Let's start with this: What kind of person reads the op-ed page on Christmas Day? I mean really, don't you have anything better to do? Gifts to open, snow to sculpt, letters to write to the editor about the unfairness of a national holiday that isn't inclusive of every other religion, sect or animal-sacrificing belief system?
Oh, Christmas, Christmas, Chrrrrrrristmas! How I love this day above all others, especially now that it is so offensive to so many. Of course, I'm the girl who likes to toss empty beer cans into the front yard and, when no one's looking, throw away my recyclable grocery bags.
Let's just say I have a problem with tyrannical niceness, the double-edged sword of the chronically sensitive.
Jay Leno once summed up this too-American frontier spirit when he said: "Every time I hear Nancy Reagan say `Just say no,' I want to mainline heroin."
So that when pucker-mouthed party poopers want to dismantle Christmas -the only time of the year when the vast majority of Americans are worth a damn -and ban manger scenes and gripe that snowmen are sexist (sheesh), I want to climb up on the rooftop and shout: "Merry, Merry Christmas!"
Not, by the way, "Happy Holidays." Is there anything more insipid, less sincere, so completely devoid of any spirit whatsoever than happy holidays? I'm right there on the couch with Leno slashing my wrists and drinking bourbon straight from the bottle. OK, I'll calm down.
The truth is, this is the worst day of the year to be bound by a newspaper deadline. After 25 years in the trenches, I've written Christmas. And written it. And written it.
Today, as I scan the wires and scratch my head trying to find something yet unsaid, I am envious of Jews and Muslims and Kwanzaans and Buddhists.
Did I leave anyone out? It's just an oversight, I swear it. Please don't chop off my hands or blow yourself up in the market while I'm shopping, praise be to all merciful deities and prophets and miscellaneous others of religious repute.
Oh, calm down. As I said, what kind of person reads the op-ed page on Christmas Day? You come hoping to be offended, admit it. Just think of me as the gift that keeps on giving.
On days like this, I'm also envious of people with young children, who, no matter how ugly the world gets, diligently infuse Christmas with the sweet magic that once was. Mine, alas, are all grown up. Our youngest, now 18 and writing college essays instead of Santa letters, told me in no uncertain terms: "Don't buy me anything."
What child is this who lays to rest the Christmas spirit of giving?
He is, as a matter of fact, a child who recently wrote a "My Word" column for the local newspaper about the impending war with Iraq, who daily rants at television's talking heads, who entertains no fantasies about life's fairness or counts on promises of tomorrow. No sugarplums dancing in this boy's head, now filled with visions of war.
Would that Santa were still a possibility.
Which brings me to this thought: Thank goodness for Christmas.
Thank goodness for a season constructed around principles of charity, forgiveness, gift giving and, did I mention lights? I tour my town at night and am delighted by front porches draped with garlands of sparkling lights, doors and gates festooned with wreaths, and trees brightly lighted and decorated for all to see through cozy windows.
And though I become nearly agoraphobic by the prospect of crowded malls and traffic jams, there is something comforting about children lined up for a turn on Santa's knee. Who cares if it's real? Don't we have enough realness to satisfy the smug?
To those who complain, I propose only this: Imagine a world without Christmas. No songs, no sparkling lights, no Rockefeller Center tree, no Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, no Santa, no mistletoe, no gifts, no school vacation, no Scrooge, no stockings hung with care, no flying reindeer, no elves or toys, no tinsel, no carols, no cookies and milk left on family heirloom plates, no magic or hope, no joy, no maybe.
As we convulse over semantics, draw religious lines in the sand, and plot strategies for war, we might be grateful for a day that inspires a season of our best stuff. Including at least two of America's most-loved phrases, which, absent Christmas, would be rendered meaningless.
Bah humbug. And, of course, Merrrrrrrrry Chrrrrrrrrrristmas!