End of Year Observances


Wakefield Christmas TreeWhen I speak of “end of year observances” I’m not attempting to concoct a new euphemism for “the holidays,” although, now that it’s come up, it seems as good a place as any to begin.

I won’t talk about any “War on Christmas,” which is probably about as worthy of serious consideration as the “War on Women” attributed to Republicans in the last election. (Still, I have little doubt that those who most vociferously deny the existence of a War on Christmas would rejoice in the holiday’s demise.)

Every year, it seems, some school cancels a Christmas concert, some official refers to a “Holiday tree” or we’re treated to some similar idiotic gesture guaranteed to fuel the War on Christmas fears.

Even the term “Happy Holidays” is seen as a manifestation of anti-Christmas sentiment. I don’t think it began that way. I always saw it as a way to group the celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s.

Still, there’s no doubt that some folks utter “Happy Holidays” not as an inclusive greeting but as a way to deny any recognition to Christianity as the dominant faith of Western culture, which is of course the root of all oppression.

Who really objects to the greeting “Merry Christmas?” Generally, it isn’t members of non-Christian religions. Many Jews send out Christmas cards as well as Hanukkah greetings and enjoy the secular manifestations of Christmas as the national holiday that it is.

reason's greetingsNo, to the extent that there’s any war on Christmas, it isn’t coming from religious people. It’s coming from unhinged secularists who see Christmas as intertwined with a modern Western civilization built on imperialism and exploitation, from the Crusades to Christopher Columbus to George W. Bush.

In other words, it’s a tiny minority of cranks hardly worth getting worked up about – similar to the Occupy movement.

That’s not to say that our increasingly secular culture isn’t worrisome. It has brought with it a moral foundation that is shaky where it exists at all. In a culture of ethical relativism, where all “values” are accorded equal moral worth, that which is unspeakably and unfathomably heinous can take root and grow. Such instances have emerged in the last two weeks, including right here in Wakefield.

Sure, there have always been and always will be disturbed individuals in our midst. But when a society decides that value judgments are the same as intolerance, it cripples its own ability and willingness to react in some cases until it’s too late. And when that message is re-enforced in a 24-hour a day media culture of TV, radio, movies, our computers and even our phones, it’s bound to embolden those whose innate moral compasses are already pointing them in the wrong direction.

MarijuanaWhat’s happening with marijuana is another example. No one is saying that it should be treated the same as heroin or cocaine. But pot use became rampant among baby boomers who believed that it was merely harmless. Now, we’ve just told kids in Massachusetts that marijuana is medicine. Talk about crippling our own ability to intervene.

Those who argue that heroin, cocaine and even alcohol all have a history of medical use are making my point about moral equivalency. You can’t judge one thing because other things were misjudged before it? Because one harmful intoxicant is legal, we have to allow another?

Whether you celebrate Christmas as a sacred religious observance, as a national holiday or both, it remains a reminder of the traditional values that have held society together, even as we watch them slip slowly, incrementally away.

In the meantime, Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

[This column originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item.]

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“Reason’s Greetings” photo by Mark Nockelby.
Marijuana photo by Tomas de Aquino.

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