It’s a gray holiday season

By Bill Taylor It seems to me

January 15, 2014

It seems to me that this year’s holiday season is a lot like those old black and white movies and TV shows we sometimes see late at night or on rerun channels. It’s not the content, it’s the lack of color.

We call those old presentations “black and white” but there are only some areas in white and some in black; they were mostly shades of gray. That’s how this year’s time of festivities appears - mostly shades of gray. Here’s what I mean.

Each year for some time the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as “Black Friday” because it’s expected to be the biggest shopping day of the year with stores making such huge sales that they will be financially “in the black” for the year. Well, this year “Black Friday” turned out to be more of a “Gray Friday” with sales being well below anticipated levels. According to reports, the mood of shoppers proved to be more subdued than in past years - not cheerful and happy, but more of a dismal, dreary but determined attitude hopeful of finding bargains.

Moving on, this holiday season millions of people are suddenly facing the depressing problem of losing their health insurance with no reasonable prospects of finding an affordable replacement any time soon. That sure puts a huge gray cloud over everything. And don’t forget the uncertainty small business owners are facing with the new health care requirements - kinda reminds a body of those old scary black and white movies where there was a lot of mist and fog obscuring everything. There was no way of seeing more than a few feet with who-know-what lurking out there and that’s how small business folks and their employees feel now - lost in the gray fog of uncertainty.

Add to that mix the millions of people who have been notified they will no longer be full-time employees. Their jobs have been downgraded to part-time status which results not only in decreased paychecks but loss of benefits such as health care as well. Then, too, there are millions of folks who have been unemployed for a long time - we know some that have been out of work for a couple of years despite their constant efforts at finding a job. The ironic part is that employers simply don’t want to hire anyone who has been unemployed for a long time so the future for these individuals is dark indeed, almost black.

Our military are not exempt either. They are engaged in an undeclared war that our commander-in-chief has proclaimed, both in word and deed, unwinnable.

Can you imagine how putting your life on the line must feel when you are restricted from conducting meaningful operations while knowing we anticipate exiting the country shortly - the same way we left Iraq to the tender mercies of those religious fanatics who dedicate their lives to the extinction of those who do not agree with them. Both bodies and families continue to be torn apart for an admittedly lost cause - but that’s not all.

The Administration is orchestrating plans to reduce military pay and allowances and to cut back or eliminate benefits such as military commissaries and health care. Talk about a bleak, gray scene.

OK, so are there any bright spots - splotches of light and maybe color? Youbetcha. To start with, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, was celebrated for eight days beginning at sundown on Wednesday the day before Thanksgiving.

This convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah last happened in 1888 and, according to one calculation, won’t happen again for another 77,798 years.

Hanukkah is one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays and is celebrated by lighting a nine-branch candelabrum, commonly called a menorah, with one candle being lighted in succession each day until all are lit. A symbol of religious freedom, this celebration provides both light and hope for a troubled world.

The biggest sources of light and color, however, are those in churches and homes celebrating the birthday of a baby boy. Yep, despite the ever-increasing efforts of those who wish to banish even the mention of “Christmas” from our society, the birthday party continues. Christmas trees shine with light and color and presents are gaily wrapped as families and friends glow with love and affection.

The world is further brightened with the spirit of Christmas as people celebrate by providing food and gifts for those less fortunate - folks who are complete strangers. Yep, even in the gloomiest of days and the darkest of nights the light of Christmas continues to shine through. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at solie1@juno.com.