"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"
Once again this year, victims of the "War on Christmas" are warning us to be on guard against those who aim to pervert the true meaning of the holiday, as was spelled out so clearly by Linus van Pelt in "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Never mind the fact that many of our dearest Yuletide traditions, such as the Christmas tree (Nordic Pagan ritual) and gift giving (Saturnalia) had secular origins. Meanwhile, the REAL "War on Christmas" seems to be waged by those who seem to have forgotten the hallmark of the season, kindness and generosity toward the poorest among us.
From it's earliest inception in the United States, Christmas has had a distinctly secular side. It wasn't celebrated by the founding fathers, who viewed it as an English tradition. It was finally declared a national holiday in 1870, thanks largely to the writings of Washington Irving and especially Charles Dickens, who in 1843 penned the instant classic novella, "A Christmas Carol".
In early 19th century England, as well as in the U.S., unemployment was rampant, the gap between the rich and the poor was growing wider, and those in the lower classes who had jobs withstood dismal working conditions. "A Christmas Carol" was a scathing indictment of the greed among the upper classes and the exploitative nature of the business practices of the day, including forced child labor. It's not a stretch to draw comparisons between Dickens' England and the frustration felt among today's Occupy Wall Street crowds.
So, mindful of this history of Christmas' early celebrations in the U.S., it's odd and yet somehow fitting that Newt Gingrich chose the beginning of the holiday season to put forth his idea to fire union janitors in the poorest inner city schools and replace them with low-paid students, to instill in them a sense of "work ethic" and more importantly, to save money. Besides taking jobs away from main bread winners in families that can least afford it, Gingrich's big idea would take money that might have been spent locally out of already depressed communities. With this latest assault on child labor laws and organized labor in general, and with his recent advice to Occupy Wall Street protesters that they "take a bath and get a job", Newt Gingrich is doing his utmost to win 2011's "Scrooge of the Year" award.
It took just one Christmas Eve night and three ghosts to turn Ebeneezer Scrooge from a miser into a benevolent friend to all of mankind. But Newt Gingrich may be one of the tougher nuts to crack this holiday season.
Happy holidays and God bless us, one and all!