"Oh, good grief!" I can hear both you and Linus saying. You're thinking that it's bad enough that Christmas has become as commercialized as it is (which is even more than it was when you first brought it to our attention back in 1965), but now I've made things worse by wimping out and using the politically correct, all-inclusive phrase "holiday season," when everyone knows we're really talking about Christmas.
Well, Chuck (May I call you "Chuck?" Peppermint Patty seems to be about the only other person who does.), I used to feel that way too. I used to get about as crabby as Lucy is on a daily basis when I thought about how much people have commercialized, trivialized and watered down my religious holiday - while all the time never refusing a gift from anyone.
Then I did a little reading and found out something interesting. You see, despite all the signs we see to the contrary, Jesus is not the reason for the season. I know, you're thinking I'm nuts here, but hold on a second and I'll explain.
Long before anyone was celebrating Christmas, there already was a pretty established December holiday season in the Roman Empire, and it entailed a lot of the trappings (and the excesses) of the current secular celebration of Christmas. When the church finally decided to make Christmas an official holiday, they picked a time when everyone was already celebrating - Dec. 25.
I guess they figured that by putting the religious holiday in the middle of all the other celebrations, it would tone things down a bit. What happened instead was that Christmas picked up all the trappings and excesses of the other celebrations. It was sort of like trying to celebrate Easter on the 4th of July.
And this 800-pound-gorilla of a December holiday season has been sucking up everything in its path for centuries, including, ironically enough, Hanukkah, which started off as a holiday celebrating the success of the ancient Jews in resisting forced assimilation.
So we sort of did it to ourselves by deciding to put Christmas where we did. Had we put it in the middle of the year with no other general celebrations anywhere near it, we'd still have a rowdy, commercialized end-of-the-year celebration, but we'd also have a quiet Christmas that attracts about as much outside attention as Pentecost.
Linus is nodding his head. I think he understands what I'm saying.
So the peace I've made with the whole thing is that there is a December holiday season that includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Divali, Beethoven's birthday (I had to say that for Schroeder), New Years and who knows what all else. I've also decided that there are two distinct celebrations that happen to fall on Dec. 25, one secular and one religious. I celebrate them both, and have been able to lighten up about it, no longer getting into a snit about people who only celebrate the secular one or people who ignore the "true meaning" of the holiday.
So, Charlie Brown, I'll wish everyone a "happy holiday season" without feeling that I'm wimping out, or being blandly politically correct, knowing that in today's diverse culture I'll I get someone's holiday in there no matter what they do or don't celebrate. But to you and Linus I'll make a special point of saying "Merry Christmas!"
First published in the Syracuse Post-Standard on November 25, 2001