A Soldier’s Dispatches from the War on Christmas

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I’m a field operative in the War on Christmas.  I’m in a Spoken Word unit of the 649th Infantry Division of the 53rd Lexical Corps.  Our primary tactical weapon: words.  This is a diary of some of my time on the battlefront.

I start this day as always, heading out to pick up coffee and croissant for the unit.  Bad news, they’ve switched their regular coffee cups over to seasonally decorated cups.  All Santa hats, evergreen trees and snowmen.  At least it’s all secular stuff.  I can’t complain.

I ask for a stack of those cardboard insulator sleeves so I can cover up the decorations.  The insulators are still a nice plain brown.  The cheerful clerk hands me the insulators and my box of croissants.  “Here’s your kress-ants,” she says.  I say, “It’s krwa-sawn — never mind.”  I pay for the goods.  On my way out I notice a large poster advertising a Mocha-Pumpkin-Eggnog Latte-Chino.  It has red and green colored foam on top.  Ick.

Our mission today is to infiltrate the retail front.  Some of the unit is being deployed to the Mom and Pops.  I’m being sent into Big Box territory.  I review my running order, keeping in mind clear lines of retreat if necessary.  I’m starting with Wal-Mart, then K-Mart, Target, Sam’s Club and Costco.

As I enter the Wal-Mart, the speakers are playing Jingle Bells.  I smile, knowing that the word Christmas doesn’t occur once in the song, and most people don’t even know that the song was actually written to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We’re making inroads!  I happen to know that the pre-recorded song selection was influenced by the commando musicians over in the 440th Harmonic Corps.

Grabbing a few things to purchase, I get in line to check out.  I hear the cashier saying “happy holidays” to the customers.  Good.  My work is done here.  I move on to K-Mart.  Much the same going on — bland music and happy holidays — nothing to do here.  At Target, the music system is playing White Christmas.  Well the glass is half full.  Sure, the song uses the word Christmas, but there’s no mention of Christ and it was written by a Jewish guy for a Hollywood movie.

Things seemed to be going along well at Sam’s Club until I got to the checkout line.  The cashier was saying happy holidays to people, so I thought this would be routine.  As I’m checking out, however, the cashier asks me, “So, have you got all your Christmas shopping done yet?”  I have to think on my feet.  Remembering that I haven’t in fact done my Christmas shopping, I decide to answer with the truth:  “Not yet.”  As I’m leaving the line I flash her a big smile and say, “Happy holidays.”  “You too,” she calls back.  It’s the little victories I cherish.

Next day a really awkward situation has come up.  My nephew’s confirmation.  It’s family and he’s a good kid and I want to be there to support him.  So, off I go into the heart of Catholic Church Christmas territory.

I was prepared for the usual — standard Catholic mass, confirmation class kids receiving communion, celebratory reception in the parish hall.  I was not prepared for — the Bishop.  Yes, Bishop Tobin himself was in attendance and was leading parts of the mass.  That meant I might be able to stand right next to him in the parish hall.  While the congregants were all cheerfully going through the routines of the mass, I was feverishly flipping through the pages of the WoC Field Manual for guidance.  I’m just a foot soldier, and I’d be face to face with the enemy’s General.

Now in the parish hall, there’s a line of people waiting to greet the Bishop.  Doing some observational reconnaissance I see there’s clearly two types of people greeting him, ordinary congregants and family of confirmees.  To the families the Bishop speaks using congratulatory words and blessings.  To the others, however, he’s wishing people a Merry Christmas.

I can hardly contain myself, knowing I can get the Bishop to say Merry Christmas to me.  I’ve planned my counter attack.  I get in line.

It’s my turn now.  I step forward.  The Bishop and I smile at each other and we use a warm double hand-holding grasp.  I don’t mention that I’m an uncle of one of the confirmees.  Trying to draw his fire I say, “What a pleasure it is to see you at this very special time of year.”  It works.  Bishop Tobin speaks some words of blessings and then concludes with “Merry Christmas.”

Both my hands still being held by his, I smile the warmest smile I can make.  I lean in a little.  I look him straight in the eyes and say, “Peace be unto you.”

Back at the barracks, there’s high fives all around for me!  I struck another deeply wounding blow in the War on Christmas.  I stood facing the formidable Bishop and never mentioned Christmas.

I’m calling it a day.  Few people understand how hard it can be fighting the War on Christmas.  Always smiling, being nice, wishing people peace and joy and good health.  It’s just exhausting!

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When not deployed elsewhere, Len lives in Portsmouth.

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