Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bah, humbug.

Writing in the Telegraph, editor-at-large Jeff Randall -- who describes himself as "somewhere between an agnostic and a mild believer" -- announces that any Christmas card he receives that doesn't at least mention the word "Christmas" goes straight into the trash. "Jettisoning Christmas-less cards is my tiny, almost certainly futile, gesture against the dark forces of political correctness," he writes. "It's a swipe at those who would prefer to abolish Christmas altogether, in case it offends 'minorities.' Someone should tell them that, with only one in 15 Britons going to church on Sundays, Christians are a minority."

Excuse me?

Mr. Randall, you'll have to forgive me for cutting you from my holiday card list this year. Yes, that's right, I said "holiday card." People on my card list celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, perhaps Kwanzaa, and the Winter Solstice. So I have four choices: don't send cards at all; send everyone a Christmas card even though I know that they don't all celebrate Christmas because I can't be bothered to be thoughtful and respectful; design or buy cards celebrating all the holidays and then sort through my list, sending the appropriate cards to the appropriate people; or design or buy a non-holiday-specific card that I can send to everyone.

Most of the time, I opt for the latter. It should be a no-brainer as to why.

I thought Christmas cards were supposed to be about sharing greetings with those we care about, especially those we may see only rarely. I didn't realize that by sending non-Christmas-specific cards I might be offending people. I had somehow missed that, probably because I was focusing on wanting to reach out and let people know that I was thinking about them. For better or for worse, Christmas has become an excuse for keeping our far-flung family of blood and friendship apprised of our doings. We send cards with pictures of our kids and letters with lists of our achievements and losses. We do this because we long to keep in touch, and because this is the yearly opportunity for doing so. Friends who have long since lost touch still send cards to each other at Christmas time. It is a small gesture of love, of hope that friends will meet again, of faith that the bonds of love are lasting.

Throwing out, or even complaining about, a card that doesn't give the greeting you think is appropriate, is akin to criticizing a gift because it isn't expensive enough. It's boorish, crass, and rude. As with gifts, it is the thought that counts. And as with gifts, if you complain to the giver, you may find that you are no longer the giftee.

And meanwhile, I'm growing rather tired of all of the whining from those Christians who feel that they are somehow being oppressed because they don't have 100% compliance from the population. Listen: the day that all the public schools are open on Christmas and closed for Rosh Hashanah is the day that I'll consider such a claim. Until then, you know what? Christians don't own the government or the school system - or even Christmas. Jesus wasn't born in December; it's a pagan holiday, people! Fundamentalist Christians don't even like Santa Claus!

No, Jeff Randall isn't a hardcore Christian. But when I picture him grimly opening his December mail over the kitchen garbage can, remorselessly dropping in heartfelt notes, letters, and the occasional photo, he sure seems like a Scrooge.

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