Author’s note: The following column is inspired by true events. That means about the same thing it does in Hollywood: there’s about 1 percent truthfulness and 99 percent embellishment and falsehood. Please don’t try to figure out who or where I’m talking about. The most likely answer will be no one and nowhere.
I could tell by the look on her face that she was ready to fire the first salvo in this year’s battle, which is part of the perennial War on Christmas.
Sure, she was smiling and polite as she rang up my basket full of gifts that I had to get shipped Down South ASAP. But the change in the in-store music from light pop to barely-recognizable versions of Christmas carols, and the fact she had on a red Santa hat — or is it an elf hat? I can never remember, but I know I need to find mine for the coming Christmas parties — tipped her hand well before she printed my receipt and opened her mouth.
“Happy Holidays,” she said.
I fought back the urge to correct her. Are the words “Merry Christmas” really that hard? I know, not everyone is big into the Christmas thing, but why do I have to bear the brunt of that change? After all, we had that one family in my hometown that didn’t celebrate Christmas or go on egg hunts at Easter, but the town never changed. The family kept its thoughts to themselves, and everyone was happy (At least I think they were. I never really knew anyone in that family, and they never complained). I felt safe and secure believing what I held important was held important by nearly everyone, and anyone who didn’t agree had the decency to keep quiet.
Now, not so much. I really didn’t blame the lady who rang me up. She was certainly doing what her bosses asked, and they, in turn, were simply acting on the mandates sent down from some soulless corporate entity, probably the result of some lawsuit or government edict.
But, really, who do they think they’re fooling? The buzzword they use is “inclusiveness,” but we all know that really means pandering to the weirdo that doesn’t see things they way the rest of us see it. What holidays are there besides Christmas and New Year’s, and what was so hard about switching from saying “Merry Christmas” to “Happy New Year’s” from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1? I know, I know, Advent. But Advent’s like what, a month? And no one really knows what all those days are except those five folks at the church who are always trying to recruit me to some cause or another. As I hustled out of the store, my mood just a bit darker than it was when the day began, I saw the man from the Salvation Army banging away at his bell. Man, it seems every time I turn around this month, someone’s asking for some donation to something or another. Who has time during the Christmas rush to stop every 50 feet to toss a quarter into this, that or the other thing? Besides, who carries cash these days?
Anyway, ahead of me in the dash to get through the sliding double doors was a man in a yarmulke. I can’t remember what day of the week is the Jewish “big day,” but I was pretty sure Wednesday wasn’t it. Why would anyone wear one of those things out unless he had to?
The man in the yarmulke stopped (forcing every one else to walk around him, by the way) and tossed a few coins into the red kettle. The man with the bell stopped his ringing long enough to offer a cheery “Merry Christmas” to the Jewish man, forcing me to freeze in horror. Oh boy. Here it comes. A full-throated, double-barreled blast of indignation that will begin with a retelling of the history of the Israelites and end with calls to supervisors and demands for apologies and restitution. That’s how we got in this whole “Happy Holidays” mess to begin with.
As he opened his mouth, I cringed, not knowing what sort of invective would pour out, but knowing it would be ugly.
“Thanks,” the man in the yarmulke said. “You, too.”
• Ward is the deputy managing editor of the Juneau Empire. The views he expresses here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Empire’s editorial board. His column will return Jan. 10, 2012.