Knowing Your Enemies ...
In the War on Christmas
By Mike Smith
As anyone knows who’s ever watched Bill O’Reilly, Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly or nearly any other person on Fox News, there is a war going on—and, no, I don’t mean those real wars—I mean the War on Christmas. In some public parks, nativity scenes are being replaced with pretty lights and scenes of winter splendor. Christmas trees are being replaced with identical “holiday trees.” And a holiday that’s been steadily evolving since pre-Christian Pagan times seems, ominously, to be continuing to evolve. This … this is war! No! No! Oh no! A Christmas war! We’re in a war! A very special Christmas war.
And if it is a war, then I, for one, want to be on the right side. If it is a war, then we are every one of us, you and I, a soldier. If it is a war, then we must all do our parts for the cause. To do nothing is to passively accept a world of the same 10 mediocre songs covered relentlessly for over a month. To do nothing is to accept a world in which every year sees more unbearably saccharine books about Christmas jars and Christmas boxes and Christmas sweaters. To do nothing is to stand quietly by as all the most aggressively religious and corporate elements of modern American life are celebrated, declared canonical and somehow viewed as manifestations of humanity’s highest ideals.
We really are in a war, and this coming month, here in Albuquerque, there will be many opportunities for troops in the War on Christmas to observe their foes firsthand. To face their jolly, red faces. To stare directly into their merry, twinkling eyes. To study who they are and how they work—what their weaknesses are and how best to exploit them.
One such opportunity will take place at the Vortex Theatre on weekends, Dec. 6 through 22, during Holiday Festival!, a variety show that will include a number of 10-minute Christmas plays by local authors—some funny, some touching—as well as an eclectic mix of poetry, dance and music. To a worn-out War on Christmas veteran such as myself … it sounds unbearable. But you and your family will probably really enjoy it, and it may yield some useful intel that we can then use. The show also features African dance and drumming, a comedy about sentient Hanukkah latkes and celebrations of music and cultures from all around the world, so who knows, we may have an independent double-agent infiltrating this production already. If you’re interested, check out vortexabq.org for more information.
And if it is a war, then I, for one, want to be on the right side. If it is a war, then we are every one of us, you and I, a soldier. If it is a war, then we must all do our parts for the cause.
Another thing you could do is to cryogenically freeze yourself until January, when this whole cursed season is over. Or you could attend one of two separate productions of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The plays bring to life the story of six chronically misbehaving siblings who find themselves cast in their church’s annual pageant, and feature dozens of talented local children (and adults) in both productions. The ADOBE Theater’s production runs weekends from Dec. 6 through 22, the Duke City Repertory Theatre’s from Dec. 12 to 22. See adobetheater.org and dukecityrep.com, respectively, for times and prices. That the play is beloved enough to be staged by two esteemed local venues suggests it may be just the thing to alert us to what matters most to our enemies. My personal suspicion is that, whatever it is, it involves pageants.
There’s also Miracle on 34th Street at the never-less-than-wonderful Albuquerque Little Theatre, with many shows from now through Dec. 24. See albuquerquelittletheatre.org. And, for adults only, there’s Faster Santa! Kill! Kill!, performed by bawdily irreverent local drag troupe The Dolls at Aux Dog Theatre, Dec. 6 through 22. See auxdog.com for details. One of these shows, I hear, is actually the favorite production ever of many of the male, right-wing politicians leading our enemies in this War on Christmas. The other is Miracle on 34th Street.
But I just need to warn anyone who goes to this: Look, don’t let the talented young faces here trick you into forgetting that we are at war.
At Alamosa Books, on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8pm, there’s The Harry Potter Yule Ball, which will include fun games, delicious food, robed dancing and a costume contest. I was tempted to also include this event in another article on the War on Totally Random Pairings, but it turns out the event is taking place for the 15th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; alamosabooks.com has the details. Bring your young readers and do what you can to enlist them in our cause. A Christmas-free future depends on them.
