January 2014 District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days ...
– Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

 I wonder where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from? From whence it came – a couple of centuries ago – it was as much a part of my early life as church on Sunday morning, football on Friday night, and the senior prom. It just was. I’m happy I’ve never lost sight of this powerful greeting; it brings cheer to me to say it, and a smile to hear it. Plus I am addicted to the season’s music – especially Mannheim Steamroller’s dramatic “Handel’s Messiah,” the soothing carols of Nat King Cole, and my favorite: Jackie Evancho’s moving “Oh Holy Night.”

Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name?”

The Huffington Post published an article questioning the “fear” of wishing people Merry Christmas, as it may not be politically correct. I also question it, but my deeper response to naysayers is, wouldn’t it be just as silly to substitute Happy Holidays in place of Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Ramadan, or any other religious celebration?

Last year Texas passed a bipartisan Merry Christmas Law in response to students being asked not to use the Merry Christmas greeting when writing to our troops abroad. Why should we substitute greetings Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or Buddhist friends find respectful, within their faith?

My collegue once said, “none of our slates are clean  in addressing religious differences to other beliefs.” Okay, maybe so, which makes the Holiday Season even more important to me. A time we can respect each other whether we say it with Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays. Words. Whether we view Christmas as a holiday or a holy day, it’s probably the most enjoyed time of our year. To dampen this lovely season by fretting over a simple choice of meaningful greetings just seems to miss out on a great opportunity to put our struggles and sadness on the back shelf – a temporary relief from life’s discomforts. A time of reflection, a brief window of shared happiness. And to us of my faith, a holy day.

Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Buon Natale, Froehliche Weihnacht, Blithe Yule, Mele Kalikimaka, Milad Majid ... Merry Christmas means all this to me. And I give it to you. Merry Christmas.

Questions on Christmas & New Year

I  posed two questions to our current bridge leaders: 1. How do you wish your friends and loved ones a Merry Christmas? 2. What happiness do you hope for everyone in the new year?

Robert Hartman, ACBL’s CEO: “Growing up in a Jewish home, our family would go to the movies and enjoy a good Chinese meal on Christmas Day! My partner’s family is Christian, so we now have a Christmas tree, hang stockings, send Christmas cards and call loved ones on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Celebrating eight days of Hanukkah plus two days around Christmas seems like the best of both worlds to me.

“We wish everyone a very healthy and prosperous New Year for themselves and their families. And, of course, the best of luck at the bridge tables.”

Phyllis Harlan, ACBL President: “For those I know to be of the Christian faith, I wish them a Very Merry Christmas. For others, I wish them Happy Holidays. I wish all my friends and family a Happy, Healthy New Year. May not be very original, but deeply and sincerely meant.”

Bonnie Bagley, Western Conference President: “To my close friends and family I send cards, gifts, hugs and kisses. To far-away friends & family – cards, phone calls, email greetings.
“For New Year: Health and Happiness. To bridge friends – Happy Bridging!”

The View from Table Five

We start the new year with a new ACBL President: Phyllis Harlan of Oklahoma City, District 15. I have been a big supporter of Phyllis for the past five years, and have put my candidacy for the position off for a year to enjoy her tenure. Phyllis and I share many similar feelings about the league, the board, and the general direction of our future. I’m sure you will appreciate her as much as I do if you get the chance. Those of you who attended the big Palm Springs Regional got a first glimpse of the coming year under Phyllis. If I successfully follow Phyllis, I will take special notice of her improvements, and will make it my primary mission to continue her efforts to spread goodwill and transparency between ACBL and all twenty-five districts.

I am humbled by the many responses of this district in support of my positions on the national board ... more than you will ever know. If elected next year I’ll put those personal feelings somewhat on temporary hold; but trust me, I will not give up the quest.

My answers to the two questions: Merry Christmas, from my heart. A new year of the best for you, your family and loved ones ... as well as our bridge family. May we all grow and prosper.

Peace, my friends.