Heathen’s Greetings!

The war on Christmas has begun once again, as it always does this time of year. Tis’ the season for incessant Facebook declarations that proudly state

derpityxmas

along with countless internet soapboxes dedicated solely to complaints about how Christ is no longer in Christmas. FOX News has their star-spangled panties all in a perma-bunch because to their hive mind, America is descending into hell right before their very eyes, and has been for a long time. They lament its citizens becoming self aware and more respectful toward others. Not only has our heathen nation taken prayer out of public schools (shame upon us!) but now we’ve gone so far as to remove Christ from his very own birthday celebration by insisting on saying ”Happy Holidays!” to one another as though it’s insulting to use that phrase in polite company.

If Christmas is your thing then by all means, please offer up a slice of birthday cake. No one is trying to censor you or oppress you, so please do have yourself a very merry Christmas. For the rest of us, “Happy Holidays” is nothing more than a considerate way of wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season regardless of what religion they adhere to, if any. After all, “Happy Holidays” translates to “happy holy days”, and since December is a sacred month for many religious denominations, it just seems the most respectful thing to do, especially when one can’t know what holiday another person celebrates, just by looking at them.  I wouldn’t wish someone a “Blessed Yule” unless I knew for certain that individual was Pagan, and I wouldn’t wish someone a “Happy Hanukkah” unless I just saw him or her walk out of a synagogue.

“Happy Holidays!” is a simple fucking courtesy and does not herald the destruction of the Christmas holiday once and for all.

What if every ornament is secretly a ticking time bomb?

But what if every ornament in the world has a ticking time bomb on the inside?

To be very clear, I am not offended by people who genuinely wish me a Merry Christmas and I will always reply in kind because, believe it or not, I’m really nice like that. It’s the sentiment behind the greeting that counts.

I am, however, greatly offended by anyone who utters that phrase in defiance because they feel as though Christmas is somehow being censored. You know those folks who will spit out an angry “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” in response to anyone who has the audacity to wish them “Happy Holidays” instead. For those who tout the idea that “Happy Holidays!” is somehow oppressive to Christian beliefs, certainly using the phrase “Merry Christmas!” would be equally oppressive to the millions of people who don’t celebrate Christmas but do celebrate some other holiday in December. Like Hanukkah. Or Bodhi Day. Eid al-Adha, perhaps. And Yule. Can’t forget Kwanzaa, either. Also Festivus For The Rest Of Us. Hogswatch, too.

Or at least it would be offensive if they cared about the use of a holiday-specific phrase with even a quarter as much ferocity as so many of their angry counterparts seemingly do. I’ve never seen any of my Jewish friends post “IT’S ‘HAPPY HANUKKAH!’, NOT ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS!’” much like I’ve never seen any of my Pagan friends post “IT’S ‘BLESSED YULE’, NOT ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS!’ LIKE AND SHARE IF U AGREE!” on their Facebook pages.

(And yes, I do have actual Jewish friends and actual Pagan friends. They’re not just token specimens I pulled out of my ass for the sake of this blog post.)

A ridiculous example of perceived “de-Christmasing of Christmas” occurred in November of 2009, when The American Family Association boycotted Gap over an advertising campaign. Why? Because they felt that Gap was censoring the word “Christmas”.  It should probably be mentioned that the word “Christmas” was printed on Gap’s website during that time and it was also being spoken in their television commercials, so how *that* equates to censoring the word I’m not sure. Beyond those mentions, the word “Christmas” was also sung as a part of the following lyric during one of their holiday advertisements: “Go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go Kwanzaa, go Solstice! . . . Do whatever you wannukkah and to all a cheery night!”

At which point, the AFA promptly threw a fit because the Gap ad referenced Solstice – a Pagan holiday better known as Yule. You know, because it was perfectly fine to sing about Christmas, but singing about that other holiday… well, that’s censoring Christmas.

While FOX News lives to stir their brand of Krazy Konspiracy Kool-Aid, flinging it by the ladleful into the open mouths of their collective audience whenever the holiday season rolls around, “War On Christmas” is far from a new activity. One of the first official wars on Christmas was led by Puritanical Christians in the 1640’s when they banned Christmas altogether because they felt that the celebration of the Christmas holiday was too Pagan and that the traditions had no actual biblical roots. Instead of the evergreenery and feasts and carols that people had grown to love, they turned Christmas into a morose day of fasting. If I had to hazard a guess, they probably wore their finest black clothing and had perma-frowns plastered on their pasty, righteous faces the entire time.

Pictured above: the ancestors of the AFA.

Pictured above: the ancestors of the AFA.

The city of Boston also conducted its own private war against Christmas for 22 years, beginning in 1659. Eventually that ban was revoked, but Christmas celebrations were not fashionable there again until the mid 1800’s.

(I bet they just wanted to avoid the awkwardness of a Secret Santa gift exchange. We’ve all been there.)

Those were real wars that were waged against the celebration of Christmas. People were jailed for not assimilating. It was some pretty serious shit at the time.

Nowadays, people talk about this so-called “War On Christmas”  but to be honest with you, I just don’t see it. Look around you. Christmas. Is. Everywhere. Homes and businesses are festooned with the colorful lights of the season. 24-hour Christmas music channels have already ascended into the airwaves – those electronic angels we will hear on high, over and over until January’s merciful release. Local shops began turning themselves into Christmas wonderlands the day after Halloween.

(Hell, the Walmart I shop in started clearing out the Halloween stuff and setting up the Christmas stuff the day before Halloween. Saw it with my own two eyes, I did.)

You can’t drive anywhere or do anything without being reminded that Christmastime is nigh. If there is indeed a “War On Christmas”, I assure you – Christmas is winning.

