It's time for annual Christmas traditions ... and nonsense
by Barbara Anderson

The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, December 21, 2014


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 civilization.

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 everywhere.

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.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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