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A bit of whimsy inspired by the usual "War On Christmas" posts that abound on Facebook in December.
There's a fine old phrase, slow as molasses in January, which didn't have quite the impact in Austin, Texas as it does back in a New York winter. Still, you can find time on your hands even if you have developed goofing off to an art form. That's how hubby and I found ourselves in the SOCO district - that's Austinese for the South Congress area, where you will find all kinds of small shops and eateries with a vast array of interesting non-big-box type stuff. As we strolled along we came upon at Salvation Army Bell-ringer, surrounded by three guys with picket signs.
Not your usual sight, so naturally I was curious They turned out to be a gaggle of goofballs with too much time on their hands had decided that there was another 'war on Christmas.' These guys were more egregious than most, they were actually harassing the poor Bell Ringer.
"Harry, my love," I said to hubby in a sickly-sweet voice.
"Hallie, you have that look," he answered.
"The look you get when you're going to cause trouble."
"Trouble? Why, it's the holiday season - a time for spreading love and joy. That poor bell-ringer doesn't seem to joyful at the moment. You know I have little love for the sanctimonious folks at the Salvation Army, what with their campaign of hate for anyone of the LGBTQ persuasion, but really! This poor schmuck, however misguided, is just standing there in the cold trying to do some good for his fellow men, and I suppose women, too."
"Hallie, I can practically see the empathy dripping off of you."
"You know me so well. Now why would three upstanding Christian gentlemen be berating a Salvation Army volunteer simply because there is no explicit message stating 'Merry Christmas' on that tripod?"
"Because they're assholes?"
"I know I married you for your brains. Right the first time."
"Being on the distaff side and am always privileged to win an argument."
"Cut the crap, Hallie. What are you planning?"
"A bit of street theatre."
"I suppose since we are on the street that would make sense."
"Perhaps in the spirit of giving to your fellow man you could run over to the Starbucks and get some coffee for all of us. I'm sure these fellows would appreciate a hot drink in this chilly weather."
"What are you, Lady Gotbucks. You know how much those pirates charge for coffee?"
"In their famous Holiday Cups, my love."
"Hallie, you're a genius!"
"So nice to hear you say it! Oh, let me borrow your scarf. I need some costuming for my part in this little show."
"If the police get involved, it will make it easier to strangle you."
"Just get the coffee and pick an opportune moment to deliver it."
"This had better work…"
And off he went. Taking the scarf I tied it around my head babushka-style. Before I retired to the life of ease, one of my fellow-workers was an immigrant from Russia, one Mikhail by name. He had a love for country music and often had a radio tuned to the local country station by his workstation. When things got quiet in the place, you could hear him singing along with the choruses - in Russian.
We got along pretty well, he taught me several Russian vulgarities and outright profanities - useful to know if there weren't any Russian speakers around when something went wrong. Over the years I was able to develop a fair pseudo-Russian accent and we had some fun with people who didn't know us.
So in my babushka I took on the personality of a naive Russian grandmother. I'll spare you a phonetic spelling of my side of the conversation, but feel free to use the accent in your head.
Since I had recently been extolling the virtues of the Three Stooges to my grandchildren I'll christen them Curly, Larry and Moe, but any comic genius they displayed was purely accidental.
"Excuse, please," I interrupted their dialogue. Or should that be trialogue - there were three of them. "I am hearing you say about War On Christmas?"
"That's right, lady. This is a Christian country and we need to put Christ back in Christmas." said Curly.
"Is a good idea, but how can you do this when you do not even know the right day to celebrate Christmas in this country?"
"Huh?" Larry looked confused.
"Da! I am Orthodox Christian, the proper date of Christmas is January seven on your calendar."
"What? Lady, Christmas is always on December twenty-fifth!" exclaimed Moe.
"Da, but you use wrong calendar. We do not use calendar by Catholic Pope Gregory. Real calendar is Julian one, so proper day for Christmas is on your January seven."
"That's nuts!" Curly took his turn in the pecking order.
"No. God has told us so."
"Maybe God is telling you that, but Jesus is what Christmas is all about and he was born on the twenty-fifth." Larry sounded very sure of himself.
"That is date people think, but Bible doesn't give date. Date comes from Emperor Constantine in Rome, way back in history, just after everyone else was celebrating Saturnalia. Constantine was smart cookie, da?"
