I have to remember what time of year this is (You know “…and on earth peace, good will to men…”) or I might just lose control and be found in the middle of some busy intersection yelling at the top of my voice, “WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY IS WRONG WITH US? WHAT DO WE THINK WE ARE DOING HERE? IS THIS REALLY ALL THERE IS? DOES ANYONE EVER GIVE A THOUGHT TO HOW ABSURD IT SEEMS TO LIVE LIKE THIS? ”
I am on the verge of doing that after two things occurred today. I joined Facebook a few weeks ago after several years of being urged to do so by my daughter and her children. It is a rather strange place I find, a kind of “party line” conversation among people that goes on and on. I was just there scrolling down a number of conversations, bits and pieces, snippets, and adding one or two of my own, when my eye caught sight of an ad in the sidebar. It was all about Mr. Peanut and his singing seasonally appropriate E-card. Click on the link and you will be urged to send it to all of your friends, to “like” it, and spread the cheer…and possibly, just, buy some Planter’s peanuts for your Christmas snacking.
Taking the absurd to a new height (depth?) Mr. Peanut sings a chorus of the old Mel Torme hit, “The Christmas Song”; you know, the one with the roasting chestnuts line, the one with folks dressed up like Eskimos. I wondered a long time ago what had that to do with Christmas. Now, the peanut sings the lyrics under a banner reading “Happy Holidays”. I don’t remember, and don’t want to, really, if the words “Merry Christmas to you” are sung in this present version. They do appear in the original, and that was the genesis of my long ago wondering who had until that time thought the greeting had to do with a Child and our salvation, not nuts and fires and nipped noses.
I read something earlier today written by a Polish priest to the effect that God will let us keep on thinking that what we do is good and right: “Even if we intellectually accept that God’s will is the best, we often strive to convince not only ourselves and others, but also God Himself, that our own wants coincide with His will. Because God respects our freedom and our choices … the Lord consents to this even though each modification of His will means only greater suffering for us.”
The last bit of that quote came back to me after I recalled another recent incident. It was in the parking lot of St. Christopher’s School at just about 3:00PM when all the little children are released into the arms of their parents who have been waiting patiently for them for a while; sitting in their SUV’s and wagons and vans, chatting to each other through the open windows like so many cops in their cruisers in some doughnut store’s parking lot. (Within ten or twenty, at most thirty, feet of all of these cars, the church stands empty.)
The children flooded out. Moms, and a few Dads, got out of the cars and opened doors. A few went and stood outside the door to the empty church waiting to gather up their little cherubs. The tide moved out of the lot much more quickly than it had filled it. I had stepped out into the open as the last several cars were leaving and caught the parting words of two of the parents, exchanged between open windows as Molly Goldberg might have done had she been alive today. “Happy Holidays,” the one called to the other in a lilting soprano, “if I don’t see you.” “Oh, yeah,” came the bright reply from the window of the Escalade rolling by, “Happy Holidays to all! Ha, Ha.”
I realized then how much I hate that phrase, “Happy Holidays!” I hate it and I feel a kind of sadness each time I hear it, sad for the people who say it because they don’t believe in anything else but a holiday, sad for the people who say it because they don’t want to offend someone if they say something else, or because they are simply afraid they might get yelled for saying it by a brute or a bully sad for the brutes and bullies who might yell. I also hate “Happy Holidays” for this reason: I hate “Happy Holidays” for its stupidity and vapidity, its absence of happiness, of anything but noise. It reminds me now of St. Paul’s words about empty drums.
There’s no love in “Happy Holidays”. That’s finally and most importantly why I hate it.
I shall not wish anyone Happy Holidays on this “holy” day of Christmas for the simple reason that I have found, after reflection, that I love them too much to slight them that way. Joy, yes, in the promise fulfilled, and peace to all. But no vacuous and silly “Happy Holiday”. As well wish them that their hearts be empty.
But, I do think even Mel Torme, may he rest in peace, might have seen my point were he still around to observe what his song and a thousand other like it have helped to spawn; a lie.