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Why Garrison Keillor’s Rant Makes Me Say ‘Bah Humbug’

During this most wonderful time of the year, when non-Jewish people wish me a Happy Hanukkah with a knowing look in their eyes; I refrain from saying “Seriously, it’s a minor holiday. Merry Christmas, and get back to me on Pesach.” I 100% accept the fact that Christmas is really and truly a Bigger Deal than any other winter holiday; even in New York, where bodegas stock menorahs, December 25 will dwarf all other seasonal celebrations.

But what I don’t accept is watching the vast majority of the country get psyched about Christmas while pundits complain that their day is being taken away from them. It’s enough to bring out my inner Scrooge. Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog tipped me off to this Garrison Keillor piece kvetching about the de-sanctification of Christmas by casting aspersions on Jewish songwriters contributing to the Christmas-song canon:

And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t.

This rant, incidentally, came after Keillor complained about Unitarians rewriting the lyrics to “Silent Night” for their own use, to fit their own tradition. You know, Garrison, all this mean-spiritedness is making you sound like that most memorable of Christmas characters: The Grinch. If you’re really going to go out of your way to diss Irving Berlin and his ilk, then I have two words for you: Bah Humbug.

The “War on Christmas” is nonexistent, a term referring to a minor attempt to tone down the overwhelming smell of mistletoe by adding a touch of latke grease to the air; it’s an effort to put a paltry Hannukiah and maybe a Kwanzaa Kinara next to a giant nativity scene. No well-meaning effort at multiculturalism is going to take away the behemoth that is Christmas, and that’s okay! Everyone has their major holiday, after all. However, blaming Jewish songwriters and Unitarians for muddying Christmas is not okay —this is America, where everyone theoretically gets to celebrate his or own way without affecting everyone else.

On Friday, you’ll find this warrior on Christmas at the movies, eating Chinese food, and grooving to my favorite holiday song of all, Darlene Love’s SNL parody “Christmas for the Jews.” It’s a good ditty, but it requires a sense of humor, so maybe Garrison Keillor wouldn’t like it. At least not at this time of year.

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