Dreck in the halls
Though I lack both minions and janissaries, this blog does receive reports from volunteer sentinels, one of whom reported today the first sighting of a ’tis the season headline. In a newspaper in New Jersey. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
So, even though we have not even endured Halloween—urchins being trained to beg in public, surly adolescents trolling for candy, raw egg dripping down the picture window—it becomes necessary to issue the annual caution against holiday cliches that You Don’t Say provides.
“’Tis the season”: Not in copy, not in headlines, not at all. Never, never, never, never, never. You cannot make this fresh. Do not attempt it.
“’Twas the night before” anything: 'Twasing is no more defensible than ’tising. And if you must refer to the Rev. Mr. Moore's poem, if indeed he wrote it, the proper title is “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
“Jolly old elf”: Please, no. And if you must mention Kriss Kringle, remember the double s.
Any “Christmas came early” construction
“Yes, Virginia” allusions: No.
“Grinch steals”: When someone vandalizes holiday decorations, steals a child's toys from under the tree, or otherwise dampens holiday cheer, this construction may be almost irresistible. Resist it.
Give Dickens a rest. No ghosts of anything past, present or future. Delete bah and humbug from your working vocabulary. Treat Scrooge as you would the Grinch, by ignoring him. Leave little Tiny Tim alone, too.
“Turkey and all the trimmings”: If you can't define trimmings without looking up the word, you shouldn't be using it.
“White stuff” for snow: We should have higher standards of usage — and dignity — than do television weather forecasters. Also avoid the tautologies favored by these types: winter season, weather conditions, winter weather conditions, snow event and snow precipitation. And the tautologies favored in advertising: free gift, extra bonus and extra added bonus.
Old Man Winter, Jack Frost and other moldy personifications can safely be omitted.
If the spirit of ecumenism and inclusion requires mention of Hanukkah in holiday articles, these points should be kept in mind. Hanukkah is a holiday more like Independence Day than Christmas, and it is only the coincidence of the calendar dates in a gentile culture that has caused the holiday to mimic Christian and secular elements. The holidays are coincidental; they are not twins.
Ignore all tiresome objections to Xmas from people who do not understand that it is an innocuous abbreviation. The Roman alphabet X in this case is understood as the Greek letter chi, also X, which is the first letter of Christos. Xmas in no way takes Christ out of Christmas.
Pray do not ring out or ring in an old year, a new year, or anything else.
Parodies of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are, if possible, even more tedious than the original. And typically they do not scan.*
Some readers (and, sadly, some writers) lap up this swill. It is familiar, and the complete lack of originality comforts them. It is for such people that television exists.
*If you are in any way traditional in outlook, or informed, you understand that Christmas was originally a twelve-day liturgical season, running from December 25 to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The modern, saccharine, holly jolly Christmas, which can barely wait until the post-Thanksgiving-dinner Alka-Seltzer is swallowed, has essentially effaced the original. Do not try to swim against the current.