The Bore on Christmas
I was just in Spokane, Washington, the city where my boyfriend grew up. It’s a nice place to be from—far, far from.
Spokane is an overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Christian town. There are churches on every corner—there are also restaurants on every corner. Spokane has more restaurants per-capita than any city in American, the locals proudly tell you. The neglect to mention that the restaurants they’re talking about are all McDonalds, Arbys, Applebees, Dominoes, Subways, etc. The impact of all this fast food is apparent everywhere. Come the Rapture God is going to break a serious sweat helping the saved in Spokane ascend into heaven.
Being as Spokane is very, very Christian, there’s no debate there over whether you wish people a “Happy Holidaysā€¯ or a “Merry Christmas.ā€¯ It’s Merry Christmas all the way—which is fine with me. Or used to be. I celebrate Christmas, in my culturally Catholic way. Put a tree up, take my kid to see Santa, hang stockings, bake cookies—basically it’s my childhood Christmas minus Midnight Mass. But I noticed something new when I was in Spokane this weekend: I couldn’t wish people who had wished me a “Merry Christmasā€¯ a “Merry Christmasā€¯ in return. Wishing people a “Merry Christmas,ā€¯ even when I was certain they were Christian, made me feel complicit in this War on Christmas bullshit. I would be sending a signaling that I was one of the troops, just another one of Bill O’Reilly and American Family Association’s Christian warriors.
And then it hit me: Just as the right-wing succeeded long ago in making it impossible for liberals and progressives to enjoy the July 4th, now they’re taking Christmas away too. Patriotism is their property—if you’re not a my-country-right-or-wrong, country-music-listening redneck, you’re made to feel like a hypocrite for celebrating the July 4th holiday. So most of us opt out, ignoring July 4th. We’ve ceded patriotism to the right. And now, thanks to the War on Christmas, those of us who aren’t fundies are going to feel awkward about celebrating Christmas.
So they’re taking Christmas away too—but, hell, not just Christmas. They’re taking holidays, period. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, it all belongs to them. Jesus is the “reason for the season,ā€¯ all of it, every twinkling light, every scrap of tinsel. Doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or secular or just happy about the arrival of a new year because it brings us closer to the date when George W. Bush is out of office. If you’re down with the holidays, you’re down with Christianity.
So there I was in Spokane, being wished Merry Christmas every time I turned around. And what did I say in return? Respond in kind? Wish ‘em “Happy Holidays” and risk being accused of attacking their faith? Neither. I said, “Yeah, thanks.ā€¯ It was the only thing I could say without feeling like a liar or co-conspirator.