In the warm, glowing spirit of the season – hell, any season – we can always count on President Donald Trump to offer a dagger when the nation needs a little healing. Consider, for example, these words, which the commander-in-chief has uttered so many times over the past few years:
“We’re starting to say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ again. … You notice the difference between now and two or three years ago? It was going in the other direction rapidly, right?”
Well, no, it wasn’t.
But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Trump made those comments about the holiday last May, which is not exactly the Yuletide season. He made these remarks at a National Day of Prayer gathering. (In fact, he spoke them only hours after admitting that he reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen for making hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.)
“One nation under God,” declared the deeply spiritual Trump. “So important. A lot of people, you know, they don’t say it. But you know what? They’re starting to say it more, just like we’re starting to say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ when that day comes around.”
Well, it’s coming around again, isn’t it? To which we say, to all of our non-Jewish friends and neighbors, in the heartiest spirit, “Merry Christmas.”
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
In fact, this whole notion of people being too politically or culturally inhibited to say those words has always been a tortured argument – as is the very notion that the celebration of Christmas is somehow being squeezed out of America’s increasing polyglot culture.
You want evidence, turn on the radio. We just left Chanukah behind, and I defy anybody to say they were saturated by the playing of too many (or even one) Chanukah song.
But the playing of Christmas songs, one after another on radio stations all across this land (and frequently penned by Jewish songwriters), commenced the day after Thanksgiving.
Oh, and then there’s television.
People magazine reported we’ll have more than 500 hours of Christmas programming on our TV sets this year, including 45 full-length movies. Something called UPtv has scheduled 55 days of holiday programming.
There’s something on television for everyone: “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July,” “Santa’s St. Bernards Save Christmas,” “Homicide for the Holidays,” “Christmas at Graceland,” “Marry Me at Christmas,” “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas” and on and on.
At my house on Sunday night, one of the Hallmark Christmas movies was playing. It was all about somebody going home for Christmas. My wife had it on. Ironically, she had it on while baking mandel bread. She makes it from a secret recipe handed down from her mother and, I think, her mother before her.
Now there’s a heart-warming holiday story.
It’s heart-warming, too, that we live in a nation where we feel free to say merry Christmas or happy Chanukah or anything else we choose without some politician – Trump or anybody else – attempting to turn it into a political tool to divide us.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” has just been re-issued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.