Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The War on Christmas

We use that phrase a lot, and it is of course an exaggeration. No one here is being locked up for Christmasing, and it is a bit insulting to those around the world who actually are in some danger for us to claim victimhood. As is often the case when there is a lot of energy in the argument and people talking past each other, there are at least two things happening here, and treating them as one is at least part of the confusion.

There is first the current celebration, which even in its watered down form has Christian elements.  We are determined now to make sure that each 1% of us, or 0.1% of us, is treated equally, history be damned. Ironically, there is more power in this argument in America, the most Christmas-celebrating country in the world, than there is in other countries with less faith but more shared tribal history. We originally opted for no state church in an era when it was almost entirely a question of which version of Christianity one followed, and whether one wanted to follow it with enthusiasm or just wave at it from a distance.  Very few envisioned a time where Jews, Muslims, Native religions, atheists, or Eastern religions would even be up for discussion. There might be a few, but Dedham or Frederisckburg was going to just keep doing what it did, because they outnumbered everyone so thoroughly. We made consitutional rules without seeing that consequence, that people could have a creche on the town square for a hundred years and then be told it was unamerican the 101st year, when the rule was pressed hard.

I see that point and am sad about it, but I understand that it is an offense to people who don't like my religion, and that even if 99% of the people in town agree with having a creche, it is a sort of establishment of religion.

There is a separate point, which is history, and what actually did happen. Rewriting history so that it says what we want it to is an increasing danger. The cities and towns of America did celebrate Christmas throughout their histories*, and that is part of the shared culture of the place you come from. If you moved all over, there was a generic American Christmas that you shared in. It changed over the years, but mostly only visible from the inside. I find that generic, and culturally shared Christmas to be inadequate, a bit milk-and-water. But it was there, and there's no saying it wasn't. There wouldn't be a shared holiday at this time of the year if it hadn't been for Christmas. Hanukkah got elevated to keep in cultural resonance with the Christian holiday.  The winter solstice got tacked on recently, stage makeup on a corpse to pretend it's actually an old person who has been surviving all these years. But all those Northern Europeans made the tomten and the sheaves of wheat go to church centuries ago.

Perhaps it will be better for my people. The long, wheezing expiration of Christmas into a spending spree and month-long gorge, adorned with symbols whose meanings have gone dim, may lead to a new Christian festival.  Though I doubt it. 

*Not the Puritans, though.  Not for a long while.


james said...

I'm told Advent was a penitential season, like Lent. Maybe we should start using a new greeting: "Happy Advent! What are you giving up this season?"
(I already do the Happy Advent part.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thank you for the reminder.

jaed said...

I've always thought of Advent as being more about purification than penitence. Different emphasis, maybe. Expectation and being ready is part of it.

Retriever said...

This might be of interest (more about Christmas than Advent--I wrote about the latter at great and tedious length elsewhere)....http://www.historytoday.com/chris-durston/puritan-war-christmas

(will of course send it to killjoy bd with all his dreary minimalism about Christmas with no presents...I can do so because i am descended from Puritans, but grew up around Royalists, so appreciate the virtues of both sides)