IN A TIME Before Twitter, in a land lacking glitter, all Christmas - oops! - holiday greeting cards were made of paper (printed in the U.S.A., not China), purchased in a cozy card shop (not a big-box retailer) and signed by a hand in the warm incandescent glow of a lightbulb not shaped like a corkscrew.
The cards were not electronic. They did not sing or play music. They were neither animated nor pixilated. They were not spit out by a home color printer.
The name and address on the envelope were not generated by a software program, nor were they peeled off sticky-backed paper. The envelope was addressed by a hand that held a pen, not a plastic stylus.
In a time Before Twitter, stamps cost 3 cents, or 13 or 22. They were not downloaded from anywhere; they were purchased at the post office. Images were American presidents, our flag or the Liberty Bell, not a cartoon character or a dead pop singer. You licked the stamp yourself. (The first self-stick stamp was issued for Christmas 1974.)
In a time BT, toys were not slathered with lead paint and had no microchips. Spray snow did not contain asbestos.
Yes, this is the annual Christmas - oops! - holiday column (prodded by diversity to include Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and even Ashura.) If I've overlooked your marginal celebration - Druid? Wiccan? - let me know, by mail. (Use a "Forever" stamp. I've been here forever.)
The question, not exactly original, is whether Christmas has become too commercial.
In a time Before Twitter, before cell phones and plasma TVs, Christmas was about the birth of Christ, not the lowest price. Christmas now is more reflexive gift-giving than reflection on the Prince of Peace.
Want proof? Fistfights, deaths and near-riots last Christmas - oops! - "winter solstice" in stores selling limited amounts of luxury electronics for cheap. What happened in some stores was more low-rent than Section 8 housing.
Shoppers pummeled each other, threw elbows and knees and hurled curses. Seeing this, What Would Jesus Say?
"Get outta the way, fatso"?
"I want that toy for my kid!"?
I went to Walmart last Christmas - oops! - holiday season just to look around. The crowds were vast as wildebeest on the savanna, surly as water buffalo.
Walmart was selling upside-down Christmas trees, an inexplicable innovation to lighten the wallets of the trendy. (Don't ever try an upside-down Hanukkah menorah. Fire hazard!)
Now that "sustainability" is as hot as Comcast stock, and we're over the moon for green (Kermit the Frog peaked too soon), I see Christmas - oops! - holiday lights peddled as much for their low energy as the bright colors they emit.
Anything that increases sales and boosts the economy is a good thing, I guess.
So, the Christians stocked up for Christmas, the African-Americans laid in food and candles for Kwanzaa, the Jews emptied the shelves for Hanukkah, the Muslims - hey! Do they buy anything for Ashura? If not, what's wrong with them, anyway?
Is Christmas too commercial? Yeah, probably it is. But it is better than no Christmas at all.
Finally, I reach out to whoever sent me a pretty red and gold "Happy Holidays" card last year. It arrived at my office with no return address.
Since it was anonymous, I had an intern open it. (The young are expendable.)
No anthrax. I was relieved. (The intern was really relieved.)
The card carried a slashy signature that would defy CIA analysis. It looks like, "tlly Beth Bj." That's a guess.
The take-away lesson? Practice the Palmer Cursive Method or use a return address so people will know who sent the card.
Or is that too BT for you?
Happy Holidays - oops! - Merry Christmas!
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