For several years now Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News gang have been proclaiming that there is a ‘war on Christmas’. Bill is offended by stores that, in an effort to be more ecumenical, wish their patrons a “Happy Holiday” instead of a “Merry Christmas”.
A war on Christmas has been going on in our household for years. With a name like Horovitz, one might assume that we celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas. But there’s been a war on Hanukkah too, as well as a war on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. All are waged by my darling husband Jed.
Jed’s ‘bah humbug’ attitude toward Christmas has nothing to do with Jed being an atheist, though he is. To start with, Jed dislikes all the fuss and bother of the holidays. He’s annoyed by all the Christmas decorations in the house. He grumbles about having to help put up the Christmas tree. Christmas cards, of course, are my responsibility, even the ones to his relatives and friends. He doesn’t mind all the cookies and eggnog, or the traditional Yulekake on Christmas morning, but he mutters about all the calories. Unless there’s a neighbor kid in a pageant, or a friend singing in a choir performance, don’t expect to see Jed in church.
Most of all Jed hates that he’s expected to buy people gifts for Christmas. Exchange gifts for eight days straight at Hannukah? Forget it! It’s not that Jed is terrible at buying gifts. He’s actually quite good at it. But he detests the notion of giving because you “have to”. For Jed, unless you are giving something because you want to, the gift is meaningless. So Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are just events cooked up by Hallmark to sell more cards. Valentine’s Day? A ploy by jewelers, florists, and candy shops to sell diamonds, flowers, and chocolates. Graduations get a pass from Jed because he does’t mind rewarding achievement. But birthdays? Let’s just say that he announced a few years back that he only wanted to celebrate birthdays that were prime numbers.
Jed’s attitude toward all these traditional gift giving occasions was tough for me to swallow when we were first married. I love Christmas, and all the baking and shopping and partying that went with it. It’s obvious that Jed enjoys spending time with friends and relatives over the holidays, but for him Thanksgiving is a much more pleasant holiday because it’s about food and family.
On our first Valentine’s Day we had gone out for dinner. While he happily joined me, and expressed gratitude for my gift, it was clear that he was uncomfortable all evening. Finally, he told me about his antipathy toward what he termed manufactured events. He told me that he much preferred to express his love in small ways every day of the year rather than on one manufactured holiday with a gift.
After over 20 years of marriage, Jed has been true to his beliefs. He thanks me for doing his laundry or cleaning up the kitchen. He is complimentary about a well cooked meal, or a completed task in the vineyard. He lets me know that he cares about me in some small way on a daily basis. I have come to value those real expressions of love from him and the manufactured holidays have come to mean less.
We still celebrate Christmas, with our mini ‘war’ about decorations and a tree. I still shop and bake and send cards, though less than before. Now that we’re out on the farm I can decorate the fireplace mantle with fresh juniper branches which we both like. This year Jed even put up the tree, and decorated it himself with a handful of red balls and white snowflakes. It looks simple and elegant, and I though I treasure the hundreds of decorations that are still in their boxes, I don’t miss them on the tree this year.
Christmas lights are the source of our other annual ‘war’. Jed’s OK with having Christmas lights up when I agree to let him do something that is tacky or offbeat. So some years our house has been tastefully decorated with white candles in the windows, and white lights around the front door. Other years there have been colored lights strung haphazardly over bushes and around columns. This year we have some very tasteful swags over the coach lights complemented by a riot of colored lights climbing up the utility pole, over the solar box and the electric fence switches, and up to the security cameras. It is most certainly festive.
Tonight we will exchange a few gifts, just our family. Some will be handmade, some will be very utilitarian, and some will be downright silly. We will have a fire with wood from our farm, and we will play some sort of game together. We will drink some port, and crack some nuts, and just enjoy some quiet time. There will be music playing, probably an assortment of weird Christmas songs collected each year by an old music biz friend of mine. The cats will each get a treat, and a piece of string which has proved to be much better entertainment than any cat toy we have ever bought. There will be no war on Christmas in our house tonight.
But Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.