Well, it’s Christmas time once again and I have to say I’m getting a little annoyed at some area restaurants, businesses and even churches who have been putting up signs all over the place telling us to keep in mind the true meaning of Christmas.
The signs all say something like, “Don’t forget the reason for the season,” and things like that. I even drove by a church in Greensboro the other day, which shall remain nameless, and it had a sign up that said, “At this time of the year, let us remember the true meaning of Christmas.”
Yes, OK, I get it: Christmas is about getting gifts. Yes, I understand. No, I am not going to forget it. So there’s no need to put up any more signs constantly reminding me and everyone else of what Christmas is all about. I knew it when I was 4 and I haven’t forgotten it as an adult.
I mean, it’s fine to remind everyone once or twice about the true meaning of Christmas so they don’t forget to buy gifts for people and everything like that, but come on people. Don’t you think that Christmas – as much as we all love it – is already crass and commercial enough without us being reminded every two seconds – even by church billboards, for goodness’ sake – about what the meaning of Christmas is.
In fact, if you ask me, Christmas has become too commercialized and too much about the gifts, and I think we all would be better off just playing down the reason for the season and instead focusing more on things like spreading love and joy.
And, yes, I realize it’s always hard to get away from the real purpose of Christmas and the intense and admittedly wonderful anticipation we all have about what gifts people will give us, as well as the fun we have trying to guess how much money they might spend on us each year. But I say it’s worth a shot to try to expand the meaning of the season a little.
So that’s one change I’d like to see happen. It’s not that crazy to try and change Christmas in that respect – because it certainly has changed in other ways over the years, and not always for the better, if you ask me.
Years ago, for instance, if you were a student in school, you could bring your teacher a nicely wrapped Christmas present and leave it under her desk as a surprise without a SWAT team and bomb squad being called in. Back then, you could even (and I promise I am not making this up) shout out “Merry Christmas” to a complete stranger without having to worry about being arrested and sentenced to three years of court-ordered sensitivity training.
Or take Christmas office parties, for instance. Back then, Christmas parties were completely different. You could, to take just one example, get fall-down drunk at your Christmas office party and that was fine with everyone. In fact, it was encouraged because that made it easier for your bosses to convince you to participate in the karaoke contest.
Christmas parties used to be loose and wide open, but now they seem so staid and… cautious that it’s hard to think how you could put the joy and celebration back into this time of year even if you can ever get past the true meaning of Christmas.
Think about how crazy office Christmas parties used to be and look at what they’re going to be like this year. Just take a look, for instance, at the new “2017 Holiday Season Departmental Party Guidelines” that were sent out from the Guilford County Human Resources Department. The document, sent earlier this month to all department heads and county administrators, reads:
*IMPORTANT: Changes to County Holiday Parties and Celebrations Policy. Dec. 1, 2017. (Note: The following Guidelines replace section 125D, Chapter 12 of your Employee Manual: “Guidelines for departmental holiday parties.”)
Given the many issues regarding sexual harassment and workplace ethics that have arisen this year both nationally and locally, Guilford County government reminds you to always be cognizant of the diversity of the county’s workforce and to be respectful of the feelings, worship preferences and sexual orientation of others. We want you to have fun and enjoy yourself at parties while celebrating the season with your co-workers, but please do so with careful attention to others’ feelings.
In an attempt to make the season’s celebrations enjoyable to all, we have implemented the following rules, which are in effect for all holiday parties in Guilford County departments.
Decorations: There are to be no themes that incorporate a red and green color scheme, nor any banners or signs that say, “Merry Christmas.” It is important to keep in mind that Guilford County employs – among others – Muslims, Christians, members of the Jewish faith, atheists, Hindus and one man who worships a one-eyed kangaroo named Anmanari-Brindabella.
Trees: Trees are permissible provided they are at least 500 feet outside the county building and are part of a natural wooded area. The exception is fir trees, which are not allowed even in these areas, and which must be cut down everywhere on county property as they may be viewed as Christmas trees by some. Facilities Department crews have begun cutting down all trees on county property that resemble Christmas trees, but department heads should double check any wooded area around their buildings.
Alcohol Policy: Absolutely no alcohol is to be served. The only beverage allowed at county holiday parties is purified water in bottles (which can be quite refreshing!). Alcohol, even in small amounts, impairs judgment and in many cases may lead to inappropriate behavior at these types of functions. Also, as our random drug testing has shown quite clearly over the years, the blood alcohol level of most Guilford County employees is already dangerously high during an ordinary workday, so it is certainly not wise to add more into the mix.
Greetings and banter with fellow employees at parties: The following greetings have been vetted by the Guilford County HR Department and these are the suggested spoken phrases for the county office party this season. A complete list is included in the attachment but below is an example of what is and is not permitted.
- You may, for instance, use the following greeting provided you memorize it and do not vary from it: “Hello, I hope you are enjoying the month of December, and my statement of that hope should in no way, shape or form be construed as sexual harassment, workplace harassment or any other type of harassment, because I completely respect you as a fellow human being.”
DON’T. Do not say “Merry Christmas,” (see above). Also, do not say “Happy New Year” as that presumes that all people celebrate Jan. 1 as the New Year as conveyed in the Gregorian calendar, which is most closely associated with Catholicism. Saying “Happy New Year” is greatly offensive to those who celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year, the Muslim New Year, the Thai New Year and the Viking Festival of New Calendars.
Attire: At all county holiday parties, both men and women are required to wear full-body hazmat suits with a beekeeper-style helmet. All suits and helmets must be gray in color.
This will discourage “ogling” and other forms of harassment that sometimes occurs at these events.
In fact, upon further reflection, given the recent rash of sexual assault cases, the Guilford County Human Resources Department highly encourages departments to hold two separate simultaneous parties, one for men and one for women, with a distance of at least three miles between those parties.
OK, so you see what I mean about them taking the fun out of the season? What’s really interesting is that a second memo followed that letter the next day. It read…
Important. Re: Previous memo ╨ “Changes to County Holiday Parties and Celebrations.”
Attention all Department heads and administrators,
The Guilford County Human Resources Department deeply, deeply apologizes for the previous memo. The memo, which was inadvertently sent out by some insensitive Human Resources employees, was highly offensive and, as you are no doubt aware, at several points, it classifies some employees as “men” and some as “women.”
The Guilford County HR department would like to assure you that we understand that there is absolutely no distinction whatsoever between “men” and “women,” and we realize that classifying employees as “men” and “women” disrespects not only those employees who fall into those two categories (or rather, who would fall into those categories if those categories existed, which they don’t) but also those who fall outside the two categories.
The employees responsible for the previous memo have been terminated and are undergoing three years of court-ordered sensitivity training.
We also want to assure you that we recognize that, by separating employees into “men” and “women,” the memo excludes those who are transgender, gender fluid, asexual, bigender, bicurious, biphopic, gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), demisexual, pan-sexual, Panglossian, cisgender, sister in law, F2M, M2F, Y2K, feminine-presenting; masculine-presenting, heterosexual, homosexual, skoliosexual, metrosexual, polyamorous, polygamous, poly-want-a-cracker, gender-variant, none of the above and all of the above.
In addition, that list includes …
Anyway, the county’s list goes on for seven pages (front and back, in small print) so I can’t put it all in the paper but it’s a public record if you want to request it.
All right, that’s it. Ho, ho, ho! Merrrrrrrrrry Christmas everyone!
Wait, I take that back. I don’t think I can say “ho.”
Or “Christmas” for that matter now that I think about it.
Oh boy, am I in hot water. (Not that hot water is a bad thing if you are a person who likes hot water, worships it or is attracted to it.)