Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Merry’ Christmas

Christmas has gotten so cheap. Cheapened by too many dollars, in a sense, but cheap on emotion, too.

I’m not about to rail on the consumer culture gone mad that frustrates most Americans and frankly, for a few weeks each winter, adds some concrete evidence to the file for why the rest of the world loves to hate us for the same reason Cubs fans like myself hate the Yankees.

Most rational people agree we overdo it. And unless you’re a retail mogul, you agree the shopping frenzy should be scaled back. But you’re not about to do anything about your own personal habits, short of re-gifting that tinny ornament from aunt Melva.


I’d be willing to bet a good 98.5 percent of the readership wouldn’t fight, scratch, claw or bite simply to please cousin Joey with the season’s latest and greatest.

On the same token, 98.5 percent of us aren’t parents of a darling little Joey of our own who happens to be old enough to raise Cain over argyle socks when what was truly necessary was that Red Ryder dual-carbon muzzle-loading BB gun. In my case, back in the day, it was a bike helmet instead of a baseball glove. Sorry about that, mom.

But here we are, 13 days out. I haven’t started shopping and don’t intend to for some time. The annual event always occurs with my dad and/or brother between the hours 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Dec. 24.

No ogling over the latest bathroom set from Calvin Klein at the bewitching hour. Everything frilly is already wrapped under the tree.

No one occupying the aisle with three friends, leaning back on one foot with her other locked in front, arms outstretched, elbows locking and unlocking to the rhythm of the head jilting left and right attempting to guestimate the difference between large and extra large and whether the navy or royal more appropriately matches little Billy’s eyes. After a few repetitions, the process starts over with a medium in red.

Anybody else ever seen an otherwise intelligent-looking, even attractive woman publicly dance with a sweater? The Boston Store rendition of sleigh ride is my personal favorite selection for such a charade.

Forgive the sexist undertones, or overtones, or don’t at all, because it’s the truth: Guys shop on Christmas Eve. And they don’t “shop,” rather they “buy stuff.”

Half the fun of the day — unless you happen to be one of these hopeless saps — is watching your fellow brothers attempting to make appropriate choices while “buying” that which is otherwise universally “shopped” for.

A couple years ago I suffered through an unfortunate experience in some lavenderish boutique called “Claire’s” during a frantic last-minute search for toe socks and a gift-wrapping service. Sad sight and another story altogether, but rest assured I could hear the groans of the passersby as they watched me struggle.

And so this is Christmas in America. Being a patriot, I’ll take it, warts and all.

* * *

All jocular consumerism-gone-mad issues aside, what gets under my skin this time of year more than anything is the phrase “happy holidays.”

Since when did some kitschy line from the back of a Hallmark card gain a monopoly on our vernacular for the very best time of the year? Nobody says “merry Christmas” anymore. Or at least not in public.

It probably goes back further than this, but in seventh grade one of my teachers stood perched at the outside of our classroom “pod” and wished each student “happy holidays” as they walked out, as if she were some kind of broken record.

I was never a fan of this teacher — she tried to make me color, a task way beneath me — so I rather loudly wished her and everyone around me a merry Christmas as I shuffled by. And she gave me one of those sharp teacher looks and a disapproving “ahem.”

From that point on, the phrase “happy holidays” peeved me ever so slightly. It’s just so watered down.

One of the first things you can teach 12- and 13-year-old kids is that words mean things — bad things, nasty things, hurtful things that we shouldn’t say and joyous, wonderful, sacred things that we should.

“But children, we must be respectful and tolerant of those who don’t celebrate Christmas.”

That’s just absurd. But I suppose being multicultural and tolerant is now defined by suppressing joy and pride in the Good Works, shutting our mouth and humbugging along.

I never knew Scrooge and the Grinch were p.c.

* * *

The American Heritage Dictionary defines merriness as “full of or showing high-spirited merriment.”

To me, that begs the question of if you’re attempting to impress upon someone to feel the joy in preparation of the arrival of the divine savior, you should more accurately tell them to be “merry” or “blessed” rather than “happy.” I’m “happy” on my birthday or when I make a six-foot putt to beat my golf buddies.

A few weeks ago I wrote a rather open-ended column pontificating on my peers’ and my own seemingly constant condition of social disconnectedness. I suppose I meant this largely in the political sense.

I believe this theory still has a lot of merit, but maybe it has more to do with loneliness than apathy. All these duties and distractions, so little time for … and so merriness became happiness; because they tell us happiness is just out there around the corner or over the hill.

We all know merriness is nowhere out but only in, or maybe up.

It’s been a long, long time since someone wished me peace and goodwill during Hanakkuh. I’ve never been wished a blessed Ramadan. And that’s unfortunate to me.

I regret that I don’t truly or fully understand the deep the significance of these events in the spiritual lives of others. I wish someone would tell me; but at the very least and perhaps more importantly, I wish we could all wear our blessings on our chest.

I don’t see why we need to split hairs. A couple of thousand years ago, “Unto me (or thee if, you taketh the cup that run over) a child was born.”

For this I’m grateful, blessed and, thank-you-very-much, rather merry. If you’re not, that doesn’t bother me. But I still am. So why not let it rest on my face and my tongue?

So merry Christmas, dagnabbit. I said it in print. And I meant it. Now all who agree, go spread the word. Tell the guy you sat next to in lecture for the past three months and still don’t know his name. Tell the cashier at lunch today. Tell a kid on the street. Tell a veteran. Tell that girl dancing with the sweater. Tell your mom. And mean it.

Eric Cullen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and history.

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