December 6, 2007
War (on Christmas) is over, if you want it
(Apologies to John Lennon, wherever he may be, for the title.)
I think it’s fairly obvious to anyone who isn’t Bill O’Reilly or a writer for World Nut Daily that the War on Christmas is a fabrication (and also, quite possibly, a very clever marketing ploy). Still, given the insistence of folks like… well, BillO and the writers at WND… that the evil secular humanists are trying to take Christmas away, I thought I’d contrast two moments from my day as an illustration.
Moment 1: I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart this afternoon for some soil. I was desperately trying to get my fall bulbs in before winter arrives in earnest (I’d meant to do it weeks ago, and I may have been too late anyway, but I guess I won’t know until spring), and ran out of soil in the middle of the project, so I wanted to keep the errand quick and cheap, so — Wal-Mart. As I strode through the parking lot I saw a bumper sticker telling its viewers (readers?) to keep Christ in Christmas — and I thought, is anyone actually trying to take Christ out of Christmas? Nobody’s trying to turn Christmas into Holiday (black letters on a white background, à la generic products in 80s sitcoms); it’s been my understanding since childhood that saying “happy holidays” is simply a way to acknowledge the fact that November through January is a season jam-packed with holidays: Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Chanukah, my birthday (it’s a holiday in my realm, anyway — or, at any rate, it is now!), Winter Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s, Epiphany, and probably a few I’m forgetting. Yes, Christmas is kind of the default gift-giving holiday, at least here in the States; for example, I grew up in a household that was essentially secular (with a couple of asterisks that I’m not going to go into at the moment), and we celebrated Christmas. It was a secular version of Christmas, for the most part, but I still learned the words to “Joy to the World” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and other such traditional carols, and, perhaps most importantly, I knew that it was a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. However, the simple fact is that all those other holidays exist, and why single people out and make them uncomfortable by saying “merry Christmas” (the exception perhaps being on Christmas eve and day) when you could just say “happy holidays”? Why is that so bleeding controversial? (That last link is to the Wikipedia entry on the War on Christmas, which is perhaps lacking from a research point of view, but has some interesting details — in particular, I saw that in 2005 and 2006 corporations were switching from using the term “holiday” to using the term “Christmas.” So, yeah, War on Christmas my foot.)
Moment 2: This has its roots in our trip to Texas for Thanksgiving and the following weekend. We went to Target while we were there, and while our friends were looking for a Christmas tree stand, I came across a small section, just a fraction of an aisle, dedicated to Chanukah. It had the basics: dreidels, menorahs (including a Michael Graves menorah, which amused me for no apparent reason), candles, gelt. We bought some gelt, Evil Bender commented that when we got back home we should pick up some menorah candles, our friends found a tree stand, and life moved on.
Flash forward to today. There was a dust-up between the Professor and the dogs this afternoon — you wouldn’t know it from the way any of them are acting at this point, but Evil Bender and I are certainly traumatized. So we decided to buy a baby gate to put between the upstairs (generally the dogs’ area) and the downstairs (very much the cats’ domain). We decided we’d go to Target so we could pick up some menorah candles while we were there. We headed back to the seasonal section and found aisle after aisle of Christmas decor, but nothing for Chanukah. I asked an employee, and he said he hadn’t seen anything for Chanukah in that section, but we could maybe try looking for candles in the regular candle section. We did — no dice. Feeling frustrated, we took our other items up to the checkout area. Our checker asked if we’d found everything we were looking for, and I said no. She called customer service, they double-checked, but there were simply no menorah candles to be found in the store. It’s not a huge deal; I hope to find some candles at the synagogue tomorrow. But I just found the experience so disheartening. And I thought, wait, so there are all these people wringing their hands about people trying to take Christmas away from them, and I can’t even find a little box of Chanukah candles? What gives?
And the thing is, I’m a rational person, and I’ve worked retail, so I feel safe saying there was no nefarious intent on Target’s part. They were selling Chanukah stuff in that store in Texas, and they have an array of Chanukah goods on their website; I imagine they didn’t send any of those goods to the Topeka store simply because they didn’t think they would sell well here. After all, it’s the home of the Phelps clan. And maybe they’re right; I’m still new here, so what do I know? I do intend to write a polite letter — but you certainly won’t find me ranting about a War on Chanukah.