In a country whose foundation was supposedly built on religious freedom, what the hell is so difficult about accepting and embracing diversity and enjoying the season for what it is: a time for family and friends to gather around one another and celebrate whatever it is that they celebrate. “Happy Holidays!” is nothing more than an all-encompassing gesture of good will toward our fellow man. It is a phrase which transcends religion, extends respect to everyone and excludes no one.

Why do people feel the need to create yet another reason to argue with each other during what is supposed to be the most peaceful time of year?

That’s what family dinners are for.

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The Sideline Effect

I’ve got two kids, both of whom are involved in various extracurricular activities, all of which revolve around sports. My eldest is in marching band so she plays at every varsity football game, and my youngest will sign up for anything and everything that’s made available to her – soccer, softball, cheerleading… you name it, she’s all over it like it’s made of chocolate.

Can I tell you a secret? One that I’ve never admitted to any of the parents with whom I’m forced to make uncomfortable smalltalk during practices and games? I don’t give two shits about the game. There. I said it. Felt so good, I’ll say it again: I DON’T GIVE TWO SHITS ABOUT THE GAME.

Wow. That admission was seriously liberating. I’ve never felt so fresh and free. I feel as though I could be a spokesmodel for a Summer’s Eve commercial at this very moment, slow-motion-leaping through twilit fields of lavender with my short blue hair fluttering in the breeze.

In our small town, we have but one K-12 school in the entire district, and sports are a serious business there. Especially football. People put signs in their yards, they come to the games dressed head-to-toe in school colors with their annoying cowbells in hand, they scream at the top of their lungs and stomp their feet on the metal stands they’re seated in. It’s a lot like Thunderdome but without the “two teams enter, one team leaves” rule to make it really interesting. Also, Tina Turner isn’t there, which really bums me out because I loves me some Tina.

She’s simply the best. Better than all the rest.

She’s simply the best. Better than all the rest.

I know that I am in the minority. The less-than-1%. I try to feign interest in all of the games because my kids need me to be there so they can see me watching them strut their stuff. Truth is, if I had no children involved in these activities, you’d never catch me at a Friday night football game. It’s too cold. It’s too loud. I could be curled up at home, wrapped in a cozy blanket while reading a book and enjoying a glass of wine.

The more games I have to sit through, the more grateful I am that both of my babies were born without Y chromosomes. I’m the mom of a wee cheerleader; sitting on the sidelines watching other people’s sons having to endure the wrath of screaming coaches is bad enough – I can’t imagine what it’s like being the parent of a boy on the football team. Some of these coaches care a hell of a lot more about winning than they do teaching kids to play the game.

At the high school level, I completely get it – by the time those kids reach high school age, they know how to play the game, they know which positions they excel in – they’ve been practicing and playing for years to finesse their skill sets. And yeah, their coaches scream and berate them on the field because they expect nothing but the very best from their well-seasoned players, as they should. Some are likely even preparing for college football careers.

What I don’t understand is how that same mentality is justified at the 3rd and 4th grade level. These kids are just starting out, the focus should be on learning the sport and having fun working as a part of a team effort. The kids are still figuring out what their individual talents are – no one pops out of the womb knowing what skills they possess – those need to be developed. Now is not the time to be concerned with winning, no matter how nice it might feel. Now is not the time to forcefully grab an 8 year old boy by the face mask in order to scream in his face about how he messed up a play and he’s sitting out the rest of the game. Now is not the time to consistently bench half of the team because the coach can only be concerned with those players who stand the best chance of bringing his team to victory.

Sit your ass back down, you miserable failure!

Sit your ass back down, you miserable failure!

Some of those boys are rarely given the opportunity to play at all. And when they do, it’s one or two plays. 30 seconds to a minute or so. These are 8 and 9 year olds. For many, it’s their first year participating in organized sports altogether. How many of those boys do you think are going to come back next year? What lessons do those coaches think they’re teaching them? From what I can tell, the only lessons to be learned here is that their coach is an asshole who doesn’t care about helping them to succeed and that they’d have way more fun at home playing video games.

It’s not just football; these types of coaches can be found in any sport that requires one. I’ve been the parent of the kid getting benched more often than all of her teammates; it was based upon her lesser ability in softball, and it was all because that coach was determined to win the game. She was 7. I’ll admit – my kid doesn’t run the fastest and she’s no Baby Ruth but she loves the sport (unless it’s cold and/or rainy, or she’s hungry or needs to pee, or her shoes are laced too tightly or the wind is blowing from the north instead of the west). What she really enjoys is being a part of a team and playing a fun game together. Over the years, she’s definitely improved although this was an especially tough season since it was their first time playing kid-pitch. Before now, the ball was always coach-pitched so throws were consistent and much more hittable. But you know what? Our team has really flourished in spite of that new obstacle, and all of them still enjoy playing the game – in large part because of their head coach.

We’re lucky (so, so lucky) that our current coach will schedule each kid to be benched for the same number of innings as necessary to keep things even, no matter how we’re playing that day. He takes the time to teach the girls, to encourage them even when they mess up because he realizes that they’re still learning. They’re young, the only way they will ever excel in the sport is if they’re taught how to play and given the opportunity to do so, and if they’re encouraged to keep trying their best even when they mistakes. He never gets disgusted or upset when they’re tagged out, or when they strike out, or when they throw the ball to the wrong base.

Because it’s just a game. And they’re just little girls.

I wish that all of the coaches could be like that – I think our peewee football coaches could learn a thing or two from our softball coach. Not that I think it would make me suddenly love the game or anything, but it would definitely make my time spent on the sidelines a hell of a lot less aggravating.

Also, concession stand therapy helps a lot.

Also, concession stand therapy seems to help a lot.