The holiday war is heating up again. You would think that as winter weather gets into its most miserable phase with the daylight hours shrinking, the economy remaining in the tank, and with war ravaging some countries and dampening the spirits of all that all would welcome the diversion of a season of carnival with gaiety, and the suggestion that God is with us, and has good will toward men. If so, you would be wrong.
Some are irked that the holiday has become too inclusive, while others protest that is too exclusive. Some protest because others take legends too literally, whilst others object that some take them too figuratively. Some are giddy with delight, and take it as a personal reproach that others find the season depressing. Some wish to be greeted with “Merry Christmas!” and find no other greeting satisfactory, while their counterparts bristle at such a wish. Some people seem to harbor a fear that somebody somewhere is innocently happy. The cacophony is beginning to remind me of cats courting.
More than 40 years ago, I was a married college student. I was fortunate to find a job in a factory in Starkville, where I was allowed flexible hours to accommodate my course load. The two years that I built furniture were enjoyable, productive, and instructive. In addition to income that allowed me to complete my degree, I earned valuable knowledge of human nature and practical psychology.
One of the departments in our plant was staffed entirely by females – about two dozen of them, if memory serves. They were a diverse bunch, ranging in age from 18 to well past 60, single, married, widowed, and divorced. Some were quiet and reserved while others were brash and fun-loving.
One of the ladies belonged to a church that some would describe as fundamentalist, but which we country folk referred to as “off-brand,” i.e., not a main-stream denomination. The doctrine of this church forbade not only dancing and drinking as all of us were accustomed to, but also the cutting of hair, wearing of cosmetics, and dressing in pants by women. They also frowned on smoking, listening to radio, going to the movies, and other frivolity. I was never quite sure whether their doctrine required their members to point out to others the hellish consequences of all the foregoing, or whether this lady just took that duty upon herself. With a prune-faced scowl, she regularly upbraided several of the less inhibited younger girls for their levity. They took it in pretty good grace until a couple of weeks before Christmas, and then things got really interesting.
It all started with a scrawny little tree, and a handful of cheap decorations. Before it was over with, there were radios during break, exchanging of cheap gifts – the usual. The lady informed her co-workers in no uncertain terms that all those activities were of the devil, and popish nonsense, besides. Scripture neither commanded nor condoned such shenanigans, and she insisted that they desist. They didn’t. Nor did they take the criticism any too gracefully.
One morning just a couple of days before Christmas, I heard singing in the sewing room. I glanced in out of curiosity, and beheld a dozen or so of the younger and more aggressive gals standing in a circle around the lady’s work station, lustily singing Christmas carols – the only time I’ve ever heard “Silent Night” sung with fiendish gusto. The poor lady seemed to be impassive, and I was ashamed of the girls’ mean-spiritedness and embarrassed for us all – until the victim looked up and caught my eye. Her expression was a smirk of supreme satisfaction. It was then that I realized that some disagree on principle, but for others, the principle is to disagree.
Write to community columnist Sonny Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org. He resides in the Sparta community in Chickasaw County.