Imagine you are a small girl in 1955 calling Santa Claus and you get an angry Air Force Colonel at CONAD (the predecessor to NORAD) instead. You can’t blame the Colonel for being upset. You don’t usually get children on top secret red-line phones used to discuss imminent Soviet attacks. (Pause here for snarky contemporary political commentary.) But thanks to a typo in a Sears publicity stunt, Colonel Harry Shoup was on the hot seat.
Shoup finally yielded to expediency, asked the child if she’d been a good girl, and thus NORAD got into the Santa Claus business, to the delight of the childish ever since.
Fast forward to today when blood is regularly spilt in holiday madness. (Google “Walmart Black Friday stabbing” and you get results for 2011, 2012 and 2013!) Christmas has become a lightning rod for all sorts of insanity and inanity. Back when I lived in Alabama, I remember driving home each evening in December past a house that had a lit tableau in their front yard that featured Santa Claus kneeling before the baby Jesus in a (European) manger. All that was missing was the Easter Bunny singing on high.
I couldn’t laugh out loud, or at least too loudly. This was Alabama after all. A place where you don’t insult The Bear, make fun of Christmas or cut in line at Walmart. In the take-no-prisoners religious bedlam that has become Christmas, there is little room for those of us who prefer to sit on the sidelines. It seems we’ve devolved into two tribes: those easily insulted and those looking to insult. Though I tend to lean in favor of the Solstice celebration crowd, there seems to be plenty of celebration this time of year to go around. Even the secular should be able to celebrate the season without being pilloried.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Super Solstice–whatever rocks your boat. Just slip an extra shiv in the waistband of your pajamas before heading over to Walmart.