Wednesday, December 14, 2011


December 14, 2011

Tis the season of goodwill and yet I need to clear the air about something that continues to make me so very, very X. It’s a practice that’s become increasingly prevalent in our helter-skelter wannit-now society and you see it all over the place at this time of year.
It’s the use of an X for cross, as I did in the preceding paragraph to express my annoyance, but also, most disturbingly, an X for Christ. So we have Xmas. An absolutely abhorrent abbreviation; I never have used it and never will, not even when scribbling in the greatest haste. There’s just something irreverent about it, almost insulting – and it might be a good idea to be careful when taking a chance on offending God.
Xmastime is when Xians celebrate the birth of X? Not plain old ubiquitous Mr X but X the Savior, X the Redeemer. Yes, Jesus X, the son of God born in a manger to the Virgin Mary. That X.
And taking the next logical, albeit oh-so-ridiculous, step, Easter marks the time X died on the X for our sins? Puh-lease.
Who in tarnation came up with that contraction and how rushed must you be to avoid taking the time to write out “Christ” in full? Cutting it short might be far more excusable were His name to be similar in length to, say, Kaluannuunohonionio, god of human sacrifice, whom no Hawaiian would have dared call simply “K” lest he himself become the one having his head smashed in on the altar. But writing X to save just five letters? Can’t be bothered? I’m thinking come Judgment Day one of the Lord’s tests might be politeness. Perhaps even writing skills.
Can the X crowd not spell Jesus’ name? Somehow, I suspect that the people shrinking Christ down to a little-used letter near the end of the alphabet are the same holiday celebrants who illuminate their homes from chimney to basement with the most garish light displays...
But never set foot inside a church.
For these folks, Christmas is only about Santa and shopping and presents and reindeer and about outdoing their neighbors with incandescent, often incredibly tacky, opulence...
And among these we find the White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas putting on a splashy three-dimensional light display where regular operating costs can run $100,000 a week.
Christmas has been Disneyfied; front lawns adorned with inflatable oxen, lambs and roly-poly Santas ho-ho-ho-ing with their slightly Chinese electronic voices. My friend Paul Bannister’s nights are ruined by the folks across the street with their popping, flashing, chasing light display. In his half-sleep he probably thinks the police have finally tracked him down. The Chinese police.
X might find these displays wonderful, but I doubt Christ would. Midnight mass is more His style.
For many, Christmas means going to boozy parties and getting seriously sloshed. Celebrating the birth of Christ with a raucous “knees-up” - one of those wobbly pub dances - is some people’s way. But then absorbing a skinful of some potent neck oil makes Christmas no more special than whooping it up after your team’s big win.
There’s no religion involved, just letting your hair down, showing off, seeking to “be somebody” on the holiest day of the year that actually belongs to someone far more important.
Corporations using the X own our holidays. Mercifully, they haven’t yet invented the Happy Christmas Meal. Not yet. Come on kids, hurry up. Pin those McDonalds badges on and get in the car willyou. We booked this months ago for 10am and we only have half an hour before the next family gets our table.
Or the McChristmas takeaway. “Double beef McTurkey Wrap Combo heavy on the cran large X-cut fries and a medium Egg McNog. That’ll be $13.07. Second window. Please drive around.”
Here comes the man himself. Not the genial chimney chubby because he’s not all sooty, but what’s that under his white-trimmed red gown? You can clearly see ringed leggings. And big red boots. Hey, it’s Ronald McSanta. Hooray!
So whodunit? Who took the Christ out of Christmas and was it an attempt to secularize the festive day? Apparently not because there’s no record of Baby Jesus being born on December 25. Shepherds watched their flocks, as Luke wrote, but down Bethlehem way the herders never have slept out with their sheep during the c-c-cold winter months. However, if shepherds “washed their socks” by night, the way we sang the carol as mischievous tykes, then maybe...
Again, I don’t care that medieval monks used the X for Christ, or that Lord Byron wrote Xmas in 1811. Or that Oliver Wendell Holmes... Darn it, they should all have been more respectful.
And then I see the video that went viral of sailors longing for home who spelled out with their bodies on the deck of the British warship HMS Ocean the words ‘Merry Xmas’. It’s not right, lads, but it’s all right because you were homesick and maybe there wasn’t enough room on that cramped deck for Christ, just the X. So you’re excused - just this once and only by me. I can’t speak for the Lord.


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.