Friday, December 24, 2010

The War on (Merry) Christmas

Depending on the circles you travel in, you may be aware that some right-wing types believe that there is a concerted "War on Christmas" that has been going on for years. Just Google "War on Christmas" and you will find over 2 million hits. Or you could go to and buy Fox News personality John Gibson's screed "The War on Christmas: How The Liberal Plot To Ban The Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Think".

Many people are terrified that before (or after) Barack Hussein Obama comes to confiscate our guns, he will also take away Christmas.  In their perfervid imaginations they can probably already envision a Kwanzaa tree on the National Mall. Ultimately, I think no one has anything to worry about here.  The reason is that government wars just don't work. Don't forget that there was a liberal "war on poverty" that started 44 years ago, and poverty rates are worse now than they were then.

Liberals aren't the only ones who screw these things up.  Don't forget the conservative War on Drugs (40 years old) and War on Terror (9 years) that have been equally as unsuccessful.  In fact, I'm sure that there are a large number of poverty stricken Americans living in bad neigborhoods being terrorized by drug addicts right now.  They must be the independents we hear so much about.

But hey, it's Christmas, right?  Why don't I just lighten up and give in to the holiday spirit?  Well, believe me I'd like to.  But there is something holding me back.  The phrase "Merry Christmas".

I have been bothered by the expression "Merry Christmas" for decades.   My biggest gripe about it is that I have trouble quantifying just what people mean by "merry".  The dictionary definition of the word doesn't help that much:

merry |ˈmerē |  adjective ( merrier , merriest )
cheerful and lively : the narrow streets were dense with merry throngs of students | a merry grin.
• (of an occasion or season) characterized by festivity and rejoicing : he wished me a merry Christmas.
• [ predic. ] Brit., informal slightly and good-humoredly drunk : after the third bottle of beer he began to feel quite merry.

I mean, I know what it is to be cheerful and I'm usually fairly lively, but I don't think that people really wish others a "cheerful and lively Christmas".  And as a non-drinker, I don't really relate to wishing people a "slightly and good humoredly drunk Christmas".

Further, when one thinks of personages associated with Christmas, "merry" isn't the first word that comes to mind.  Santa Claus, for instance, is usually described as "jolly". Ebeneezer Scrooge required haunting by no less than three ectoplasmic spirits before he could bring himself to be a mensch.  George Bailey was basically suicidal. And don't get me started on the Grinch...

But there is an alternative that I think could work for everybody.  In coming up with this, I decided to look to England.  As the progenitors of our language the British have a gift of the pithy phrase.  Such as "French Leave" to describe someone who departs without permission, or a deserter.  On the other hand they call french fries "chips", which is confusing.  But English antipathy for their Gallic neighbors is a topic for another day.  The main point for right now is that in England, people greet each other in December with a hearty "Happy Christmas".  This phrase is simple, direct and to the point.  I believe that we should adapt this for ourselves. 

I've been happy, I know what happiness is, and I want everyone to be happy all the time.  Especially on such a special holiday.   So, from me to you, please accept my best wishes for a

Happy Christmas.

War is Over (if you want it...)

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