The whole Christmas thing

Sunday, December 04, 2005
I'm not a big fan of Christmas. I just want that understood.

I kind of like the presents, but through at least my later childhood, and certainly most of my adult life, Christmas is been, in main part, a pain. As a Buddhist/Stoic (someday I'll write about the similarities) I don't feel much religious connection to the holiday; the Christmas shopping panic is annoying; as someone who suffers from some Seasonal Affective Disorder, it comes at a time when the lack of sunlight is getting me down, and making me more curmudgeonly than usual (as difficult as that might be to imagine.)

None the less, I don't find people saying "Merry Christmas" all that annoying. I'll even say it myself, or reply "and you" if someone says it to me.

On the other hand, however, there has been quite a bit of fuss --- driven by people like John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly --- about a supposed conspiracy to eliminate Christmas, the evidence being that they can find a few aggressive atheists who complain about crèches, and they've discovered that Wal-Mart is saying (horrors!) "Happy Holidays!". I believe they're also pushing boycotts of places that don't have the right Christmas greetings and sayings.

What they've done with this is to convince me that there really is an exclusionary aspect to their pressure about the right observation of Christmas. Last night, I heard an interview (I think it was O'Reilly, but I'm not sure) with someone who is organizing one of those boycotts, and who turned out to own a Christian bookstore, and who was saying that they wouldn't be satisfied until our government once again "recognized God".

To be frank, there is nothing that could push me onto the side of the ACLU and their fellows than to have a big push to insist on explicit Christian observance of Christmas by those of us who aren't Christians. In other words, I've got no objection to Christians being Christian at Christmas; attempting to compel people and corporations to observe Christmas in a particular Christian way is unacceptable.

(On the other hand, Foamy the Squirrel rants an admirable rant for the other side of the argument. Don't take a sip of coffee before starting it if you value your monitor.)


terrye said...

I am not a big fan of O'Reilly [or Gibson] but I have seen a real attempt to exclude religion from many aspects of public life.

Now I can understand a certain amount of distance when it comes to the court house lawn, but when you can not call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, things are getting out of hand.

My father was an old fashioned guy who grew up when times were really lean. He worried about Christmas being too much about every Christmas Eve he got out the New Testament and read us the Christmas story. It was the only time of the year my Daddy did anything like that and I have never forgotten it. He has been dead since 1980 and so every Christmas I read the story too, just to remember.

Christmas is supposed to be about love.

Seneca the Younger said...

Terrye, I agree with you about Christmas trees: if you can't call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, something's wrong.

Asking kids to sing "Xmas" instead of "Christmas" in carols is wrong (doubly so, since the abbreviation "Xmas" comes crom using a cross to replace "Christ" as shorthand!)

What I'm saying is that if you can't say "Happy Holidays!" when wishing someone well on the holidays, that's wrong too — especially when it's accompanied by an attempt to compel people to "put Christ back in Christmas".

vnjagvet said...

Here's my take:

For Christians, Christ should be in Christmas so far as their celebrations among themselves are concerned.

So far as their relations to others during the Christmas holiday, the message should be Peace on Earth Good Will to Men (as in "mankind"), i.e. loving acceptance and inclusiveness -- the true spirit of Christmas.

As for our government, it has always (officially since the Grant Administration) recognized the Christmas Holiday.

It is indisputable that, since the founding of the Republic, a great number of the citizens of this nation purport to be Christian. Recognizing the two most important days in the Christian calendar, Christmas and Easter is an appropriate nod to the beliefs of those citizens.

For anyone in this country to ignore the origin or meaning of Christmas is offensive to most Christians.

But to force non-Christians to celebrate Christmas in a Christian way is equally offensive to the spirit of Christmas.

That is totally inconsistant with the message "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men".

Rick Ballard said...

Happy holidays!

Happy holy days.

I know what I'm celebrating and have no desire to shove anything down any non-believers throat. I even sort of like the Happy Holy Days locution because its inclusive of Hannukah.

The second candle is lit and I am waiting - good enough for me.

Seneca the Younger said...

