And So This is Christmas

What are we to make of Christmas in the year 2015?

There are those who’d like us to believe that a war of political correctness is being waged against Christmas, with shots being fired every time someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I’d argue that if anyone is fighting a war against Christmas, it’d be the marketing departments of the businesses that trot out the Christmas displays earlier and earlier (this year I saw it occur as early as mid-August). It’d be the luxury car companies that have those obnoxious year-end sales events, the “December to Remember” commercials featuring $50,000 dollar cars with festive red ribbons tied to their tops.

It’d be any company that perpetuates the “black Friday” nonsense and greed-fest that not only cheapens Christmas but also that other sacred holiday, Thanksgiving.

It’d be the weather, and the climate change deniers.  As I write this, I can hear the wind howling outside. Not the wintry wind you’d expect in Wisconsin in late December, but rather the warm wind that you’d normally associate with a late summer or early autumn thunderstorm. It’s pushing 60 degrees out, and it’s been a warm and wet and muddy December so far, the temperature above freezing all month, with an almost steady soft and warm rain, and not a trace of snow to be found.  It’s not the absence of a snowflake on a Starbuck’s cup that threatens Christmas, it’s the absence of real snowflakes falling from the sky. I know, I know, one month of local weather does not make climate change real, but with melting ice caps and snow-less mountain tops becoming common place, the trends are indisputable.

But that’s okay – who needs the North Pole anyway? By now, Santa Claus has probably taken advantage of the shrinking globe and moved his corporate headquarters to a Grand Caymans tax shelter, and outsourced his manufacturing to a Southeast Asia sweat shop.  By now, Rudolph has traded in his red nose for a couple of right wings, and Santa is packing heat with his very own concealed carry. One can’t be too careful these days.

Any supposed war on Christmas would be carried out by be the radical Islamists who carried out the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and by the radical Christians of the Planned Parenthood attack.  It’d be waged by any terrorist of any creed or color who uses violence to inspire feelings of fear and hatred, and by any corrupt politician or leader who attempts to exploit fear and hatred for personal gain.

It’d be waged by anyone who blames the victims of economic hardship, racial intolerance or sexual violence for their circumstance.

I don’t, in my lifetime, remember a more cynical time than right now. People have never seemed so divided or afraid.  The world feels like a very dangerous place.

Christmas was always about our shared humanity and the ideals that represent the best part of ourselves. These things were always able to rise above the crass commercialization and even the religious icons the holiday was founded on, because Christmas was able to get inside of us, get past our self-interests, and make us look directly into the eyes of another human being and see our own reflection.

It’s the one day of the year we set aside to celebrate being human.  And when I doubt its ability to survive in times like this, I’m reminded of the true story of the Christmas of 1914, one hundred and one years ago, on the front lines of the bloodiest war in human history, World War One.

That was the day French and German soldiers both laid down their weapons and left their trenches, some of which were only forty yards apart, to celebrate Christmas together.  They played football and exchanged food and tobacco. They told stories about their wives and children and their homes. They talked about what Christmas meant to them, and for a day, the gunfire fell silent.

Christmas was tough enough to survive the horror of those trenches, and when my sons make it home tonight and walk through my front door, we’ll all be together, and Christmas will be Christmas, undefeated and invincible, again.

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