A Very Happy Non-Denominational Voluntary Non-Working Day

by Domenika Marzione

Lorne's first Christmas season in Atlantis was a little schizophrenic; it appeared and disappeared depending on where he was during the day.

Off-world, of course, nobody had any inkling. It had been like that back in the Milky Way except for the occasional Tokra or someone else who had knowledge of the wacky Tau'ri holiday calendar. Suarez asked if wishing their hosts a Merry Christmas would be either a violation of OpSec or a major cultural gaffe, but Lorne assured him it was more likely to cause confusion than anything else.

Inside the city, however, it was probably more dangerous to express holiday greetings. Most of Atlantis was almost belligerently secular; the public spaces were barely decorated except for some carefully-chosen non-denominational "cheer" in places like the commissary and the treatment suite of Medical. Ham had been briefly axed from the week's menu out of deference to the overlap between non-Christians and non-pig-eaters, but it was reinstated after Sheppard pointed out that not only was ham on the menu every week and nobody had complained yet, but also ham was one of the few items that Weapons Company's First Platoon (December's KP rotation) could prepare without the fire suppressant being activated and it would be a shame to deprive Atlantis of their best chance at a decent meal.

According to Sheppard, the first year in Atlantis had been a little more friendly to the season -- cut off from Earth and recovering from their most recent brush with disaster, even the combative types had gone along with the celebrations and the Athosians had been genuinely curious. ("Probably relieved that we believed in something," Sheppard had mused.) Reconnecting with Earth had apparently meant a re-establishing of politically correct and culturally sensitive norms, so it was back to "Happy Holidays" for everyone, an almost-apologetic announcement that 25 December would be a voluntary non-working day, and a four-panel oaktag presentation on different traditions on a table in the commissary, complete with printed-out PowerPoint slides and including a diagram-aided instructional essay on when the solstices fell on Lantea. The adjacent table, groaning under the weight of candy canes, sprinkled with foil-wrapped chocolates (both Santas and shekels), and featuring the contestants in the First Annual Gingerbread House Competition, proved a greater draw.

In contrast to the austerity of the general population, however, Little Tripoli was a riot of tinsel and lights, small decorated trees at almost every hallway intersection, competing nativity scenes, and cards and pictures along the walls of the most-traveled corridors. Lorne's office had not been spared by the marauding bands of garland-bearing leathernecks, but he'd put his foot down when it came to blinking lights or anything that made noise and the resulting compromise was surprisingly tasteful.

The barracks, on the other hand, was where subdued good taste went to die.

Essentially isolated from the civilians, the location of the barracks and recreational areas left the marines free to indulge their whims without fear of oppressing the non-Christian minorities. (Who, among the marines, either did their own thing right alongside the Rudolphs and Hallmark ornaments or just shut the hell up.) The result was a wonderland that was at once a testament to tackiness and the outrageous lengths consumerism went to for Christmas but also a spectacle that was impossible to not be cheered and heartened by. Even with the inflatable Grinch popping out of his chimney and matching inflatable snowglobes.

The senior NCOs had made sure that everyone had something from Earth under one of the trees or in the rows of stockings; there had been substantial civilian donations from home and most of it seemed to be on display when Lorne was taken on his tour with the rest of the officers. ("Sergeant, why is Dora the Explorer playing the Virgin Mary?" "It's the only other girl doll we hadn't given away yet, sir. Didn't seem right to put GI Joe in a dress.")

The marines were endearingly proud of their Martha Stewart-by-way-of-Matisse-and-the-Joker work and eagerly accepted all praise and compliments -- and even constructive criticism where it was warranted ("You'll cover up that display of Mrs. Claus centerfolds before Doctor Weir shows up, right?" "Lieutenant Cadman didn't mind, sir." "Lieutenant Cadman is used to you perverts, Sergeant.").

Lorne's second Christmas in Atlantis featured twelve days of alternately fending off and patiently enduring complaints regarding the corpsmen's decision to dress up and run around the city with a large bell and a yule log on a stretcher, shouting at the top of their lungs and clanging as they went. He'd settled the matter with Doctor Weir by explaining that they'd needed to get crazy medics to keep up with the crazy marines, but in return for not reining in the guerrilla merrymakers, Weir had made Lorne handle all of the complaints. (Actually, she'd simply referred them to Little Tripoli, but Sheppard was playing harder to find than usual, so the effect was the same.)

On the other hand, Yoni in a Santa hat -- either protesting Medical's muted holiday celebrations allegedly curtailed out of sensitivity to his Jewishness or after having lost a bet with Clayton and Beckett, depending on who was telling the story -- pretty much made up for the irritation. Especially since Ortilla had taken pictures. ("He looks like the angriest elf ever, sir.")

All in all, a far better way to spend the holidays than braving the airports and the malls.

feed me on LJ?


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29 December, 2007