Friday, November 26, 2004

Christmas vs. Holidays; Thanksgiving vs. thanksgiving. We had the TV on almost all day yesterday. The sound was cut very low. But we kept in touch with the two pro football games(real turkeys) and then, after a great dinner that Carol had been working on for two days and at a gathering that included Mary and my mother, I saw the first two acts of the Spiderman movie and wandered off to bed with a book (The Wild Blue, by Stephen Ambrose, a story about B-24s in WW II and featuring the last Democratic presidential candidate I voted for.)

Sprint had been running its cell phone commercials all day - the ones where the guy in the trench coat gets off some sort of bus and greets various sorts of people. One of those commercials is set in front of a school where children are dressed up in various costumes. The camera for just a moment shows the front of the school where a sign is hanging, "Holiday Pageant", so we are given to understand why the kids are all dressed up. I thought to myself, "Don't you mean 'Christmas Pageant'?".

Of course they don't. The Christians lost the "let's keep Christ in Christmas battle" years ago, as we joined everyone else at the altar of consumerism. But I also thought, "How ignorant of the secularists." The primary definition of "Holiday" is "holy day", although my Webster's New International Second Edition describes that definition as "now rare". Curiously, Webster's continues to list "holy day" as the primary meaning of holiday. We don't take words quite a seriously as we think we do. If we were really serious about banishing all Christian allusions from whatever it is we are doing during the season, we should come up with some other word than "holiday". So I'm fine, after all, with "Holiday Pageant".

I looked carefully at the costumes in the commercial. I didn't see any baby Jesus, nor wise men, nor shepherds. Maybe I missed them. Did you see any sheep or lambs? I didn't recognize any of the costumes or understand from what merry place in our secular iconography the wardrobe unit derived its creations. It was hard to distinguish the costumes from the harmless Halloween costumes I saw last month, except on the basis of color and, maybe, a sort of softness to the character. (By "harmless" I mean Halloween costumes that don't deal with witches, ghosts, and the occult.) Very cute. Very meaningless: nothing linked to any history, any value other than sentimental cuteness.

Which takes me to Thanksgiving itself. A financial planner whom I have known for many years sent me a Thanksgiving email on Tuesday, with her thoughts about the economy. I received it because I am on a list that must include her clients and other professional friends. Her introductory paragraph was as follows:

As Thanksgiving nears I think of many things for which to give thanks, including you being in my life, and with appreciation for some positive signs in the economy.

Other than being a little too personal, this paragraph raised this question: To whom is she offering thanks? I don't think you can have "thanksgiving" without having someone to whom to give the thanks. Is she thanking the economy? Is she thanking me for being someone who might send her business? I heard this sort of thing from non-religious people a number of times over the last week or so. "I have so much to be thankful for . . ., etc." Well, good, but whom are you thanking? Tell me. Or are you simply talking to yourself and me and really saying not "I have so much to be thankful for . . . " but "I have so much . . . look at me."

I couldn't stand it. I sent her an email back:

"Thank you, _______. I trust you will have (or had, depending on when you receive this) a wonderful Thanksgiving.

And, yes, we have so much to be thankful for. I would add also, political correctness aside, we have such a great God to whom to be thankful.


Anyway, next time someone tells you that he is very "thankful", ask that person to whom he is thankful. I would like to know. I'm as confused about that sort of statement as I am about what those little kids were wearing in the Sprint commercial.

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