Yesterday on ATV’s suppertime news/lifestyle magazine Live at 5, the lead segment was all about those who were either unable to go home for Christmas or without family and friends to celebrate. One kernel of so-called wisdom that was offered was that no matter what, don’t spend the day alone. The underlying assumption is that it’s impossible not to feel sorry for yourself if you find yourself alone on December 25, and that it is a day you simply cannot choose to be anti-social unless there’s something terribly wrong in your head. You have to have a good time on that day. You can’t just spend that day like any other. But to me it begs the question, “Why the hell not?”

People go on and on about how horrible peer pressure is among teenagers. But when it comes to Christmas, societal pressure to conform is many times worse and, moreover, not called out for what it is. This year I’ll be calling family because Christmas still matters to them, but I’ve already assured them that I’ve chosen to have a super-low-key Christmas this year and no one is to feel sorry for me because I’m actually looking forward to it.

It sure beats the crap out of the year when my brother tried to calm his kids anxious to open their gifts by leading them into singing “Happy birthday, Jesus.” At that point I just didn’t know if I should shoot myself or go bowling.

Am I cranky? bitter? the new Schrooge? Not at all! What bugs me is how systemic the hype is.

Mind you, I do recall how horrified I was as a kid when a friend of the family declared that, to him, “Christmas is just another day on the calendar.” The kid that I was simply couldn’t comprehend holding such an attitude. But the adult in me does.

The “Merry Christmas” Tempest in a Teapot

This isn’t the first year that we’ve been hearing people bemoaning the gradual disappearance of “Merry Christmas,” but this year it seems the issue has been magnified by several degrees. I particularly enjoyed reading Mac‘s take at Pesky’Apostrophe. I, for sure, would be among the first to sport a “Pope Julius I is the reason for the season” T-shirt if one existed and I could put my hands on one. Given the dubious origins of “Christ’s mass,” I would think Christians ought to be reminded that Easter is without a doubt the highest holiday in their calendar.

Indeed, as Mac points out, “Christians do not have a lock on celebrating holidays in December.” But also telling and interesting, I think, is how in another culture that had strong religious leanings until recently (i.e., French Canadian), the notion of a “Holiday Season” has been widely accepted — to wit, Le Temps des Fêtes — since there were three major celebrations (two of which Christian, I might add) in a two-week period: Dec. 24/25, Dec. 31/Jan. 1, and Jan. 6. Thus, by wishing someone a “Joyeux Temps des Fêtes,” you’re covering all the bases so that if you’re extending those wishes after Dec. 25, it’s implied that you’re hoping that the person has had a “Merry Christmas.” Also interesting to recall is how in my parents’ generation, le Jour de l’An (New Year’s) was the biggest event of the three. That would be when they would receive a gift: an orange — a rare delicacy in Depression-era Québec.

Zealots of either stripes — the religious and the politically correct types — have blown this thing out of proportion. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, but it would be pretty dumb of me to get offended by someone who wishes me a “Merry Christmas.” If the wish had turned to “Hope you dumbass heathen die slowly and painfully on December 25th,” then I would have reason to be offended. Ditto for the Christians to whom one wishes “Happy Holidays.”