"Look, lady, I don't care who picked what date - the whole idea is we need to put Christ back in Christmas and stop all this 'happy holidays' nonsense and making it a day for big sales in the stores."
Moe was incensed. I was sorely tempted to make a joke about Orthodox services and incense but I knew none of them would get it.
"This sounds right to me, no argue about date, OK?"
"You got it, lady!" Curly now had a smile on his lips.
"But why you mad at this man? He is soldier in Christian Army, da? He out here in cold to help raise money for charity, so what problem?"
"That's just it! There's not one word about Jesus or Christmas or anything here. How can he ignore Jesus like that?" Larry was back to the core problem.
"So Salvation Army is fighting this War On Christmas?"
"I don't know, but my preacher and the guys on TV know that there's a war on and we need to fight it." Moe said triumphantly. All we needed was a band of angels singing in the background.
Just then Harry came back.
"Hey guys - the USO is here! Have some coffee, it's cold out here!"
"Thanks, fella… Not in those heathen cups! Them jerks at Starbucks hate Christmas and Christians. Look at those cups!" Ah, Curly had a new target.
"What hate?" I asked, innocently. "They red and green like Christmas, and have pretty snowflakes."
"That's just it - not a word about Jesus! They're making a war on Christmas and are on the front lines!" Larry may have been adamant, but he was sipping his coffee anyway.
"Really? Asked Harry. "I guess the Republicans needed a war they're actually willing to send their kids to fight."
See why I love my guy? I realized I may have just been relegated to straightman in this conversation.
"You some kind of libertard?" Moe cried.
"I'm a liberal, but at least I know how to use proper English."
"Is not easy, I said in my pseudo-Russian accent. "I have hard time finding right word in English. Is not easy for someone not from your country."
"You're doing quite well, Ma'am," replied Harry. "It can't be easy to leave everything you have and move, only to find stupid people when you arrive. Why, the state of Texas is trying to stop a family of Syrian refugees from resettling here. Our wonderful politicians said they were too busy with Christmas to think about a Middle Eastern family with no place to stay for the night."
"If you don't like it here then leave, buddy," shouted Curly. He could do truculent almost as well as the original Curly.
"I like it just fine because anyone can sound off about anything, no matter how knowledgeable they are. First amendment and all that. Next thing I know you're going to be complaining about Santa Claus."
"Santa Claus is not part of Christmas! He's a pagan idol and we don't need him!" I was surprised Larry was so knowledgeable.
"Saint Nichols was a pagan? Imagine that! You know, according to a new poll, most Americans think that Santa Claus is a Democrat, which is odd, because when you think of an old white man who hires unskilled labor, you think Republican.
"Da! Oligarchs in Russia think same way. That why I'm here, get good job and nice apartment."
"Congratulations! That's hard to do in Austin," Harry said.
"Da. Share with family and mother, hard to fit twelve people in house, but we do it."
"You're as bad as those Mexicans!" Now Moe was able to expand his prejudice.
"Mexicans nice people, two families live in apartment next to mine. Have good parties and invite everyone. They have big Christmas celebration, too. Hang big thing from ceiling and whack with big bat."
See why I love improvised street theatre?
"That's not Christmas! Christmas is pine trees and holly!" exclaimed Curly.
"And Jesus! Don't forget Jesus," cried Larry.
"I guess you're getting closer," broke in Harry. "but Christmas trees are from a pagan holiday in Germany that celebrated the solstice. Some say it was Martin Luther who started bringing pine trees indoors, but scholars think Christians adopted it to keep the faithful from celebrating the pagan rituals. Jesus had been dead for centuries by that time. Besides, down here there's no snow and the pine trees around here make lousy Christmas trees."
"Like song I hear," I said. "White Christmas - means snow, da?"
"I'm dreaming of a White Christmas…" Harry sang. "Just not as white and not nearly as depressing as the Republican party."
"Why do you keep talking about politics, buster? We want to talk about Jesus."
"Because people like you keep shoving Him into the mix. OK, let's compromise. You can keep Christ in Christmas, but you have to take him out of politics. Deal?"
"You're crazy!" Moe exclaimed.
"Is something I heard," I interjected. "All holidays matter, da?"
"Absolutely! You're well on your way to being an American, ma'am. Shall we go somewhere and talk about it and leave these folks to their religious insecurity?"
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