The Proper Christmas Spirit by Len Levinson
My mother died on Christmas Eve 1939 when I was four years old. Then I went into foster care for four years, after which dear old Dad took me to live with him. Then, every Christmas Eve, dear old Dad sat at the kitchen table, drank straight whisky out of a regular glass, and got smashed. "Your poor Mummy," he wailed again and again. "If she still was alive today, thing'd be different, let me tell you." His pattern was to drink himself into a stupor, lay his face on the table, and pass out.
I barely remembered my mother, and although only a child, I didn’t consider my father’s boozing to be proper Christmas behavior. So every Christmas Eve I put on my coat and went out wandering through the streets. We lived in a working class neighborhood of old wooden tenements near the polluted Acushnet River in New Bedford, Massachusetts. This might sound like a depressing story, but I felt very happy as I walked the streets alone, gazing at colorfully-lit Christmas trees in windows, occasionally hearing Christmas carols, and absorbing the joy of Christmas. I didn't feel alone or bereft in the least because I too was participating in Christmas in my own way, and actually felt sanctified, as if God was with me, irrational though that might sound. I loved Christmas, always looked forward to it, and still do.
Recently I was in a store. After completing my transaction, I said to the young lady behind the counter: "Merry Christmas".
She gazed at me disapprovingly for several seconds, then replied with an edge in her voice, "Happy Holidays”.
I realized that I had been seriously politically-incorrect. All I could do was smile and walk away. Evidently there will always be people who don't have the proper Christmas spirit, just like dear old Dad. My only choice is to accept reality as I did as a child, and continue to celebrate Christmas in my own way.