Thanksgiving is behind us, and we’re sated and, perhaps, overstuffed, but there’s more “stuff” and nonsense in the works.
Christmas and New Year’s Day are on people’s minds, and so is the word “holidays.”
And that they are, but there’s a bone of contention for some people when someone says, Happy Holidays.
Well, they are holidays, and we want to be happy, but whatever happened to our “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Mele Kalikimaka,” as my Hawaiian roommate, Betty Ganiko, taught me over 40 years ago? And we mustn’t forget Happy Hanukkah, either!
Yes, I know Hanukkah (also Chanukah) celebrates the Jewish rededication of the temple in Jerusalem, predating the advent of Christianity by two centuries, but interestingly, it is referred to as “The Festival of Lights.” Lights being a major feature of our various Christmas traditions, we call them Christmas lights or, in our lovely state, farolitos or luminarias.
Perhaps for the sake of “political correctness,” traditions have been toned down, to the chagrin of some. We hear, “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas!” My friend Joani Crespin talked to me about her feelings on the subject, and my old pal, Mary Cullen, sent me a delightful rendition of the song, “If You Don’t See Merry Christmas in the Window,” so I’m obviously not the only one who reacts to the commercialization of Christmas.
Then, there’s the tendency to revamp Christmas into Xmas. Yes, we get the …
explanation that Xt is the abbreviation for Christ, so doesn’t it follow that Xtmas would be more in line with that? Or is it all just rationalizing?
But off my dais! I was born and raised in Gallup, New Mexico, and among our cohorts at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, Christmas took on some different tinges than might have been the mode in other communities. Caroling was the highlight of our CHS Chorus during the season, as we took the Christmas mood to the local hospital wards and looked forward to seeing an overflow crowd gathered at our yearly Christmas Choral event at the school.
Residents in Gallup were and still are cosmopolitan. Hispanic, Greek, Italian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian and our local Native American groups all gave their flavors to the Christmas holidays. The “Slavs,” (and they didn’t seem to mind being crammed into one category with that term) put on some of the best song-and-dance events that one could imagine.
In our sector of Gallup — lovingly referred to by many as Chihuahuita — a number of small enclaves of Zunis and Hopis established residence within the mostly Hispanic neighborhood. At Christmas time, it was not unexpected that the children of these groups would go from house to house asking for “Mis Keeshmas,” a variation on the Halloween “Trick or Treat” activity. Residents gladly doled out Christmas candy to the children.
During the ‘50s and ‘60s in my hometown, most people were of the working class.
Thus, Christmas did not mean lavish gifts to most children. We children looked forward to getting hard candies and fruits in our Christmas gift bags, as well as needed commodities, like socks or a new pair of jammies.
Parents often fashioned handmade gifts for their children. One year, my creative mom recycled some old khaki pants and made me a life-size dancing doll, one of those cuties with loops attached to the bottom of her feet. I distinctly recall having a great time stepping into those loops and dancing up a storm.
Later on, I was given a lovely “Alexander” doll — Alice in Wonderland. She still sits on a rack in my home, a bit more disheveled than when I got her almost 60 years ago.
But back to the present. Standing with the crowd viewing the Las Vegas Christmas Light Parade earlier this month, I could see in the eyes of children, there still is delight in the Merry Christmas tradition. Que Viva Merry Christmas, amigo/as! Enjoy the blessings of the holiday and have a safe and sane New Year’s Day!
Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.