Speaking of kids, Sunday, Dec. 15, at 3pm, Popejoy Hall will host Festival of Voices, featuring the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus, the Albuquerque Youth Symphony and three other city youth choruses. More than 200 skilled musicians will perform what many people would call Christmas favorites alongside masterworks from composers such as Mendelsohn. See nmschorus.org for info. But I just need to warn anyone who goes to this: Look, don’t let the talented young faces here trick you into forgetting that we are at war. I mean, America could probably win any war, if we always just dressed a bunch of singing children up in clothes hand-sewn out of American flags and sent them over to play with puppies and do somersaults in front of our enemies. We could do that. But should we? Our enemies in the War on Christmas play dirty, that’s all I’m saying—so just be careful, that’s all. Be careful.
Also at Popejoy Hall will be the New Mexico Philharmonic’s production of The Nutcracker, but I cannot in good conscience send even the most hardened anti-Christmas warrior to this. The Nutcracker is the Christmas season’s Heart of Darkness and, if memories recovered through hypnotherapy serve me, is the story of a bunch of teabags and candies and toy soldiers dancing around while you hallucinate. It seems pretty popular and beloved, though, maybe because of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music or the graceful ballet dancing; if you do want to brave it, shows remain for Dec. 7 and 8. See nmphil.org for tickets. There will also be a production of Nutcracker on the Rocks, a rock-and-roll reimagining of the story, from Keshet Dance Company, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Dec. 6 through 8. That acclaimed production is in its 17th year, and tickets for it can be bought at nhccnm.org.
If you’re a senator, or governor, or other lawmaker, see what you can do to get Christmas banned altogether—like the British Puritans who banned it back in 1647 because Christmas wasn’t in the Bible.
I’ve got to say, there is also a really cool-sounding series of holiday open houses—Holiday Open House, an ARTSCrawl Reception and a Holiday Stop & Shop—at the North Fourth Art Center, Dec. 5 through 7, featuring locally made crafts and art, and benefiting great local causes, including New Mexico Women’s Global Pathways, an organization that helps low-income women and their families become self-sufficient. Forget the War for a minute, just support this to help a good cause—the website for details about it is vsartsnm.org.
Also, drop off any extra sleeping bags you might have off at Astro-Zombies (astrozombies.com), who will distribute them to Albuquerque’s homeless population, as part of their Holiday Sleeping Bag Drive. And do yourself a favor—attend Handel’s Messiah (holdmyticket.com) at Central United Methodist Church, with conductor David Felberg. It’ll give you chills and make you cry, and maybe here’s where I have to say, okay there are a few good things about Christmas. This. That song “Fairytale of New York.” The Albert Finney movie Scrooge. The joy on children’s faces. These good things you should support.
But still: the war. The war goes on. A war for tolerance—and against unfettered consumerism. In the War on Christmas, everyone, from the smallest child to the most powerful leader, must do whatever he or she can to bring this grotesque holiday behemoth down. Say “Happy holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This is subtle but insidious. It says: “I recognize other groups’ existence in addition to Christianity’s.” If you want to give gifts, make your own instead of buying them. Or at least buy from small local vendors and stores. Or, give people gifts whenever you feel like it, instead of only on a specific date agreed upon by others. If you’re a senator, or governor, or other lawmaker, see what you can do to get Christmas banned altogether—like the British Puritans who banned it back in 1647 because Christmas wasn’t in the Bible.
Whoever you are, whatever you do, stay vigilant. This is a war we can win. Together, we can one day, metaphorically, murder Santa. We can, in a sense, burn his workshop to the ground, dancing among the ashes wearing recycled clothes and singing songs of no specific religious affiliation. Working together, we can win. We can win the War on Christmas.
Vamos a Leer Book Club at Bookworks
This month's selection is He Forgot to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Saenz.
Broad Strokes at Framing Concepts Gallery
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