Posts Tagged Christmas

Black Friday blogging

Today was Black Friday, and you know what I didn’t do? Go shopping.

I guess I’m a terrible person for not buying the people I love flatscreen televisions.

The beginning of the Christmas shopping season has become such an event that it’s overshadowing an actual holiday, Thanksgiving. While I’m sure there are many great bargains to be had, aren’t we going a little too far in pursuit of cheap goods?

The great threat to American values isn’t abortions, gay marriage, or people’s pesky desire not to get shot when they go to the mall. It’s that we’re expected to spend so much time in said mall.

You don’t have to be a curmudgeon to recognize that spending time with family and giving thanks for what one has are two things that are worth taking one day off a year for.

Yet those things seem to take a back seat to an unearthly cycle of production and consumption.

You often hear people saying that the holidays are an important time to consider the less-fortunate.

That’s an incredibly ironic statement considering that, while the Macy’s bigwigs were enjoying the Thanksgiving Day Parade yesterday, entry-level workers had to open the stores.

Of course, it’s sometimes hard to put oneself in the position of someone who is forced to choose between surviving, and celebrating a holiday that–as an American–they are supposedly entitled to enjoy.

So maybe those people should consider how much time they spend buying gifts, and compare it to how much time they actual spend celebrating the holidays.

Over a month of purchasing goes into what, for most people, is a single day of observance.

Gift giving is an integral part of the holiday season, but if it requires so much time and effort that people choose (or are forced) to cut their holidays short, what’s the point?

Consumerism can only take people so far. A holiday that is only distinguished from an ordinary day by a larger credit-card bill isn’t much of a holiday.

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Christmas truce: Part II

It seems like it would be better to begin the holiday season in good spirits, and to know when to end it. That’s why I’m proposing a sort of amnesty period once all the gift giving is done.

Today, I exploited the narrow window before a bad snowstorm to run a few errands, like any other Wednesday. However, since this was the day after Christmas, it was oddly sickening. After a month of crowded stores and endless commercials it just seemed like too much, and I don’t even celebrate Christmas.

I’m sure the people who work in retail that had to get up this morning and wait on customers returning the gifts their relatives had frantically bought weeks (or days) earlier feel the same way.

We live in a commercial society, there’s no denying that, so piling an extra helping of buying on top of our normal consumerist activities is like chasing a keg stand with a martini.

There’s nothing wrong with needing stuff, or wanting to give it to show affection, but after such a long slog maybe it would be nice to take a break. That’s why I’m proposing that Christmas and December 26 be a shopping holiday, where the stores are closed and we can focus on using our possessions instead of buying more.

This idea definitely belongs in the “it’s a nice thought, but it’ll never happen” category, but it’s nice to dream. Wouldn’t it be relaxing to have two consumption-free days, a counterpart to Thanksgiving and Black Friday? Balance is important.

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Christmas truce

Santa ClausLike Black Friday and red and green M&Ms, the annual “War on Christmas” has become a holiday tradition. Like fanatical Civil War re-enactors, the two sides array themselves for battle every year because they can’t actually kill each other.

On one side, there are the non-Christian heathens and the lawyers and municipal governments that defend them by removing Nativity scenes and Christmas trees from town squares and shopping malls. On the other side are the defenders of the faith, most of whom work for Fox News.

For anyone of a non-Christian persuasion, it’s difficult to see why pundits like Bill O’Reilly get so riled up every year (even though “Papa Bear” sort of has the word “riled” in his name). It’s not that there’s a problem with Christmas, it’s just hard to sympathize with a group that is in the majority when it claims it is being oppressed.

The PC crowd can get out of control, but the current situation is an accurate reflection of American demographics. The majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, but not everyone does. That means, once in awhile, someone might not want to see Santa Claus, or Jesus.

The other side of the coin shows that, for a country that ostensibly separates church and state, Christianity gets plenty of privileges. Christmas is a federal holiday, and there is a very ostentatious Christmas tree in the White House.

