Christmas will be different this year.
Oh, there still will be plenty of joy and merriment. The holiday lights will shine just as brightly and children will bubble with anticipation just as they have for generations. On the surface the season will look and feel about the same.
But there will be changes nonetheless, subtle and yet unmistakable. Some of the grand old traditions, customs, and icons of our most revered holiday season will look different in the age of political correctness.
Some say that this PC trend has smothered spontaneity, undermined creativity, and threatens our fundamental freedoms. They argue that in our zeal not to offend or hurt anyone else’s feelings, we risk never expressing our own. Others say it’s simply an effort to make our society more sensitive, tolerant, and respectful of others. They say it’s all part of the mellowing of America in which “kinder and gentler” has become a reality and hugging is de rigueur.
No matter which view is correct, the images of Christmas and the mythological magic it spins will look entirely different through the PC prism. Here’s a sampling of the spectrum of changes we may see.
Our image of Old St. Nick himself may be changed forever. We’ll no longer hear references to the “Jolly Old Fat Man.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and our courts have proclaimed that obesity is a disability covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. So, we can’t call him fat, we can’t call him old (age discrimination), and we also should gender-neutralize Santa to avoid accusations of blatant sexism. Since calling him the “Jolly Old Fat Man” would constitute illegal harassment under federal law in addition to being totally incorrect politically, we’ll have to think of some other moniker for this holiday season icon. Somehow, I don’t think children around the world will be too excited that a “jolly person” will be visiting their homes on Christmas Eve.
Of course, Santa’s pipe will have to go as well. The picture of St. Nick with a ring of pipe smoke around his head is simply out of touch with our national crusade to “smoke out” this filthy habit. Also, he probably violates the Clean Indoor Air Act smoking ban on his visits to shopping centers, department stores, and other public places. Good heavens, the notion of brainwashing our children with their Christmas idol puffing on a stinky old pipe is totally at odds with the concerted efforts to stop kids from smoking.
The PC generation will frown on Santa’s use of fur. The lovely white ermine trim on his trademark suit will be the source of derision and disdain. No doubt, Santa will yield to pressure from the Animal Liberation Front and replace the fur with white wool trim. Certainly, that’s better than risking an incendiary attack on his North Pole workshop by animal rights terrorists.
Santa’s elves and “helpers” will be entitled to new dignity and respect. Elves will no longer be described as short creatures with pointy ears, but people with stature impairments or even stature-challenged persons with distinguished ears. Short will be beautiful. The demeaning and derogatory reference to Santa’s “helpers” will be changed as well. All employees in Santa’s workshop will be treated with renewed esteem. Workforce 2015 “correctness” demands prestigious new job titles for those helpers. In the PC era they will become Santa’s personal assistants, executive analysts, or toy production engineers.
Santa will be hiring a manager of diversity to assist his human resources staff in hiring by the numbers. No one will call Santa’s new program quotas, rather they will say it is his effort to maintain a racially, ethnically, culturally diverse workforce that reflects the community makeup. Santa’s affirmative action plan will include goals to hire onto his workshop staff more “elves of color,” as well as ethnic and Spanish surnamed. Santa’s manager of diversity also will press for changes in his team of reindeer, Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen, and so on. Arguing that Santa has underutilized does, pressure will mount for making reindeer selections for future Christmas Eve flights gender neutral. However, some have suspected that Dancer and Prancer were of ambiguous gender and should be counted in the LGBT category on the North Pole workshop’s diversity report.
Meanwhile, Rudolph is also a source of considerable concern. Recognizing that all the other reindeer used to “laugh and sing and call poor Rudolph names,” the manager of diversity has issued a directive that he no longer be referred to as the “red-nosed” reindeer since that would amount to disability harassment on the basis of an immutable physical characteristic, to wit, a glowing, bright red honker. Of course, Rudolph’s special gift for guiding Santa’s sleigh one snowy Christmas Eve will be warmly applauded in the North Pole’s monthly newsletter, “Santa’s Sentinel.”
Mrs. Claus badly needs a make-over to be politically correct. Her historic image as the woman behind the scenes supporting her man by staying at home baking fresh bread and chocolate chip cookies simply won’t do. Ms. Claus will get out of the house and pursue a career, possibly in North Pole public relations or as a special advisor to Michelle Obama on Christmas planning. Sure, Santa needs support on the home front, but women’s groups won’t tolerate her limited role as a homemaker. Besides, in their new mainstream American role as DINKS (Double Income No Kids), the Clauses will have more discretionary family income to spend on even more lavish Christmas gifts for all of us. This new image may put additional stress on their relationship, but surely that’s a small price to pay for a little “affluence enhancement.”
Family traditions around Santa’s visit Christmas Eve will be modified. His roof top arrival and descent by the chimney route will be discouraged because of the impact it might have on “copy-cat” youngsters (let alone the obvious OSHA violations). This kind of inherently dangerous activity should be discouraged rather than glorified in our mythology. We owe our children a politically correct image of Santa ringing the front door bell on Christmas Eve.
And forget leaving the traditional cookies and milk for Santa — too much fat, cholesterol, and bovine growth hormones. Santa has joined weight watchers and is planning to lose 80 pounds by next Christmas. So help out this year by leaving him a bottle of Evian water and rice cakes. Not very festive, but oh, so organic and healthful!
Even Santa’s traditional farewell wish after his Christmas Eve rounds is being challenged. His shout “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night” as he rode out of sight was initially criticized as religiously insensitive. Even changing it to “happy holidays to all, and to all a good night,” didn’t satisfy atheists for whom it was no holiday at all — just another day.
So, this year, as his sleigh flies out of sight, you may hear Santa simply shout… “Good Night.”
(Mr. Skoning is a Chicago labor and employment lawyer who still believes in Santa.)
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