Editors note: the following is a discussion of Christmas while reflecting on the 12/11/12 episode of New Girl. To see the episode in question: go here to buy episode from Amazon, or go here to view the show on Hulu.
In my previous post I argued that in America there are actually two Christmases, the secularized celebration which lasts the whole month and is pushing into Thanksgiving and the Christian celebration which includes the 4 weeks of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the week leading up to the Annunciation. My theory got some support in the oddest place, Fox’s TV show New Girl. On the Christmas-themed episode, the roommates and their dates set out on a epic evening of visiting every Christmas party to which they had been invited. Of course, shenanigans happened. After a visit from a black cop that looked like Santa, Max Greenfield‘s Jewish Schmidt looks rolls his eyes and deadpans, “This is my last Christian Christmas.” for Schmidt there is an option surrounding the holiday season, there is Christmas and Christian Christmas.
Let’s say you can follow me with this logic, but what does it really mean? I would think that it would mean that we, in this country, have choices about the celebration. One might choose to simply participate in the Christian Christmas with its carols, candles, and church attendance. One might also choose simply to participate in just one or many of the social events associated with the season: gifts, decorations, parties, etc. One might also choose to go whole hog and do it all.
The point is that in this country at this time, one’s level of participation is entirely voluntary; except when it’s not. This brings us back to Schmidt’s dilemma. He is the only Jewish person among a group of tight-knit friends. The friends have decided to do this party thing, and Schmidt feels obligated to participate in the madness (as begrudgingly as he can). As he stands pool-side at one party, he is handed a gift. Looking at the giver who says “Merry Christmas,” he responds, “you too, happy… or as I like to call it… White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Privilege Day.” Here is the heart of the problem with the so-called War on Christmas. For the past 200 years WASP society has dominated the culture. The WASP voice has been the one leading the chorus. So if that chorus was singing Christmas carols in December that was what everyone did. Like Schmidt they loaded up, stood around with the group and sang ‘watermelon.’ They weren’t really participating, but from a distance it looked like they were.
Now, however, society has grown more diverse and the crowd looks different: there are not just WASP’s but Jews, Catholics, Secularists, Muslims, and None’s. The crowd looks more like the gang standing in a hospital pretending to sing carols (as each sings a different song). In reality and up close, nothing has really happened except that the waning WASP dominance has allowed the group to openly do what they have always done (yet pretended not to do otherwise). This may be chaos, but in its own way it is an amusing and lovable chaos. This group may be different and may choose to live life in different ways; but at the end of the day everyone is game for a little embarrassment if it means one of their number can get a chance to re-connect with their ex. The gang loves each other in a really heartwarming way.
Should we prefer that Schmidt sit and sulk in the car, and participate in the society in his own dysfunctional way? Which is better for the society? Which is better for the person? Which is more loving and self-giving? Which is more honorable?