The season also lasts for almost two months: This past Halloween, I saw Santa at the local mall, talking to kids toting trick-or-treat bags.

Knowledge of Christianity also seeps into the non-Christian consciousness very easily. Everyone has Christian friends, or learns about some facet of the religion in school; it’s almost impossible to study history or literature without that knowledge.

On the other hand, many Americans go through their lives without really knowing anyone who doesn’t worship Jesus, and they only learn about alternative beliefs through their own curiosity or through special programs in more enlightened public schools.

With that in mind, it’s hard to see how saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” can really be a threat to Christians’ enjoyment of their holiday. The generals fighting the “War on Christmas” just don’t understand how good they have it.

Jon Stewart put it best when he said that people like Bill O’Reilly “have confused loss of absolute power with oppression.” The simple fact is that some people don’t celebrate Christmas, and that really shouldn’t be the concern of the people who do.

It really isn’t that big of a deal: If someone wants to say “Merry Christmas” or erect an elaborate Nativity scene, they’re entitled to. They just need to remember that they are not the only people in the world, and to not take that reality personally.

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How to say “Hanukah”

With Hanukah rolling into its second night, confrontation-averse goyim are probably sweating bullets. “How do you pronounce it?” they wonder “Why is it spelled so many different ways?”

As with any word translated from another language, the English spelling of “Hanukah” does not denote literal English pronunciation. In Hebrew, the first is pronounced with a guttural “h,” a sound that requires dislodging all of the phlegm in one’s throat to make. It’s usually represented by a “ch” in translations, as opposed to the soft, regular “h,” which is why some people write “Chanukah” instead of “Hanukah.”

Most goyim trying for the authentic Hebrew pronunciation usually ignore another critical point. In Hebrew, most words put emphasis on the second or third syllables, the opposite of most English (and even Yiddish) words. So dragging out that guttural “ch/h” for dramatic effect is unnecessary.

Either way, it’s really not a big deal; people will know what you are talking about even if you don’t sound like Tevye. The Americanized “han-u-kah” is perfectly acceptable.

It’s not like people don’t have trouble pronouncing the names of Christian holidays, right? The guy’s name is Jesus Chryst but the holiday is Christmas? What’s up with that?

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Tyranny of the majority

America, to use an oft-quoted phrase, is a melting pot of different cultures. Through a constant stream of immigrants, a unique culture has emerged from bits and pieces of others. Yet America has never had a problem with identity crisis: for most of the country’s existence, people have had a very clear idea of what is “American.” But who gets to decide what is (and isn’t) American?

Apparently, rednecks get most of the casting votes. On a commercial for a new discovery channel show, a stereotypical “good ‘ole boy” declares “if you love your country, you’re gonna have to love moonshine.” In their song “Red, White & Blue,” Lynyrd Skynyrd sing “if they don’t like it they can just get the hell out.”

If a Jewish deli owner went on television and said “if you love your country, you’re gonna have to love pastrami,” how would people react? They might say that one individual should not tell others that his regional subculture is more American than theirs. The same goes for illegal distillers and their white lightning.

Another important group are Christians. Around this time of the year, there are always a few arguments about whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Most people act like rational human beings and see this for what it is: a non-issue. However, others take it very seriously; just look at the comments on this blog post about holiday political correctness. The Christmas warriors argue that, since the majority of Americans are Christian, everyone should have to say “Merry Christmas.”

The Founding Fathers feared a “tyranny of the majority,” the arbitrary use of democracy in ways to were harmful to the nation and the rights of minorities. By writing off certain things as “less American” than others, we bring ourselves dangerously close to a cultural tyranny of the majority. There’s room for everyone, and people who think they can decide what is and is not American need to remember that.

Regardless of who has the majority, everyone’s right to religious freedom and the pursuit of happiness is guaranteed by the Constitution. As far as that document is concerned, Manishevitz is just as American as moonshine.

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