“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Years ago I served a UU congregation in Northern New England. Each year in early December, a member who owned a large tract of woods would cut down two very tall (35 feet) fir trees and put them up in our very tall sanctuary, where they stood in splendor throughout the month of December. My very first year there, a few days after the trees went up, the Fire Marshall appeared at the office door and said, “I’m the Grinch” Unbeknownst to us, it was illegal to have a live-cut tree in a public building. We had to take them down.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the congregation, but we knew we had to comply. Then I started getting emails from all over the country offering assistance in our resistance. Apparently, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, we had become a part of the so-called War on Christmas. There was no way I could allow that to happen. After consulting with PR experts at the UUA I put out a press release informing folks that we would be ceremonially removing the trees in a day or so. When the time arrived, we were astonished that the entire block around the church was filled with TV satellite trucks, most prominent among them the local Fox News affiliates, apparently anxious to film the latest skirmish in the ‘war’ they had invented.
We had a lovely ceremony, which was much like the closing scene in the Grinch movie. We all held hands and stood around the trees and thanked them for their beauty and their aroma and their service to us as we bid them farewell. Then the Board Chair and I walked arm in arm from the sanctuary, out the front door, and down the street. Followed by TV cameras and dozens of members of the congregation, we walked to the fire station, knocked on their door, handed them plates stacked high with homemade cookies, and thanked them for their service to us.
It is not even mid-November as I write this, and already the flames of outrage over the war on Christmas are being fanned. Red cups without Jesus on them are anti-Christian? Saying “Happy Holidays” is another shot over the bow? Let’s be counter-cultural all through the Holiday Season. Let’s acknowledge the many holidays celebrated around the globe in the month of December, including Hanukkah (12/6-12/14), the earth-based Solstice (12/21) and the celebration of the Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed (12/24). Let’s wish everybody a month of happiness, of serenity, of generosity, of gratitude. Let’s take every opportunity to notice the contributions of people around us and to thank them for their service to us, to each other, and to humankind.
Rev. Roberta Finkelstein