- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Dec. 17 [2001] marked the 45th anniversary of my arrival in the Free World. Covered in mud, without money or earthly possessions, I found myself in the middle of glittering, pre-Christmas Vienna. Among the many unforgettable first impressions was the realization we could once again celebrate Christmas without fear of consequences.

Back in Hungary, under Soviet occupation, every December brought reminders the Russians had planted Stalin’s birthday on top of Christmas, and had renamed the traditional event “Pine-tree Festival.” The rulers treaded carefully in Hungary, but we knew it was only a matter of time before Christmas would disappear. Our traditional Second Day (Dec. 26) had already been eliminated.

During the past 42 years, my wife and I have celebrated Christmas in many different places. Whether in Switzerland, England, Germany, Michigan, Florida, California, New York or Indiana, everyone around us — and I mean everyone — seemed to participate in the general outpouring of good will and the suspension of everyday activities. Neither religion nor origin separated people or altered their enjoyment of the Season. For one day every year, symbolically, we sat under the same tree. The Christmas Tree.

In 1995, we moved to Washington, D.C. It happened in November, so we soon received our invitation to the annual Christmas Party of the building in which we had taken up residence. There, in the beautifully decorated lobby, we met our neighbors who seemed to come from everywhere. As we listened to the student string quartet and enjoyed the caterer’s fare, no one gave the impression of suffering an indignity.

Yet, without any explanation or notice of process, last year our invitation was for a “Holiday Party.” When I asked the president of our elected board what had happened, he cautioned me to be very quiet. Apparently, he had some job rescuing the Christmas tree in the lobby. There had been a demand — whose? — not to have one any more.

Well, I wasn’t quiet in Hungary while Soviet armored divisions occupied the country and communist secret police monitored every word and move. And I certainly did not come to America to be quiet.

Last year all we could do was to wish everyone a hearty “Merry Christmas” during the party. But this year, I filed a formal request with the board to restore the annual Christmas party. I also pointed out the Christmas tree was way past being a religious symbol, whereas the Menorah — of which a large, ultramodern, ugly metal version had made its first appearance in the lobby for the “Holiday Party” — definitely was one, in case it was the religious aspect that bothered the … who? The instigators were nameless, faceless.

And that bothered me. I wrote another letter suggesting an appearance before the board, or a town meeting of residents, or an informal discussion with those who had objected to Christmas.

No deal.

Those who, across this land, object to Christmas tell themselves, and us, they are defending a basic tenet of America’s Founding. Not so. Whether they know it or not, they are taking their cue from Karl Marx, V. I. Lenin, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. It was these, and certainly not the Founding Fathers, who wished to do away with tradition in general, and Christian-based traditions in particular. Their contemporary heirs seem to have no problem with Ramadan, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, only with Christmas.

In our building, presumably the same people kept the Fox News Channel out of our cable system for years. Nameless and faceless as ever, they had management and the board tell those of us interested that “a reactionary newscast has no place here.” Many of us fought frequent battles with the board and management to have the channel added. After about three years, several false starts, and thanks to a mixture of carrots and sticks, we were allowed to pay for the addition, on top of our high monthly assessments. About 20 of us paid for the nearly 300 apartments to receive Fox News.

Yet when a single new resident asked for a Spanish-language channel to replace an NBC station, that was done in a day. Free. You form your own opinion.

In Soviet-occupied Hungary, we dreamed of future Christmases, should the occupying power and their minions ever leave. I am not sure what to dream about in the capital of freedom. Which of our neighbors hate Christmas and have the board at their beck and call?

For it’s all about hating Christmas. Proof: Where the red herring of “separation of church and state” does not work, they come up with “sensitivity” to people who grew up with different traditions and “may be offended.”

Has anyone ever heard a more preposterous proposition? That over and above access to all the liberties, opportunities and riches of this miraculous country, afforded complete freedom to practice their religion and customs, we should dismantle our own traditions to suit every newcomer? Am I the only one who thinks persons proposing this are not sensitive but insane?

Forty-five years ago, with my mother and brother, we escaped on foot in the dead of night, across minefields, dodging military search lights. We, like millions of others, had a place to go. It was called America.

If America becomes a place where the nameless, the faceless can impose their will on the majority with not so much as a discussion, where will we go?

Since we can no longer wish Merry Christmas to our neighbors, let me do so to the brave people who read The Washington Times.

The late Balint Vazsonyi, concert pianist and director of the Center for the American Founding, was a columnist for The Washington Times. Reprinted from the Dec. 25, 2001, edition of The Washington Times.

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