Rick, absolutely. My mother is a Jewish convert (and if there's anything odder than a Choctaw Buddhist, it's a Choctaw Jew), I'm a Buddhist, my closest friend is a rabid atheist (and, interestingly, Buddha was an atheist too.) We all have this end-of-year holiday. I don't object to calling it Christmas.

I am really beginning to object to Christians who want to compel other's observation: as Vet notes, that's not good civics, and not good Christianity.

Rick Ballard said...

It's actually bad Christianity to the point of heresy. Faith is a gift and gratitude - hopefully exhibited through action seems the only reasonable response. I do not have (nor does any other human have) the power to make the gift. I can't even explain the gift - how in the world am I to force others to recognize it or its source?

A little knowledge is a very, very dangerous thing in the hands of nominal Christians. Their reaction to forced secularization is understandable on a human level but is completely unfounded according to Christian theology.

Knucklehead said...

As I've noted numerous times I am not a person of religion. Vaguely christian of some odd sort, I suppose.

That said I have witnessed the "War Against Christmas" and the broader campaign against Christianity here in the US. I don't like it. I believe it has gone far beyond the boundaries of sensible secularism and has long since done damage to common courtesy and neighborliness.

It is all I can do - and sometimes beyond my capablilities - to keep from telling those who cringe at the sight of creches and crucifixes to grow up and get over themselves. Anyone who suffers psychic pain from hearing the words "Merry Christmas" needs to examine inwardly for the reasons rather than engaging in an outward condemnation of society. JMO, of course and as always.

Syl said...


This has been going on for years, but mostly under the radar. At least it was under the radar to me because I was paying little attention and I'm not religious.

But I realized (before I exposed myself to politics and the right) that something had disappeared. I discovered that I was writing Xmas in forums online and in email. I had stopped using the word Christmas. I don't even know when it happened.

To me it was part of political just seeps into your head without you being aware of it. Until one day you wake up and find something has changed.

Then I realized I never heard the familiar Christmas music on the air anymore. It was only the secular stuff. Not even the music for Silent Night. Only 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'.

This was a few years ago and it scared the shit out of me. There are people out there changing my world around me.

To be frank, I'm delighted someone is pushing back!

Syl said...

Seneca and Rick

I am really beginning to object to Christians who want to compel other's observation: as Vet notes, that's not good civics, and not good Christianity.


I have finally begun to object to non-Christians who want to compel other's observations.

Political Correctness was subtle and incidious. The pushback is overt and specific because those pushing back do not have the same type of influence over society the PC pushers (the MSM and educators) had.

Seneca the Younger said...

I have finally begun to object to non-Christians who want to compel other's observations.

Well, that's kind of what makes this a hard problem. I don't want to compel Christians to observe Christmas in any particular way, and I don't find people saying "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Easter" objectionable --- just as I imagine people I respect wouldn't object to me ringing a bell on New Years Eve or pouring sweet tea over Buddha on Hanamatsuri.

What I'm reacting to, though, is the "they're trying to steal Chrsitmas" crowd that moves from complaining about the ACLU suing to get a crêche removed, to threatening to boycott Wal-Mart if they don't change their "Happy Holidays" messages. The point in both cases is that people are trying to compel a change: the ACLU to eliminate a religious observance, the demagogues to force a religious observance on someone else.

Syl said...

In other words, you don't like the disagreement, the 'war' that's going on? Well, neither do I.

If our traditions had simply been left alone this wouldn't be happening.

But they weren't, and it is.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Seneca, I agree with you completely. As a nonobservant Jew with affinities with Taoism, I'm on record on my blog as having a fondness for the good old greeting "Merry Christmas." But the evangelical bigots are corrupting this phrase heralding joy and love and peace, in order to further a narrowminded, powergrabbing agenda.

In today's NYT, Adam Cohen (no relation) has an excellent analysis of the dispute over Christmas throughout American history, including the fact that the Puritans were staunchly anti-Christmas-celebration.

Knucklehead said...

Richard Lawrence Cohen,

There were colonists other than Puritans. Christmas as December 25th was generally recognized and celebrated throughout most of the earliest settlements. The Puritans may not have cared for it much but most of the rest of the colonials liked it just fine.

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