Happy Holidays en Route to Christmas

Happy Holidays?
Happy Holidays?

‘Tis the season to be happy. So, Happy Holidays to one and all as we prepare for the BIG day.

I can’t decide whether to decorate my synthetic holiday tree, which has sat idle in my basement for the past three years, or buy an actual pine or balsam from my friendly dealer down the street.

For years I had a real holiday tree, and except for the falling needles that raised havoc with my bare feet, it was appropriate.

I really love the scents of this holiday season and somehow my fake holiday tree doesn’t quite measure up to the real deal.

The last couple of years, I expounded upon a miniature holiday tree that adorned my late mother’s room at the nursing home. When she passed, I couldn’t think of a better tribute than to remember her joy with this tiny holiday tree.

It contained photo ornaments of her grandchildren, even the great-grandchildren. Mother was always a stickler for family and left no stone unturned for the holidays. The kids always created a beeline to her home and sure as Santa, the tree was always laden with gifts.

“Enough already with the holidays,” I used to admonish. “Whatever happened to frugality?” Mother’s definition was quite the reverse. Santa doesn’t skimp when it comes to the holiday.

Over the past several years, ever since the children left home and we became empty-nesters, we’ve dispensed with the lavish decorations. Window lights are on but that’s about the extent of it, unless you count that pygmy tree of mom’s convalescent days.

So where do we stash our own gifts? We don’t. We’ll buy something small for one another just to observe the holiday, like a Dunkin Donuts gift certificate for her and a CD from Target for me. Our idea of the holidays is that it should be celebrated year ‘round. Every day should be…err…a holiday.

Instead, we give each other the gift of love—50 years of marriage attests to it. A trip to the Caribbean or another exotic place fits the holiday stocking much better than some redundant piece of clothing or kitchen utensil.

I have this real funky holiday tie with Santa on it and last Sunday I wore it to church, like I usually do around the holiday. It’s got a music gizmo to it. Heads turn when I press the button and “Jingle Bells” is played. Kids sitting in the pews wonder where the music is coming from. Another reason to smile on the holiday.

I went for a coffee the other day and this clerk was more than festive. She was wearing a Santa’s hat and was dressed in red and green. After filling my order, she gushed, “Happy Holiday!” I replied with the same words.

Well, the woman behind me grumbled to the high heavens, thinking we had taken Christ out of the day, and offered her own “santa-ments” to the discussion. Arriving to the counter, she was met with a frown.

“I’m only doing what I was told,” the counter girl remarked, evidently briefed by her superiors to address the holiday in general terms.

Unless I have a change of heart, my holiday cards this year will deviate from the traditional. In years past, I used to hire a Santa impersonator and drive him around to various sites in the city for a staged shot.

One year, I had him silhouetted against a stained-glass window in a church. Another time, I posed him by a crèche. The one I liked best was having him stand on Main St. hitchhiking. There was no snow to be seen anywhere and Santa had to somehow make his rounds.

Well, the Santa fetish wore off and this year I have this eclectic beach scene with the surf pounding against the rocks. People will tell me it’s not compatible to the holidays and they’ll be disappointed. But at least it’s still personal and not commercial.

You should see what others send me for their holiday cards. Kids at the beach. Kids playing football. Kids at the zoo. Where’s the holiday spirit to that?

What really got me this year was this. Right after Halloween, I was in a store browsing around and saw not one sign of Thanksgiving, except for maybe a turkey cutout with paper products.

I asked a clerk about it and she was rather blunt. People are getting into the holidays earlier so this store decided to give Thanksgiving the cold turkey.

Yes, my friends, it’s beginning to look a lot like…the holidays…so let’s get with the festivities. And like it should be, I wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

Latest posts by Tom Vartabedian (see all)


  1. It’s not happy holidays, it’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And it’s definitely not a holiday tree, it is a CHRISTMAS tree. Stop the political correctness. Merry Christmas!

  2. My dear friend Tom,
    There is no such thing as a “Holiday Tree”. It is called “CHRISTMAS TREE” not a Holiday tree, or Christmas lights and not Holiday lights, or Christmas Vacation (School Brake) not a winter brake.
    We should be proud of our religion and our Jesus, and we always called it “CHRISTMAS” and never Holiday. Are we ashamed or are we afraid? When you see a Menorah you don’t say happy holiday but instead you say “happy Hanuka”, If you see the crescent when Moslems celebrate, you say Happy Ramadan or Happy Adha. The same goes for Quanza, the Budists and so forth. So, I ask you to come and join me in the celebration of the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas. I want to sing for you Christmas carols, I want to wrap for you few christmas gifts and put them under the Christmas Tree that is full of Christmas lights, and I want to wish you and wish every body not a happy holiday but a very Merry Christmas.

  3. Dear readers, I live in Australia, so I may be a little out of touch with US traditions. I believe that Tom was trying to make the point of CHRISTMAS and not holiday. However, being an Armenian (not just a descendant) I feel we have abandoned our traditions already. The tree is for GAGHANT (new year) and not Christmas. Our traditions date back before Christianity and gift giving was traditional then.
    For those who will argue that we are living in almighty USA and should follow the local customs, then you are on the one way bridge of assimilation and have sold your souls, and a very HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you. And to all who call themselves Armenian – Շնորհաւոր նոր տարի և Ս.Ծնունդ։

  4. If either of you got the gist of the column, you might have noticed that I was poking fun at today’s vernacular toward Christmas. The punchline ended the column appropriately. I’m with you all the way on his and was being a trifle derisive toward the “holiday” remark. It’s CHRISTMAS and it was always be CHRISTMAS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.