As a Jew whose level of commitment is closely tied to the level of tsuris I can cause the gentiles, I have always enjoyed Christmas Day. A city-dweller since birth, I tend to spend December 25th wandering around the City I find myself in, marveling at how different it is on this day.

The reason, of course, is a simple one: there's no-one there. Really no-one. A few intrepid Yids and Muslims as well as a few worshippers of the Son who are acurrying to make it to family or friends' for dinner. You'd think that the only difference was that folks would be indoors, but that's not true. Oh, the businesses are mostly closed, of course, which is annoying to those of us to whom this is Just Another Day and who forgot to buy toilet paper and ferret food the day before; however, there's one visible difference other than the lack of people.

Their cars are gone. Empty parking spaces stretch off into infinity in the Downtowns of the U.S. that I've surveyed on this day. I used to think that in fact cities operated on a 'Musical Chairs' principle, with (typically) more cars than parking spaces. Enough cars were constantly in transit (especially in my native New York City) that eveything balanced. In the evening, enough commuters left to drop the level of cars to the number of spaces, so that folks could park for the night. On Christmas, however, people apparently aren't just indoors, they're gone, because there just aren't any cars. Oh, there's a few, but not many.

It's the sheer emptiness of it all, with the skyscrapers still exhibiting their holiday finery of ribbons and lights and wreaths; with the storefronts still wearing their cheery messages and decorations despite being shuttered. The streets are clean, with no one to litter them. Even the air is crisper with no auto exhaust to foul it.

With all this in mind, I have started referring to Christmas by a new, more literal name - Neutron Day. The name derives, naturally, from Neutron Bomb, a weapon designed to "remove the people and leave the buildings standing." Well, that's exactly what it appears has happened here.

Neutron Day. Happy Neutron Day! Maybe it should be 'Peaceful Neutron Day!' Or even, 'Quiet Neutron Day to you.'


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