The Christmas Underground
"Eat the rich, feed the poor" was a slogan that scared the red, white and blue crap out of people when I was maybe 11 years old.
Once we found out it would never happen, everybody calmed down a bit. The rich remained uneaten. The poor remained unfed.
Now, the phrase fraught with peril is "Merry Christmas."
But, rest ye merry gentlemen, the flap over the phrase is pretty much confined to overanalytical college graduates who need a swift kick in the iPad, religious zealots and the poor, who have to say "Happy Holidays" to the customers if that's what the company handbook tells them to say.
It's a brisk little battle, and people are forever posting on Facebook that "I do NOT have a holiday tree, I have a CHRISTMAS TREE" or posting in the Web comments section of the newspaper where I work that they will never say "Happy Holidays."
From there, it's just one small step to separation of church and state, Thomas Jefferson, Ron Paul and, if you're good, "The War on Christmas," a phrase whipped up by a bad writer who was having a good day.
Unlike Docker-clad suburbanites who attend mega-churches, I try not to discuss my religion. Jesus wants a witness, Jesus can get a witness somewhere else. I already got a job.
But I still say "Merry Christmas," and I'll tell ya, it's working for me.
I also still call a bar a "ginmill," I call strange women "Lady," and I've been known to refer to coffee as "a cup of mud." I'm an antique talker.
Once, a few years ago, I dithered over "Happy Holidays," tried to work it into the speech pattern.
No dice. I'd just been saying "Merry Christmas" for too many decades.
But then, I noticed something. First, I noticed that when I bellowed "Merry Christmas" in my whiskey-and-cigars voice, some people got nervous. They looked down; they looked away. They mumbled "Happy Holidays"
This was good. This was very good, particularly since the people I confused were mostly middle- and upper-management types with a little product in their hair and the fixed idea that The Blue Man Group was somehow intellectual.
So, I got a little louder.
"Merry Christmas, yo!" I'd shout insidiously, combining not just the fear of words forbidden by the employee handbook, but the universal fear of young black people.
Oh, sure, scaring people with the greetings of the season was fun, but then I began to notice that saying "Merry Christmas" gave me an edge.
I'll give you an example.
I called my doctor's office today, looking for some insurance paperwork that is probably forgotten in the glove compartment of the little rat's Mercedes.
"This is Ruth," said the lady in his office who handles the insurance paperwork
"Merry Christmas, Ruth," I said.
"Well, thank you." she said.
She didn't say it back.
But she brightened right up, tried real hard and expedited the paperwork.
I figure it was the "Merry Christmas" that convinced Ruth I was a man worth helping.
Works everywhere, too.
"Merry Christmas" at the coffee shop gets me a grin and coffee from the pot made 10 minutes ago instead of the pot made two hours ago.
"Merry Christmas," I caroled, buying a cigar in the local Pakistani-run discount cigarette store.
Ali, one of the owners, gave me a free lighter.
Ali's a Muslim. I found out because I asked him. Sometimes we talk about politics in his country.
"Merry Christmas" gets a smile from the waitress. "Merry Christmas" gets a "Merry Christmas" from the guy mopping the floor at the mall. "Merry Christmas" makes your boss look around to see if an even bigger boss is listening.
"Merry Christmas" gets me better service, makes waitresses and janitors happy, and makes the boss nervous. That's all I've ever wanted to do in my whole life.
It's an underground thing. Ask me for loose change on the street, and if you say "Merry Christmas" instead of just, "Do you have any spare change?" I'll give you half a buck instead of a quarter.
So, if you're working making sandwiches for $8 an hour and you gotta say "Happy Holidays" to the customers, and a woman walks in and says "Merry Christmas," throw an extra meatball on her sandwich and use the fresh bread.
Look at it this way. For many, many years, schools, bosses, everybody with a little authority has been trying to stamp out the word "ain't."
Ain't done it, have they? And "ain't" don't even have the ideology Christmas has. Whoever put up a bad grammar tree in their living room?
It's Christmas, and it ain't goin' away.
Pass it on.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com
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