Say "Merry Christmas ... if I'm still allowed to say that."
Seriously. Are the three of you who actually parroted these exact words to me over the holidays (do you all get mailed a script from the home office or something?) so insecure in your religious convictions that you honestly need permission to express them? Or is your passive-aggressive sarcasm rooted more in the fact that the culture of freedom that allows you to choose any religious beliefs you want also allows other people to choose religious beliefs that are different from yours and you're too solipsistic to live with that?
And while I'm on my self-righteous high horse here, if you're going to record "Angels We Have Heard on High" on a Christmas album that's going to be played in every freakin' mall and on every freakin' radio station for two months solid, learn how to freakin' pronounce excelsis.
Speaking of religious Christmas music, I overwhelmingly prefer it to that secular stuff. Which I realize is an odd conviction for someone of my religious beliefs. Or lack thereof. But seriously. Whom would you put your money on in a carol smackdown: "O Holy Night" or "Jingle Bell Rock"?
Then again, I spent the holidays in Iowa, home of the Dangerously White Christmas. And after shoveling a few tons of snow off my car and out of my folks' driveway, I got a dull, persistent pain in my lower back that would handicap me against Carol Brady in a smackdown. Of course, she got her voice back just in time to sing "O Holy Night" simply because that was Cindy's only wish for Christmas, and all I wished for this year was a set of ramekins and Lambert, Hendricks & Ross' The Hottest New Group in Jazz on CD, which I grooved to all the way home today.
But not before I seriously grooved to a whole truckload of the aforementioned religious Christmas carols at my folks' church. Every Christmas Eve I stand in as an emergency pinch-singer to help replace the adult choir members who are away for the holidays, and I get to sit in the balcony surrounded by rumbling organ pipes and a mighty five-piece brass ensemble and a wall of voices and we all belt out carols in full harmony with the occasional descants dancing above us and believe me we're not singing any of that crappy stuff about Santa and Rudolph and and chestnuts and rockin' around the Christmas tree but the real stuff that was written when music was music and there's a reason it's endured for centuries and we always end in "Silent Night" and at the start of the final verse the lights go way down and the organ drops out and the entire congregation keeps singing in improvised a cappella harmonies by the flickerings of hundreds of candles and it's just about as perfect as anything you can imagine.
Except for the choir robes. I hate the choir robes. I was not made to wear polyester, see, and I simply don't look good in a mother-of-the-bride silhouette. But merlot tends to be a flattering color on me, I guess. Here's a surreptitious cell-phone pic that I took in front of the Christmas mural in the kids' education wing of the church. And aside from the forehead wrinkles and the cookie blubber conveniently hidden under voluminous cascades of merlot polyester that's been ruched at the shoulders for structure, you can see I did indeed have a Merry Christmas: