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More Dogs on Main Street

It’s been downright brisk lately. Not as bad as last week, when I had minus18 at my house, but still a little air-ish. This week hasn’t been worse than minus five, and some days have warmed up clear into the mid-20s for short periods of time. It’s a little unusual to have that kind of cold this early in the season, and to have it stick around for so long. The lift operator at the bottom of Pioneer was turning blue from the cold the other day. That’s got to be the coldest spot on the mountain. There were penguins marching around.

It’s been good for the plumbing business — frozen pipes all over the place. Nobody likes to run up a big heat bill on a vacant condo, and with natural gas prices where they are, people are trying to conserve. But it’s a tough trade-off to reduce the gas bill by $30, only to tear out the drywall to repair the damage from the pipes that burst in the wall. Cold does funny things, and you have to live in a house for a few winters before really understanding where the weak spots are.

On these cold nights, it makes sense to open the cupboard door under the sinks, especially if they are on an outside wall. That doesn’t seem like it would do much, but the open door lets the heat penetrate that much closer to the outside wall and will make the difference between business as usual and spending a day waiting for the plumber to arrive. As Old Town has gentrified, it’s probably less difficult on the cold nights. But it wasn’t that long ago that the city would be on the radio asking people to leave a tap running all night to keep things from freezing up. It’s not supposed to moderate any time soon.

Speaking of moderation, we’ve decided to go ahead and celebrate Christmas despite the risks. If you have been watching Fox News, you are certainly aware of the War on Christmas. It seems to exist only on Fox News, but Bill O’Riley is on red-alert status. In his radio program last week, he announced that "they" had banned wearing red and green in the schools in Plano, Texas, and that in Saginaw, Michigan, the town had said "we don’t want anybody wearing red or green." The outrage! O’Riley denounced these actions as "flat-out fascism." It’s not exactly clear who "they" are, but it seems to be part of the same international conspiracy that flies those black helicopters.

The only problem is that O’Riley is wrong. The town supervisor in Saginaw, sitting in front of the town hall Christmas tree, said it simply wasn’t true. Christmas celebrations in Saginaw will be held exactly as in years past. The town hall was decorated in red and green Christmas lights. And as for Plano, the alleged ban on red and green at school was news to school officials.

The greatest manifestation of the War on Christmas is in the stores, where the crass commercialism of the season is now being conducted under banners that say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." (Is this really new? It seems like that’s been going on for 30 years or so. And who pays attention to that stuff?) It’s hard to imagine anything more insidious than that. The foot soldiers in the war have demanded that stores tear down their "Happy Holidays" banners and replace them with something more in keeping with the true spirit of the celebration. Something cheery that says "We’re going to be taken up in the Rapture, and you’re going to hell. Merry Christmas, you heathen s-o-b." You’d certainly have to feel better about trampling other customers in a stampede to buy the new X-Box if the store windows said "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays." I noticed that Coca-Cola has a new slogan for their holiday season beverage cans. It says "live, love" around the top of the can, with snowflakes on the side. So I guess we know where Coca-Cola stands in the War on Christmas. If they aren’t willing to sell a religious-themed artificially sweetened cola beverage container, they ought to be closed down. I bought a bag of Hershey Kisses, and they are a combination of red, green and silver wrappers. Silver, eh, just like the 30 pieces of silver? So they’ve gone over to the dark side, too.

It is true that the overtly religious celebration of Christmas has been watered down in the public schools. Music classes still spend a fair amount of time on Handel’s "Messiah," which is one of the pinnacles of classical music. But there is a pretty good side dish of "Frosty the Snowman" to go along with the "Hallelujah Chorus." That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable position for a public school system to take — leaving the purely religious observance to the churches. The churches should have some expertise there that the schools lack. I don’t want a minister teaching biology, and I’m equally sure I don’t need the math teacher teaching religion. I don’t want the mailman fussing around with the electrical work on the house, either.

Still, these are trying times, and for Fox News viewers, Christmas is fraught with danger. "They" might kick down the front door at any moment and demand that you call it a "holiday tree." There’s no point in celebrating a wonderful holiday according to the dictates of your own belief system when you can turn it into an excuse to get in somebody’s face about it.

But with full awareness of the risks that "they" will try to stop us from eating red Jell-O and sugar cookies while opening presents around the Christmas tree, we’ll soldier on. We’ll celebrate Christmas our way, and hope you enjoy a wonderful Christmas celebration doing it your way — however wrong and misguided it might be. When does Kwanza start?

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