Just a few days left
until Christmas, a few days to enjoy the anticipation part of the
holiday: decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, getting cards with old
friends we haven't seen lately, walking through a neighborhood
decorated with colored lights while singing carols to oneself or
with a caroling group. And ...
Thankfully, only a few
days left of the utter nonsense that has lately become part of the
holiday period. I'm not referring to commercialism, though it has
climbed over the top in recent years, with people increasing their
debt level to buy unnecessary items. Nor do I refer to the
longstanding tradition of heavy drinking at holiday parties, with
holiday funerals caused by drunk drivers; for most of my life this
antithesis of joy was associated mostly with New Year's Eve.
It seems likely that
the original celebration of Christ's birth was probably piggybacked
on either the winter solstice or the Roman's December Saturnalia, so
that the pagans, if sober enough, wouldn't notice anything odd about
the Christian behavior and feed them to the lions. Some historians
and astronomers have suggested the actual birth event probably took
place in the spring. Doesn't matter to me though: Christmas lights
look nice in the snow, when it snows; it's nice to have a holiday to
brighten the darkest days of the year.
No, the utter nonsense
comes from people who object to not only the Baby Jesus but to Santa
Claus, neither of them a threat to either the First Amendment or
For sure: Congress
cannot make a law stating that Christianity is the official religion
of the United States, with special privileges accorded only to
Christians. But what about the part of the First Amendment that says
Congress shall not "prohibit the free exercise thereof" of any
particular religion, including, one must assume, Christianity? Yes,
there have been court decisions about these "controversial" things,
but I prefer to follow the actual language of the Constitution when
it seems perfectly clear to me.
It's probably obvious
from the name of my hometown that a manger was permitted on the St.
Marys' town common, and from my years working in Boston, I recall
one on Boston Common across from the State House, which also had a
ceremony for the lighting of a menorah. Don't recall anyone
complaining back then, or being taken seriously if they did.
One controversy this
year is about a grade school in Cambridge from which Santa Claus has
been disinvited from the holiday concert because a parent
complained. One grinchy parent got him banned?! However, what seems
even stranger to me is the resulting uproar from some Christians
when these things happen. When exactly did Santa start coming to
schools? In my hometown, we children went to see him at the Elks or
the Moose Club (I don't remember which, both big mammals of the
Cervidae family). Later, my son sat on Santa's lap at department
stores, or on an aircraft carrier when his dad was in port (though
his main cultural memory of that time comes from television: he can
still sing the Grinch song).
I assure you Santa
wouldn't have been invited by the nuns to Sacred Heart Catholic
School when I attended grades 1-8 there. We were taught that
Christmas was about the birth of Christ. I was an angel in one
school pageant, the Virgin Mary in another; we learned the hymns and
while we were allowed to sing about Frosty the Snowman, too,
secularism wasn't the point of the "holyday." I don't remember
friends mentioning Santa visiting the public grade school either.
My grandchildren don't
recall seeing him in their public school in Nevada. My granddaughter
was just in a town play that featured Santa. I got an email from my
son, telling me about Maya's role as Ms. Tomkins in "A Christmas Toy
Story": Local official called in to investigate Santa's shop, who
ends up taking over the lease and becoming a toymaker herself. "She
did great, good stage presence."
Not sure I want to know
what "Mr. Nicholas Claus" was doing wrong, but of course wish I'd
been one of the lucky grandmothers in the audience. Well, can't be
At least I got to hear
the Christmas-utter nonsense discussion Monday on WRKO 's Kuhner
Show, which morphed somehow from outrage at the Cambridge school to
a debate on whether dogs go to heaven. Kuhner and some Christian
callers insisted, seriously, that our pets will NOT be waiting for
us there because only humans have immortal souls. I was told the
same thing by the aforementioned nuns; didn't believe it then, don't
believe it now.
Dogs I shared
— a golden retriever and a Newfoundland
— will be waiting there for my second
husband, and the stray that resembled a Belgian shepherd will be
waiting for my son. At least four cats will be waiting for me, or
I'm not staying.
I did laugh out loud
during the original discussion, when producer Bill Cooksey suggested
that Santa tell the Cambridge school that he has Cherokee blood, and
they'll have to let him in.
It's a good ongoing
joke, but I don't hold the Indian claim against Sen. Elizabeth
Warren: If Harvard does silly stuff for "diversity", and I had
access to the silly stuff, I'd have used it, too. I admire her stand
last week on the omnibus budget, holding it up because of her
objection to language putting taxpayers at risk of another
"too-big-to-fail" bank bailout like the kind we saw in 2008. The
budget passed anyhow, despite the Republican Tea Party senators
joining the liberals in opposition, for reasons of their own. It was
nice to see some conservatives and liberals objecting together to
giant bills no one had time to read. Merry Christmas to these men
and women of temporary goodwill.
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and an
opinion columnist for Eagle-Tribune Publishing.