My humble opinion on
December 24, 2001
A Christmas Muse
Like millions who celebrate the birth
of Christ, both today and tomorrow, my wife and I observe and follow
traditions. This year was no different. In fact, we even established a
new tradition, while upholding another. I'd like to tell you about it.
First the new one. For the first time,
Mary and I adopted a family for Christmas.
Mary is a health inspector for
Maricopa County. Last month, while investigating a complaint in the
rural town of Wickenburg (about 40 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix,
population two to three thousand), Mary came across a family that needed
some help. The mother, I'll call her Susan, was being beaten by her
husband. They and their four kids, ages three to fourteen, were
squatting on private land, in a trailer with no electricity or running
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Mary
learned from Wickenburg Social Services that Susan had left her scumbag
of a husband and she and the kids were now receiving city assistance.
They lived in a small home provided by the city. Mary contacted their
social worker and said that she'd try to collect money from her
co-workers and donate it to the family.
Her colleagues proved very generous,
donating about $200. Her boss's wife ran out and bought several sets of
clothes for Susan and the kids, with her own money.
So, armed with all that cash, Mary
marched out to the mall and bought more clothes, toys, and other goodies
for everyone. Mary and I then spent three nights wrapping everything,
and last Friday, December 21, we drove to Wickenburg and delivered the
It was quite a haul. Each kid had
about five packages to open, plus stuff for Mom, plus a huge filled
stocking. The kids were quite excited, as you might expect, and Mom was
very grateful. Another agency had earlier given them a live tree with
lights and decorations, and Susan said it was their first Christmas tree
as a family. Remember, the oldest child is fourteen.
So that was fun and quite rewarding.
We're going to do this every year, and we'll keep tabs on Susan and the
kids throughout the year.
Many folks who donate and give so
freely of their time and treasure say that their main reward is feeling
good, knowing you're helping your fellow human at Christmas. I don't
agree with this motivation. We shouldn't do for others because it makes
us feel good - that's selfish. We should do for others merely because
they need it and it's the right thing to do.
The tradition that Mary and I
continued was hosting the annual Christmas Dinner and Gift
Here's the background. Growing up,
Christmas Eve for our family meant racing around wrapping gifts and
running to my grandparents' house to deliver them, and hopefully making
it to church. Mary and I decided there had to be a better way to
exchange gifts, so last year we hosted the first dinner and gift
exchange. Last night was the second.
Mary and I make a big dinner for the
family, and in return the family brings their gifts for everyone else.
We eat ourselves silly and then exchange the loot, and everyone drives
home with their gifts. It's a lot of fun, and it frees up Christmas Eve
for the important things, like attending church and resting for
So those are our traditions, old and
new. We'd love to hear yours.
The Holiday that Dare not Speak
Have you noticed that the word
"Christmas" has become increasingly rare?
An editorial in my hometown newspaper,
the Arizona Republic, discussed the lack of Christmas decorations
in downtown Phoenix. But it didn't use the word Christmas. They were
"holiday" ornaments and "holiday" decorations.
Perusing other articles revealed more examples, where holiday replaced
Christmas, even when using Christmas seemed appropriate and even more
suitable than holiday.
It's not just the newspapers. It's
everywhere. Some examples:
- A county school board in Georgia
deleted the word Christmas from its calendar after the ACLU
threatened to sue.
- A school in Plymouth, Mass., told
two ninth graders they could not create Christmas cards that say
- The Kensington, Maryland city
council banned Santa Claus from its annual tree-lighting ceremony
after two families complained that Saint Nick's presence would make
- Ramsey County, Minnesota, banned
red poinsettias from the courthouse, replacing them with ribbons and
then white poinsettias.
- In Pittsburgh, Christmas is now
- In Seattle, King County Executive
Ron Sims told employees not to say "Merry Christmas" or
"Happy Hanukah." He later backed down after the
- In 1999, two 13-year-old girls were
suspended from a Minnesota school for wearing red and green scarves
and saying "Merry Christmas" in a school video.
- Finally, in Plainfield, Illinois, a
school principal announced that, due to diversity and inclusion, no
students would be permitted to celebrate any holidays ever again.
Not just Christmas, but Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.
Inclusion and diversity are the
reasons normally cited for this Christmas censorship. Inclusion then
becomes Orwellian double-speak for exclusion, in which any holiday that
any one person anywhere does not celebrate must be banned from public
view and consumption.
It remains to be seen how this trend
plays out, but the anti-Christmas Scrooges have a ways to go to ruin
Christmas for the rest of us. For the past several years, downtown
Glendale (a Phoenix suburb) has been adorned with millions of lights.
Mary and I went this past Saturday night. Crafts and treats were sold
from booths. Santa was there for the kids. There were even two reindeer
(we had our picture taken with one). There were horse-drawn carriage
rides and choirs singing Christmas carols. And in the outdoor
amphitheater, a local church was performing a cantata, complete with
Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, and wise men. All on public
Just try to take that away from us.