Has Christmas become too commercialized? In some towns the display of decorated trees is now controversial. Is it a "holiday," or is it a "holyday?" Is it "Christmas," or is it "Xmas?"
Confused about whether to say, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? What about Kwanza, Hanukkah, and the Holy Days of Islam? Maybe a simple greeting of "Peace to you brother," would be appropriate. Ah, the stress of it all could drive a person to over-indulge in the spiked nog.
Where do agnostics and atheists fit in, and others whose belief systems do not allow them to partake in the festivities? Often non-Christians feel abused during this season. It would help if everyone showed respect for everyone else’s beliefs and non-beliefs. Kindness and humility require that no one impose his belief system on another.
On a scale of one to 10, the importance of the holiday conundrum is less than zero.
We need to re-examine our priorities.
There are reports of hungry panhandlers on Main Street, false prophets in Washington, and the country is awash with unsympathetic politicians. The planet is in crisis. Is this really a good time to celebrate?
The Christmas controversy gets even more intense for those who have children. Many parents find themselves in a no-win situation. Should your child be the only one in the class who does not get a pile of gifts? There is no better time of year to expose the negative side of consumerism.
What about the original Christmas story -- the virgin birth -- the bright star in the East. Some people love it; others are offended by it. The fact is that the Christmas story has always been a story about a homeless family being bullied by their government -- what could be more relevant and timely today?
Think about the fable of José and Maria. Forced out of their homeland by the trade policies of the powerful government to the north, José and Maria left their village in search of a better life. They traveled in their old sputtering Buick. They were filled with the hope that they would get jobs and send money back to their families at home.
José and Maria successfully crossed the border but found that there were no jobs for "people like them" -- people without the proper documents. José was a skilled carpenter. He had helped build the big new Wal-mart in his native village. Now, because of the failing economy, no builders in the United States were hiring.
Maria was a nurse. Now she hoped for a job -- any job. Her heart was set on getting a housekeeping job at a Holiday Inn -- the promise of a paycheck gave the young couple reason to hope.
José and Maria were running out of money. The transmission in their old car was making strange noises. The weather had turned cold. As they traveled north, they discussed their options. Should they try to make it to the Canadian border where they might be less likely to encounter I.C.E. officials? They could cross into Canada at one of the unmanned border crossings in Vermont; but they would need a miracle to make it that far north.
Maybe they should head for Florida. With a little luck they could pass themselves off as Cubans. Immigrants from Cuba are welcomed in the United States. José and Maria often talked about how differently they were treated because they were Mexican and not Cuban. If all men are created equal, it should not matter where their mothers were when they gave birth.
To add to the distress, Maria was feeling the first labor pains. They knew that they could not go to a hospital. They did not have enough money for a motel. José pulled into a truck stop. He parked along side of one of the big rigs. A layer of snow now covered the ground.
After a few hours, Maria’s pain was getting unbearable. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she moaned. José was trembling with fear. He got out of the car and pounded on the door of the rig. After what felt like a long time, the door flung open. The largest man that José had ever seen stood there. He was dressed in jeans and a rumpled plaid flannel shirt. His long gray beard seemed to be collecting snowflakes. José pointed to his car. When the truck driver noticed the woman in the back of Josés car, his mood changed. His voice softened. He mumbled something about being a grandpa.
Maria was helped into the cab of the truck. The bed in the sleeper section behind the driver’s seat was the site of the miracle. It was there that Maria gave birth to a beautiful baby. With the truck driver’s help, José swaddled the newborn in a blanket.
The couple thanked their new friend and were on their way. No one is sure whether José and Maria headed for Florida or drove north to the Canadian border. It is rumored that on cold winter nights when the stars are just right, the shadow of an old Buick is sometimes seen crossing the Vermont border at Derby Line into Quebec.
Rosemarie Jackowski is a resident of Bennington.