Oh, Christmas Tree

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I posted a picture of my Christmas tree on Facebook last night.

tree

My friend Vikki responded: “Oh, you’re a white lights person.

I could FEEL the disapproval with every keystroke. I told Vikki I was fully prepared to defend my choice, and throw down, as it were. And while she admitted that my tree is beautiful, she expressed disappointment, because she thought I was “one of us.”

Listen, admitting that I prefer white lights on my Christmas tree is NOT EASY for me. I am the only one of my siblings who does this. It is perplexing to them.

My complicated relationship with white lights began somewhere around 1980-81, when my family moved from one quaint South Shore town to another. Hull and Hingham are right next to each other, geographically, but from a sociological and cultural standpoint, moving from Hull to Hingham was akin to relocating to Neft Dashlari, or Mars, or Cleveland. I mean, it was an adjustment.

There are a lot of insane things about growing up in Hingham. I could write a whole book about growing up in Hingham (and I kind of am, at present). But one of the most insane things about Hingham? The unwritten, unspoken agreement that you do not do colored lights at Christmas, ever. At all.

Okay, MAYBE in the neighborhoods that nobody paid much attention to (like ours, which was practically in WEYMOUTH, for God’s sake), one could get away with a strand or two of multi-colored lights on one’s shrubs. But in most areas, and particularly on Main Street, it was understood that come the holidays, your home was to be decorated thus:

• An evergreen wreath on the front door. NO PLASTIC.
• A red ribbon on said wreath. NOTHING ELSE.
• An electric candle in any window facing the street. One candle per window, WHITE BULBS ONLY.
• If your tree is viewable from the street, the lights on that tree are WHITE.
• Absolutely no colored lights on the bushes. Actually, you really shouldn’t have ANY lights on the bushes.
• And, certainly, it should go without saying that nothing inflatable goes in your yard, ever.

Really. If you don’t believe me, take a trip down Main Street in mid-December and see for yourself.

There was something absolutely soul-sucking about this, every time we took Main Street en route to the Hanover Mall. I’d sit in the backseat and feel terrorized by this display of conformity. As a teenager, those little white lights represented everything I hated about living there.

And, yet…..I had to admit that I preferred them.

Believe me when I say that I would rather have admitted to just about anything than liking little white lights. I believed that white lights absolutely meant that I was a giant snob. For several years I used red, green and white lights on my tree. But I simply couldn’t keep up the façade.

In all other respects I am the Queen of Trash. If it is tacky, mismatched, unloved, or on the rack in the back of the store, I champion it. I believe in casseroles topped with potato chips, Cool Whip, and two-liter bottles of orange soda. Honey Boo Boo is my spirit animal. I cheer when we drive by a house that is so bedecked in flashing lights it can be viewed from space.

But, yes, Virginia. When it comes to my Christmas tree I am “a white lights person.”

Can’t we all get along?

HappyMerryWhatever

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A friend of mine from high school posted this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:  “That wraps up the election, folks. Stay tuned for the War On Christmas.”

I laughed out loud at this.  Not because I am anti-Christmas (I’m far from it, as anyone who’s been to my house in December can confirm), but because it’s true:  people need something to be upset about, and the yearly Happy-Holidays-versus-Merry-Christmas “debate” is as good a thing as any.

Frankly, I don’t get it.  I don’t get what’s particularly offensive about saying either of these things.  But then, I’m not religious (although I’ve made it a point to have at least a working knowledge of major religions), nor am I all that “politically correct.”

I’ll say this, though:  in the years since this became a cultural sore spot that seemingly no one can stop picking at, I’ve never had anyone upbraid, chastise, or otherwise correct me for saying “Merry Christmas.”  On the other hand, I have had my head ripped off and kicked around the block for saying “Happy Holidays.”  Your mileage may vary, but this has been my experience.

To me, “Happy Holidays” is simply a LOGICAL thing to say.  Because:

Thanksgiving + Hanukkah + Christmas + New Year’s Day = HOLIDAYS.

I mean, I’m not wrong here.  This is a perfectly reasonable thing to say, on most days between the end of November and the first of January.

Now, if I happen to know you’re Jewish, I’ll wish you Happy Hanukkah on the appropriate days.  If I happen to know you’re Christian, I’ll absolutely wish you a Merry Christmas.  No problem.  But the fact is that there are going to be occasions during which I’m just plain NOT going to know what someone believes or doesn’t believe.  Trust me when I say I am not kowtowing to some shady “agenda” by addressing someone I don’t know with an all-encompassing (and friendly) greeting.  I don’t hate freedom; I’m being polite.  Like my mama taught me.

There are those who see it as emblematic of a larger issue – an erosion of values, perhaps, or the beginnings of a godless amoral state in which little red books will hang from the branches of Socialism Trees for all obedient children.  I don’t see that happening.  I have enough faith in the safeguards in place, and enough cynicism regarding the machinations of partisan politics, to state this with a more than reasonable degree of certainty.

I don’t think “inclusivity” is in any way, shape, or form an invitation to the Destruction Of Life As We Know It.  I’m not anti-religion (so long as it’s not dictating legislation, I am generally fine with it).  I don’t think we should scrub “Christmas” from the books.  I even agree that “holiday tree” sounds a little, well, stupid.  But I think we should make an effort to learn about our varying traditions, to stop with the sweeping generalizations and name-calling, and try – if only for a few short weeks – to bring out the best in one another, instead of assuming the worst.

It saddens me that during a season in which there are lots of pretty things to look at, things to reflect upon, and in which hot chocolate is tastier than ever, people even have the time or inclination to get ZOMG SO UPSET over a simple greeting.  In this day and age, the fact that someone even bothers to acknowledge you at all is something to celebrate.  If the person at the counter wishes you “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays,” do you really HAVE to correct him or her?  Can’t you just say “Thank You” and complete the transaction in a way that doesn’t leave anyone upset?  Have we really all become such professional victims that a greeting is looked upon as an attack?

Andy Williams sang about “Happy Holidays.”  ANDY WILLIAMS.  Hardly a harbinger of Sharia law:

And if you don’t get weepy at this scene – whether you believe in Baby Jesus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or nothing at all – I pity you:

There’s so much more to celebrate than denigrate.  Let’s just be nice to each other.