Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone yet again.
Damn! Where does the time go?
I don’t know, but apparently it has in fact been a year since the last time someone in the US began crying about the fate of Christmas. This holiday jewel seems to raise its head in this country shortly after Thanksgiving without fail, and this year is no exception. Senator Chris Buttars wants Utah’s Legislature to declare its opposition to the “war on Christmas”. He’s sponsoring a resolution encouraging retailers to embrace Christmas in their promotions rather than the generic “holidays”.
This is nothing new. Every year, a handful of good Christians get a spiny, crawly, pinchy bug up their asses when the word “Christmas” is removed from greeting cards, decorations, and the odd party title. They soil themselves with indignation when government offices use an inclusive phrase like “Happy Holidays” instead of the more Christian-centric “Merry Christmas”. They loose paranoid assertions that Christmas is being secularized, or worse that there is a war on Christmas, lamenting that Christ is being systematically removed from the season.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to tune them out. Their incessant babbling has somehow disabled my higher Ignore functions â€” and damn it, I haveÂ a lot of holiday parties to attend.
You know, it would be one thing if they actually knew when Mary delivered the little baby Jesus onto the hay. At least that way, the holiday could commemorate a recorded event, like D-Day or Al Roker’s birthday. I could almost get behind that. Almost.
But the reality is, no one knows the actual date, if there even was one, and those involved with church doctrine even fight amongst themselves about when the kid came into the world. The date for Christmas Day was set arbitrarily â€” or as some speculate, derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens’ wintertime celebration â€” yet they get all twitchy and whiny when an entire season does not focus solely on their god-baby.
The US governmentÂ has beenÂ a hair’s breadth from being a Christian theocracy during the Bush administration. Sensible people constantly have toÂ speak outÂ so fundamentalist representatives don’t force their children to learn the creation myth as a science. Religious folk haveÂ pointed atÂ billboards and signs on buses showing support for a minority viewpointÂ as examples ofÂ hate speech. And now this! Are they so insecure in their faith that they need everyone else to affirm it 100% of the time? Does Jesus’ name have to be on everything in their myopic little world?
As I said, the date for Christmas was set arbitrarily, and since this vocal collection of Christians has got nothing factual on which to base the name of the season, they point instead to tradition; insisting that Christmas pageantry has always been deeply ingrained in American culture. Some go as far as to say that the nation was founded on principles of Christianity, and therefore removing references to Christ from the time period between Thanksgiving Day and New Years Day is an attack onÂ the American way of life.
Jesus Christ Almighty, is there one action that a person can take these days without someone calling him or her unpatriotic? How about if I stand on the corner blinking? Do the terrorists win?
Forget for a minute the innocuousness of saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas”. It’s such a mundane, inane, silly, and inconsequential thing that it makes my hair hurt. But when anyone tries to reinvent history to further an agenda, my other body parts not only hurt, but they begin to spasm.
To say Christmas as we know it is a longstanding American tradition is a dubious assertion at best, and most probably, absolutely wrong. Take the following as evidence:
For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county.
– From the records of the General Court, Massachusetts Bay Colony, May 11, 1659.
Examining the Puritan mindset, we see that Christmas wasn’t that important to them. In fact, it seems it was even criminal.
And we also see that Christmas was hardly a chief concern of the Pilgrims.
At anchor in Plymouth harbor; Christmas Day, but not observed by these colonists, they being opposed to all saints’ daysâ€¦.A large party went ashore this morning to fell timber and begin building. They began to erect the first house about twenty feet square for their common use, to receive them and their goodsâ€¦.No man rested all that day.
– Ship’s log of the Mayflower.
The Pilgrims got off the ship on Christmas Day and they worked. It doesn’t seem like it was all that important to them either.
“But wait,” you say. “Maybe Christmas became more important around the time the new nation was conceived.”
The founding fathers of the United States, where some of them may have been Christian, adhered to differing spiritual philosophies; many were deists and even some were atheists. I know folks in the Bible Belt don’t like to hear that, and they will deny it until Gabriel blows his horn, or until Jesus rides a golden surfboard into the halftime show at the Super Bowl, or until someone tells me to have a blessed day and I actually have one. And that’s fine, as long as they keep their ignorance to themselves. But the next time they want to force feed the whole world their mythology, I suggest they pick up a book and learn a little bit before they open their self-righteous cake holes.
The founding fathers, despite their personal spiritual backgrounds, conceived some brilliant secular ideas. And they believed in them so much that they even wrote them into law. And you know what? Anyone can read those laws. They’re contained in a document we Americans call the Constitution. And if you look at the very first amendment to the Constitution, it says that it’s a pretty good idea to have a separation of church and state.
So given that, either this country was not founded on Christian principles, or the framers of Constitution were idiots, and should have turned the nation over to the church and had themselves some Christmas wassail.
Which is it?
Well before you answer, consider this as well: Christmas wasn’t recognized by the federal government as a national holiday until 1870.
Were the founding fathers still around in 1870? Do we consider resolutions passed a hundred years after our nation was born to be the foundations upon which our country was built? Roe v. Wade was decided almost two hundred years after our nation was born. Is that also part of the foundations upon which our country was built?
Stop lying. Stop telling me the country was founded on Christian principles. Hell, Christmas isn’t even based on Christian traditions.
As pagans were converted in Europe, many of their traditions were adopted by the conquering Christians. For example, pagans in Scandinavia, along with Jews, already celebrated something at that time of the year, so they just went on as usual once converted, and soon those bits and pieces became Christmas traditions. Christianity borrowed repeatedly from other sources for its Christmas celebration. Christmas as we know it in America was on uncertain ground for a long time.
Even the Christmas tree had a rough start in the US:
The Christmas tree first made its appearance in America in the middle of the 18th century, thanks to German immigrants. But a hundred years later it was still rare. In 1851 a Cleveland, Ohio reverend who had recently emigrated from Germany put up a Christmas tree in his local church. He was roundly condemned. Nobody before had ever put up a Christmas tree in an American church. Victorians in the latter half of the 19th century slowly began adopting the German tradition, but the Christmas tree remained controversial. In the 1880s the New York Times editorialized against the Christmas tree. When Teddy Roosevelt became president he denounced the practice of cutting down trees for Christmas. Good conservationist that he was, he declared the practice a waste of timber.
So the whole idea of Christmas being an American tradition ingrained in our culture from the outset just doesn’t hold water. It has always been a work in progress, and saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is just part of that progress.
And removing Christ from the season is not going to hurt the Christian church. There will always be other endeavors in which to insert Christ’s name, and plenty of people to do it. History bears that out over and over again.
Look, if you want to focus on the birth of a baby during the holidays, fine. Knock yourself out. You have that right. But if you feel that something you think you started has been taken from you and perverted, that Christmas is becoming secularized, you’re just going to have to get over it.
The holiday is public now. It’s not just a few farmers in a church anymore. It’s national. It’s big business. There is a more diverse shareholder base, it is publicly owned, and the public is not solely Christian. It can experiment with Christmas all it wants.
Hey, the good news is, if there’s more to be gained from having a baby at the center of the holiday, that trend will return. Free enterprise will see to that.
So stop whining and complaining that there’a war on Christmas or that itÂ has been stolen, and enjoy your days off from work. Sleep in. Get drunk. Eat too much food. Play with your kids. Say your prayers, if that’s what you do. Just remember, there is no war on Christmas. Christmas hasn’t been stolen â€” it’s been improved.