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It's as sure a sign of the season as tacky lights, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and piped carols. I hear this gentle debate and I'm brought back to my childhood. Or my teen years. Or last year....

I recognize the pointless absurdity of chiming in on a debate which I find pointlessly absurd, but seriously, if someone wants to wish you a Merry Christmas or someone wants to wish you Happy Holidays, why would you care? Either way, someone is wishing you a happy something.

Jesus, people are sensitive.

UPDATE December 16: I have rarely encountered anyone who took umbrage to being wished "Merry Christmas," even if it the holiday didn't reflect their beliefs. Most people let it slide. Annually, however, I encounter at least one Christianesque individual who behaves as though spit upon when wished "Happy Holidays." My comments were inspired directly by the annual rush of "We must save Christmas from people saying Happy Holidays!" blogs and angry (not concerned, but actually angry) letters to the editor.

If your faith (insert any) is endangered by people wishing you happiness, it's not very strong. What's more, the most vocal individuals are creating a situation where it's less likely anyone will wish anyone else a happy anything.

My position is that if an individual chooses to wish me happiness, that's fine with me. Merry Christmas is good. Happy Holidays is good. "HAPPY DAY WHEN BADGERS WILL COME FROM DEEP WITHIN THE SEWERS TO CHEW ON YOUR TESTICLES" doesn't enter into the debate, because that wouldn't be happy. Also, I suspect it's a made-up holiday. Even creases's wishes for "a very orgiastic Saturnalia" present a problem, since "orgiastic" suggests specific behavior that may or may not meet with my moral standards (However, I would heartily welcome a card with that message, if only for the effect of displaying it). "Have a Happy Kwanzaa," does not present a problem, and so I'm good with that.

My coffee is done and I must now stop procrastinating and shovel snow.

Last night, I read a "comical" child's letter to Santa: beginning with the usual "I've been good this year..." it goes on to ask how come he asked for a train set, a pony and a few other trad toys, but only got a yo-yo and a pair of sox. He then degenerates into obscenity, blasphemy, and scatology, in that order.

I didn't like it.

OK, the first couple of times you read something cynical about Santa, you feel liberated. But after a while... I thought about a woman who used to haunt the Used Book Exchange, looking for collectible childrens' books she could sell, always sobbing that my rubber stamping them "Not for Resale" was 'breaking her dear granddaughter's little heart' since she so wanted these books for her (always nonspecified) Nth birthday. So this is my answer.

15 December 2007
Jakarta, Indonesia
Dear 'Little' Johnnie:
I can only surmise from your precocious use of expletives that the letter you wrote last year was written by your father, who wished to sell those toys you 'asked' for on eBay.

Yes, Mr. Smith, I am on to you. Your son, John, never wanted that 'vintage HO train with full landscape set and MIT-TMRC switching', nor the Shetland pony, nor the Cannondale bicycle. He did, however, ask for the starter set of LEGOs that you promised him three years ago, a pair of Converse hi-tops, and for you and your wife to stop fighting. Your daughter, Jane, never asked for the "original first edition Alice in Wonderland" -- she would much prefer the facsimile Dover edition of "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" especially since she's keenly interested in the mathematical aspects, and would like a clean copy she could annotate. She's also uninterested in the "collectible edition 'Solo in the Spotlight' Barbie" you demanded that she demand -- she wished for a Gloria Vanderbilt soft doll (from her crafts book), since she was interested in fashion design. She would also like you to stop fighting, and to undergo drug rehabilitation, preferably before New Year's --"you know how he gets."

Since you live in the United States, you are out of my jurisdiction as far as my more, athem, punitive powers go, particularly regarding adults. Count yourself lucky -- not only do you escape humiliation in the form of a publiclly given gift hidden inside a large plaster-of-Paris 'rock of crack' wrapped in a large clear Baggie, but you also don't have to read this letter in badly rhymed Dutch. However, I wish to continue coming to your home, I find your actual children delightful, and have no wish to see them go without the gifts due them.

So, I propose a solution. You will forthwith, check yourself into detox, and ask for marital counselling. Your son will recieve a fine bicycle from Target appropriate to his age and neighborhood, a gift set of LEGOs directly from Denmark, Converse sneakers, and a coaching session for his team with Pat Riley. Your daughter will recieve "Alice Under Ground" as per request, along with "The Annotated Alice" autographed specifically to her by Martin Gardner. The Gloria Vanderbilt doll presents some problem: unlike the china version, the soft toy was never in mass production, but was made by the designer herself to give to friends. However, being an honorary New Yorker with a long history in shall we say, the shipping business, I have known her family for some time, and we have agreed for her to release a copy of her personal pattern to the Workshop's new artisanal division. It will be ready by Valentine's Day with a note from the designer at FIT who sewed it -- we hope that their correspondance will continue. I will also include, with these gifts, a Froebel kindergarten set and baby clothes -- your wife will tell you why.

Please understand that all these gifts are strongly enchanted, and any attempt to sell or transfer them will render them worthless. I wish I could write longer, but I've just finished my tour of the Low Countries (and former colonies), and am gearing up for the big push. Comply, and your children will forgive you, otherwise...prepare to explain to the neighbors why you chose to display a large rose encased in a transparent tube with cork and foil on it on your lawn.

Yours sincerely, Nicholas, Bishop of Smyrna.

P.S. Please tell your children that elves come in all shapes and sizes, and they're both right: yes, we do have one fellow who looks a great deal like like Will Farrell, and one who does look like Orlando Bloom, but unfortunately, for your daughter, he's married. N.

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