I’ve literally sat here, in front of my computer, for over an hour thinking about how to write this post. The subject of Christmas and what has and IS happening to it, haunts me much like Ebenezer’s ghosts did him. I LOVE the Christmas season…I always have. I most likely garnered my love for this holiday from my mother, who loved everything about it from decorating the house and putting up the tree, to the candle light service at our church, which was held every Christmas eve. The mountain of issues, opinions and materials covering both make me unsure where to start and I’m finding it a bit overwhelming, but here goes...
It’s no secret that Christmas can be traced back to a pagan festival (the Roman feast of Saturnalia) and that Pope Liberius added the nativity to the Christian calendar in 354 AD to provide an alternative celebration for new converts and to Christianize the ancient festival. Christmas really wasn’t widely celebrated until the Middle Ages, starting from around 400 AD. Celebrating Christ's birth was not seen as highly important back then. In fact, many rejected the idea of a birthday celebration altogether. Focusing instead on Christ's life, crucifixion and resurrection, which was considered much more important. The December 25th date was observed as early as the third century and became more accepted throughout the fourth century as the Roman Empire converted to Christianity.
While the history of Christmas is fascinating, this is not the point. Critics of Christmas aren’t so much interested in the nature of the holiday itself but how their orientation to it differentiates them from other people. I argue that for the most part people recognize this in themselves and are OK with the differences. They either adjust and open themselves to how Christmas is celebrated in America, or they observe (or don’t observe) it as their cultural heritage taught them. But that’s not good enough for some groups.
There was a time when Christmas played a very different role in the United States. It brought people and families together and everyone did so with joy in their hearts! Many of the secular cultural symbols we associate with Christmas are American creations. For instance, the American writer George Pintard added reindeer to Santa’s sleigh in 1821 and Clement Clarke Moore raised the number to eight in his classic poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’. Our modern, bearded fat man with his fur-lined suit was the creation of the cartoonist, Thomas Nast (have you seen some of the older drawings of St. Nicholas? Those pictures of a scrawny, rather serious looking old man are scarry!) , and Santa’s suit is red because the Coca-Cola Company showed it this way in its advertisements. The classic Christmas songs, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, and ‘Silver Bells’ were all written by American composers, who also happened to be Jewish. Indeed, the holiday was celebrated by many Jews and Christians alike, by the native born and by immigrants, all of whom adopted American customs and added some of their own. They didn’t seem to have an issue with it…they didn’t go running to the local court house and demand that the nativity scene that’s been on display for 75 years be taken down because it offended their…what? Sense of being different? I thought that was the banner of this age, being accepting of people’s differences.
Today, we live in an age where businesses and retailers are careful NOT to wish anyone a Merry Christmas, but wishing people a Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa is perfectly acceptable. Right here in my own small home town, the elementary school no longer has a Christmas or even a Holiday program…gone are the picture and video moments where you could capture your child dressed up like a Christmas present and record that kid who sang LOUDLY off key. There was something magical about those moments…that was replaced with a Fall Program where our kids sang songs about: Responsibility, I’m OK You’re OK and Education Rocks…I’m not kidding…I wish I was, but I’m not. It was sad seeing our kids reduced to little Politically Correct mantra repeaters. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s important that we teach our kids to be responsible, to have self respect and to do well in school, but aren’t WE the parents supposed to teach OUR kids those things? We should be teaching our kids about character, respect and values…the school should be teaching our kids about history, math and writing. Sorry, I digress…
The point is this, millions of dollars and huge amounts of time have been wasted by the ACLU and other groups to try and change American culture. They use bully tactics and threats of law suits to force this change. It no longer matters what the majority wants and honestly, I don’t think they even care what the minority wants…they only care about their agenda. School systems and local governments have limited resources…the ACLU’s coffers run deep…VERY deep. And so, small town America caves to the bully under fear and intimidation. This has gone on for so long that our county boards and education boards second guess everything and erring on the side of caution, tend to throw the baby out with the bath water as it were. Threats; real, perceived or imagined are acted on in a ‘proactive’ manner. Something’s wrong with an America where our children can’t have a Christmas party in school or sing Christmas songs in a Christmas concert. Something’s wrong with an America where we are being told that celebrating and observing cultural traditions that are steeped in American history and make us who we are, is wrong.
…and quite frankly, I’m sick to death of it.