Christmas cheer, Hanukkah-style

No ho ho! Down, Donder and Blitzen! Off to Norway
with you! Goddamn Unitarians.

So, Garrison Keillor finds himself at the centre of a controversy!

Some of you may be surprised that the cuddly broadcaster – as close to a UK-style ‘National Treasure’ as America can muster – is at the aye of a furore in an eggnog cup. But we poets, of course, know better. The American poetry world – though I have to say not so much the non-American one – is permanently riven by the controversial cuddliness of Keillor. Just try walking into a Lake Wobegon Days convention sometime and saying to someone: “Have you read August Kleinzahler’s new book?” They probably won’t say yes. (Here in the UK it is Kleinzahler who has the poetry fan-base, and they may well have read it; but they won’t be at a Lake Wobegon convention.)

But this time it isn’t a poetry fracas, and the general idea is that Mr K isn’t being quite so cuddly.

But what’s he done? you ask. What can he have done? Well – according to Galleycat – “In a curmudgeonly essay, author Garrison Keillor* unexpectedly bashed Unitarian and Jewish Christmas song writers.”

Yes, it’s true. He did. And nerds. Though we all know Unitarians and Jewish songwriters are NOT nerds. Though I’d hate to appear to be even a little nerdist.** I’ve checked out the primary source, and it seems that Keillor indeed wrote this in the Baltimore Sun:

Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you’re not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don’t mess with the Messiah.

So far, so ecumenical. He’s practically listing all the alternatives, merely omitting to mention things like Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali, Burns Night or indeed any other Festival of Lightsomeness. He compounded it (it seems those nerdy Unitarians have had a bright idea too many) by writing this:

If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn “Silent Night” and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah”? No, we didn’t.

So basically, I’m sorry because it’s a bit late, I wish I’d started this earlier. But it is still, just about, Hanukkah. Please consider this – whether you be Jewish, Gentile, Muslim, Hindu or Jedi – your invitation to write the Ultimate Ecumenical Religious Seasonal Carol. Better yet, make that your challenge. Because I’m kind of wishing we did. Only I think we coulda done better.

Make sure you write it about a religion other than your own. And please – no reindeer or other fictional characters allowed. I want Pharisees & cheese, dreidls & fir trees, mangers & doughnuts; casual footwear, religious horned instruments, latkes, Judith & Holofernes; kaftans, angels, angels in kaftans, King Herod, menorahs, fireworks, minarets, and what the hell – some druid holly – the works! In rhyme.

Let’s say the deadline is Christmas Day. If I get any entries, there will be a prize. I have yet to think what it will be but it will be suitably seasonal, if not quite Santa-suit-ably so.

And that’s the news from Baroque Mansions.

* Mom – YOU must click that link! I swear to God.

** though I once summered in a nerdist colony…

PS – As I typed in the tags for this post, after I typed in the word “nerds,” the drop-down menu of suggestions popped up with “graphic designers.” Why, some of my best friends are graphic designers, and many of them are nerdist. There are only six degrees of separation between you and the most liberal-thinking Unitarian alive.

n.b. Hat tip to the Bookseller, whose indispensible daily newsletter was the source of this story.

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