Taekman: Choking on Christmas

Sarah Taekman, Columnist

I’ll be honest—when I saw the first Santa Claus adorning a Target shelf before Halloween this year, I was more than a little perplexed.

It’s an annual complaint we all have said once or twice: “Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year!”

It’s subtle. Santa and snowflakes creep onto our TV screens. Christmas music bleeds into our radio stations. Companies urge us to buy presents for that special someone before we’ve even removed the carved pumpkins from our porches. Every year, Christmas feels even less like a holiday for family and charity and even more like some frosty monster breathing down our necks and willing us to jump aboard the holiday bandwagon even earlier than last year.

Honestly, it can be a little hard to get in the Christmas hype alongside everyone else.

I promise I’m not the Grinch. I don’t live to frown upon others’ Christmas joy. I can enjoy a quality Christmas jingle or a round of Secret Santa, regardless of the fact I don’t celebrate Christmas. The Christmas spirit is infectious and it’s everywhere.

But you have to admit: If people are getting fired up about “anti-Christmas” Starbucks cups for the second year in a row, something in the modern understanding of Christmas has been warped.

It’s not really a matter of Christmas no longer staying true to its religious origins; it’s more that Christmas has become all-encompassing. You either celebrate it or you’re an outsider. Society has molded itself to Christmas customs, to the point that us outsiders mold ourselves to keep up.

For example, most people are shocked when I tell them that Hannukah—you know, the “Jewish equivalent of Christmas”—wasn’t originally a gift-giving occasion. The famous “eight presents for eight days” tradition started so Jewish children could open gifts alongside their Christmas-celebrating peers to avoid feeling left out.

In fact, Hanukkah isn’t even considered to be a major holiday in Judaism. It just happens to be the most recognized Jewish holiday because it coincides with Christmas. I get blank looks when I talk about Yom Kippur, but as soon as I mention not celebrating Christmas, everyone asks me about potato pancakes and playing dreidel.

Better yet, the outsiders that bring attention to the overwhelming nature of the holiday are said to be waging the “War on Christmas.” Some claim that everyone is too politically correct and that Christmas is being censored in favor of terms that aren’t Christian-specific, all because the media and industry don’t want people’s feelings hurt.

It can feel almost as if they’re demanding you to celebrate and assimilate. As if merely making your existence known somehow wrecks the holiday.  

There is no war on Christmas. That is not only a gross exaggeration, but it is also literally impossible when nearly everyone in the country celebrates it. We outsiders aren’t trying to ruin your holiday by complaining, nor attempting to shame you for having a good time spreading holiday cheer.

We just want recognition outside of the terms of Christmas—acknowledgement that perhaps it isn’t the holiday season for everyone, everywhere.

We’re tired of constantly tagging along, of trying to fit in with our fellow Americans to avoid awkwardness and exile.

We don’t want Christmas shoved down our throats.

So don’t get offended over your Santa-less cups. Don’t pounce on people that opt for the neutral “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  Scoff under your breath, roll your eyes all you want, but it’s a breath of fresh air in a country that has been proven to forget non-Christians exist for decades now.

And, of course: Happy holidays.

Sarah Taekman is a first-year student who is mildly disturbed by all the premature Christmas hype.