With today’s political polarization, family get-togethers can be trying events. And the holidays are no exception. So I thought I would offer Lagniappe readers some tips for keeping the holidays happy and political arguments to a minimum.
If you are of the liberal persuasion, do not try to start a conversation with “I was watching CNN last night” or “I read an interesting editorial in the Washington Post yesterday.” This is sure to ruffle the feathers of Trump supporters, and they will be ready to pounce. Topics to avoid include the midterm elections, the president’s tax returns, speculation about impeachment, the Mueller investigation, payments to Stormy Daniels, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Russian oligarchs, the federal budget deficit, the Federal Reserve Bank, a single-payer health care system, Melania’s cyberbullying campaign, global warming, white privilege, cultural appropriation, #metoo, Korean disarmament, General Motors or Harley Davidson, the stock market and the yield curve, John McCain, Colin Kaepernick, Jeff Sessions, Generals Kelly or Flynn, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Facebook or Google, anything having to do with California (especially Hollywood), the National Enquirer, the Emmy Awards, Saturday Night Live, Morning Joe and the president’s hair.
If you are a Trump supporter looking to engage a liberal in friendly conversation, do not start by saying “I was listening to the Sean Hannity Show …” or “Rush Limbaugh said …” And try not to use terms such as “witch hunt,” “fake news,” “snowflakes,” “crooked Hilary,” “global warming hoax,” “the deep state” or “s#%&hole countries,” as these are sure to light a liberal’s fuse. Topics to avoid include the midterm elections, Justice Kavanaugh, cultural appropriation, Obamacare, Russian interference in our elections, Russian oligarchs, Black Lives Matter, immigrant children, Trump’s wall, the global warming hoax, gun control and the NRA, rigged elections, Pocahontas, women’s rights, Roe v Wade, white supremacists, the Koch brothers, Dennis Rodman or Kanye West.
If you are planning a holiday buffet, ham or pork is a definite no-no. Serving the wild game you tracked down and murdered on your last hunting trip will definitely offend animal rights activists. Sea food or vegetarian pizza may be your best bet.
Care should also be taken with holiday decorations. All red or blue lights on your tree could be seen as political messaging, and even a mixture of red and blue could offend some hardcore partisans. Your best bet may be white lights on a tree topped with a star. If you decorated a real tree, be sure to explain how it will be used to halt coastal erosion after the holiday season.
Mistletoe is definitely out, as it could invite unwanted sexual advances. Displays of Santa and his elves should be avoided because he clearly believes in open borders and the redistributing of wealth; is in violation of umpteen OSHA regulations; exploits vertically challenged people to make his toys; and engages in unauthorized surveillance of boys and girls.
If you plan to play background music during your holiday party, care should be used in the selection of songs. In deference to the #metoo movement, a number of radio stations across the country have banned “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” because it suggests date-rape by a man plying a woman with alcohol to get her to spend the night with him. Other insensitive holiday songs include “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (offensive to the hearing impaired); “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Clause” (an extra-marital affair?); “Santa Baby” (trading sex for expensive gifts); “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (a white savior complex); “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” (making fun of alcoholics) and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (bullying).
On a serious note, Christmas as it is celebrated today in the United States is not very biblical. We do not know the date Jesus was born. Early followers of Christ commemorated his birth with a special mass (hence, Christmas), which was conducted at midnight on January 6, the date of Epiphany, when Jesus was baptized in the river by his cousin John and revealed to be the son of God. The primary celebration in the early church was Easter, which marked Christ’s resurrection from the tomb.
The first time Christmas is known to have been celebrated on December 25 was in 336 AD, during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome. Around 350 AD, Pope Julius officially declared the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25, which corresponded with Saturnalia, a popular Roman festival that celebrated the winter solstice with feasts and gift-giving. The Eastern Orthodox Church, however, continued to celebrate Christmas more modestly on January 6.
As Christianity spread north through Europe, Christmas celebrations incorporated local traditions and customs, such as bringing evergreen trees into homes on winter solstice and decorating them with fruits and nuts, and the celebration of a gift-giving god who soared through the night air on a flying horse. Scandinavians brought “yule logs” into their homes and burned them, and gifts were delivered by elves who lived in the barn. From the Druids in England we got mistletoe, holly and Christmas carols. Later characters, such as Santa Clause and Christkindle (AKA Kris Kringle), were introduced to deliver toys made at a workshop at the North Pole in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.
If you think there is a “war on Christmas” today, it is nothing compared to what happened in 17th century England when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans took power. The Puritans and Reformed Protestants disliked the pagan festivities that had become associated with Christmas — feasts, dancing, singing and drinking — so, in 1644, they banned Christmas. When King Charles II took the throne, the ban was lifted. But the Puritans who crossed the ocean seeking refuge in New England continued to shun Christmas festivities. In 1659, they made it a crime to celebrate Christmas — a crime that was punishable by a fine of five shillings. That ban lasted 22 years.
Christmas is celebrated differently all around the world, so try not to get too hung up on traditions. The holidays are a time when families gather together to have fun and to commemorate the life and spirit of Jesus Christ. It is not a time for political debate, insults and name calling.