As a liberal pagan it’s my job to take all the fun out of Christian holidays. Whenever somebody makes the mistake of wishing me a merry Christmas, I start screaming and don’t stop until the insensitive greeting is rephrased. I carefully monitor the activities of municipal groundskeepers; if any hint of a manger appears on government property, I set my army of winged monkeys upon the court system. At least this is what I’m told.
After years of watching the vast, left-wing conspiracy transform Christmas celebrations into nondenominational “holiday” observations, the religious right is fed up. But after years of hearing hysterical Christians screaming that I’m the culprit, I’m fed up.
Last month, a press release announced the lighting of Boston’s official “holiday tree” would take place Dec. 1, thereby grinding the city’s faithful under the bootheel of political correctness.
Pining for the good old days, Rev. Jerry Falwell bristled at the implication that the spruce commemorated anything but the birth of Christ. Fortunately, Falwell’s faith is evergreen. When his pressure group, the Liberty Counsel, barked that they’d sue, parks Commissioner Toni Pollak boughed before the onslaught: “This is a Christmas tree,” she told the Boston Herald. “It’s definitely a Christmas tree.” So that’s cleared up.
It would have been easy to mistake Boston’s tree as nondenominational. A casual observer might have thought it was simply decorative. But, no. Whereas Pollack said her department called it a “holiday” tree to be inclusive, the religious right says it’s an attack on people of faith whenever anybody suggests a tree symbolizes something other than the infant Jesus.
Unfortunately, now that it’s a “Christmas” tree, its symbolism isn’t all that obvious. Some have claimed'with varying degrees of plausibility'that the decorations symbolize the gifts of the Magi, and that the star-shaped ornament on top represents the Christmas star. Of the tree itself, however, no claims are made. It could just as easily be a potted ficus or a coat rack.
If Falwell thought about it, surely he could come up with something. He’s a clever man. For instance, maybe the tree’s green color is symbolic of that fact that Mary was “greenâ€'that is, a virgin'when she conceived Christ. Perhaps the needles symbolize what a prick the innkeeper was for turning away Joseph and Mary in her delicate condition. So far, though, none of today’s rabidly anti-secular crowd has come up with any liturgical reason to decorate conifers, other than they’re available in store parking lots this time of year.
When a pagan brings greenery indoors in December, there’s often a well thought-out reason for it. For many pagans, the spiritual importance of the winter solstice is not diminished when the government neglects to commemorate it. Paganism ain’t no taxpayer-subsidized religion. If, however, the government fails to put its stamp of approval on Falwell’s religion, he files a lawsuit. Obviously his faith can’t survive without the government propping it up. What does that say about him as a spiritual leader?
For the record, then, if for some unimaginable reason you were concerned about it, you can rest assured it doesn’t matter to this liberal pagan whether you say, “Merry Christmas,” “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Just as long as I’m invited to the party.