I really like Christmas. Who doesn’t? I’m just so relieved the war on this holiday is over! Whew. I’ve been saying “Merry Christmas” with abandon all these years, never realizing that there was a sinister, pervasive movement afoot. I sent out Christmas cards, put up my creche and topped my ‘baby Jesus birthday cake” with a candle angel. All that time, as I blithely went “over the river and through the woods”, I never realized there was a lurking, sinister plot to steal Christmas. Okay, even in the best of times, I never saw a partridge in a pear tree, but still, who would steal CHRISTMAS?
(caution: Holiday rant ahead)
If miles and miles of crazy, blinking house lights and stores decked with holly since the day after Halloween are any indication, secular Christmas needs no comeback or defending. It gets bigger and more lucrative every year. But if the spiritual aspect of Christmas is in danger of disappearing, the answer won’t be found in any political mandate or decree. The spirit of Christmas springs from the soul of each person.
I guess I thought ‘Happy Holidays’ was kind of shorthand for good wishes in the Christmas season. Or maybe, just maybe, merely a sign of respect to all; a greeting to those who are and are not Christians, purely in the spirit of the season. Aside from a constitutional separation of church and state, greeting people where they are, spiritual or not, just seems like the right thing to do.
The celebration of Christmas has changed over time but the change is more about how we ourselves have evolved than a result of any conspiracy. Back in the 17th century, the Puritans didn’t think celebrations of Christmas were at all cool or maybe they were a little too cool for their version of the bible. Isn’t it ironic that the only time Christmas was actually banned in America was by — Christians?
The French Revolutionist renamed Christmas ‘Dog Day’ and rebranded holiday goodies as liberty cakes. So much for Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. During the 30’s and 40’s, in a country across the pond, extreme political ideologies were integrated into religious celebrations. (Psst: Anti-semitism can’t co-exist with Christmas because the very person we celebrate was, duh – Jewish.) Russia’s October Revolution knocked out public religious displays so it was a total TKO for Santa. Castro banned Christmas altogether to keep people’s mind on the sugar harvest. Sweet. Traditional holiday celebrations became a bah humbug act of political dissent. If there was an authentic war on Christmas, it exists in those most afraid of the other, you know, like those unwelcome travelers 2000 years ago who spent the night in a stable.
Believing in the right to freedom of religion, shouldn’t we accord that right to our fellow humans? And doesn’t accepting another’s freedom of believing differently inherently mean their reason for conscious celebration should be accepted as well? I may be the craziest Elf on the Shelf but I just think the best way we can come together is to respect what sets us apart. If Christmas is less ‘Christian’ than it used to me, it might have less to do with a handy political hook than with what is in our hearts, every last one. Any perceived decline of ‘Merry Christmas’ has more to do with the decline in religion itself than any celebratory intent of our neighbor.
Reading pseudo-sinister anti-Christmas messages into Starbucks coffee cups sure doesn’t help, and seems about as ludicrous as parsing song lyrics or beloved childrens’ shows for hidden messages. Call me kooky but I suspect the innocent infant in that manger, the one whose birth we celebrate, would be having some of those kickass baby chuckles at what people perceive as a war about His birthday.
Happy Holidays has actually been a Christmas greeting for more than 100 years. But its popularity has grown as people’s minds have, so maybe that’s the problem right there. A melting pot of every culture and religion, simply trying to be inclusive and sensitive to our fellow humans in our wonderful land, seems like a good plan – holiday or otherwise. And if Jesus did come to save the world, I suspect HE didn’t keep a naughty and nice list or decide that only those who set up pretty creches would be worthy of celebrating His birthday. And it’s really hard to believe that, for anyone not in the Christmas loop, He’d be the ‘no cake for you’ guy.
Now if you ask if I think there’s way too much holiday commercialization, yup, I’m totally with you. Starting the retail holiday blitz as Halloween masks are clearing the shelves is a bridge too far. We’ve come a long, manufactured way since finding apples and nuts tucked in worn Christmas stockings, too. But that has more to do with crassly merchandising the holiday than banning it from the lips of well-wishers. The outrage over a perceived good and evil holiday battle, defensive narratives aside, all seems a bit silly if not more divisive.
This mash-up of secular and Christian all started to keep believers safe during times of persecution. Celebrating under the Winter Solstice radar allowed believers to quietly rejoice in their holiday while non-believers did the same (though a if you remember those pagan fetes, they were a bit more rowdy at times) Today, in what should be a more enlightened, tolerant time, shouldn’t we be able to live and let celebrate, each in our own way, without disparaging or feeling pretend persecuted? We can rejoice in every aspect of Merry Christmas and still respectfully leave secular celebration to those who do not believe as we do.
‘Tis the season to be kind, accepting, and inclusive. Being respectful of diverse beliefs and traditions is kind of intrinsic to the ‘real’ Christmas spirit. Those who cry ‘Christmas war’ need to chill. Why get our tinsel in a tangle with discordant carols that are not you, not me, not anyone who listens to their heart. In the end, whether you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukah or Kwanzaa, they are only words. We need to make our words reflect what’s in our hearts, and if that’s Christmas, remember that little family who escaped oppression — just to land in a stable. Words count. Make them good ones.
Thank you for reading my humble words these last three years. I wish you more than sugar plums and silver bells. May each and every one welcome the magic of the season. May it lift your spirits and bring you enough merry, and peace to fill the new year ahead. And if we can’t manage ‘peace on earth’, may you have it in abundance in your heart and in your own little piece of the world.