The war on Christmas must be won first.
But is there really a war on Christmas? Well, there must be. I mean, this year’s Starbucks holiday cup is green. Yes, green! With a bunch of squiggly faces on it—and not one of those faces belongs to Jesus Christ. The devil, you say! Must be the work of that Obama fella. After all, he sent out all of those non-Christmas Christmas cards.
Look, although raised Roman Catholic, I confess that I have difficulty with the Christian nativity narrative.
A virgin birth? In a barn or cave or stable? Three wise men following the brightest star in the sky and travelling many miles on camelback to pay homage to a messiah in a manger? Angels whispering in Joseph’s ear (or the virgin Mary’s ear, depending on whether you choose to believe Matthew or Luke)? Quite the flight of fancy, I dare say.
Having said that, however, if I’m walking the streets and notice a nativity scene displayed in a neighborhood yard or in a store-front window, I take no offence.
I don’t look at religion-themed Christmas displays or a brightly lit evergreen tree as sales pitches to lure me inside a church for the first time in decades, and it matters not if I believe the Christian nativity narrative to be historically accurate, or if I believe it to be as bogus as most of the Trumpster’s outrageous claims during the U.S. presidential election campaign. To me, a Christmas tree is no more a religious symbol than Santa Claus is an Olympic hockey champion. It’s a symbol of the holiday season.
Similarly, my knickers are not twisted into a knot if someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” or I’m given a “Happy holidays” greeting. I’m good with it all.
You want to celebrate Christmas because you believe it to be Jesus’s birthday? Go for it. You want to dance and argue around the Festivus pole with George, Frank and Estelle Costanza? Grab your partner. Just enjoy it. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. No matter whose face is or isn’t on your green coffee cup.