Sunday, January 10, 2021

The War On Christmas

 I didn't hear much about that this year. It did come up yesterday in a story about Rosca de Reyes, the Latin American cakes that have a piece of fruit or an almond put in them at Christmas to represent the "hidden" (escaped to Egypt) Baby Jesus. An infant figurine is sometimes used. I had never heard of it until yesterday.  Presumably it is well-known to those who know more Mexicans.There was a controversy this year because some people thought it would be cute to use a Baby Yoda instead.  I don't know if 7 or 7,000 people got upset, but LGBT groups got wind of it, and decided that if conservative Christians were upset about it, they were going to support it, just because.  I don't know if it was 7 lesbians or 7,000 either.  The internet rapidly magnifies the pathological people looking for fight. 

The War on Christmas is an issue I have never had much interest in. I was already railing against secular songs used during Christmas celebrations at the Yule Log ceremony at William and Mary in 1974. I have since made more peace with pagan symbols versus secular deterioration into winter songs and Santa songs after reading Chesterton and Lewis on the subject, but I haven't moved much from my opinion that when caroling, "Silver Bells" or "Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland" are not appropriate. My wife has never fully subscribed to my opinion on this, I think largely because she was always in Chorus and learned to love many of these from the annual Christmas concerts. I was in choir, and we didn't sing "Sleigh Ride." To me, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," and "Dominick the Donkey" are not worse spiritually, just a different style and mood.  The older winter songs may actually be worse, because they conjure images of older Christmases and good family times as if those are somehow closer to Christ - sort of what I think the Hallmark Channel does.  GOOD Christmas things, not this modern superficial nonsense like they have in those cities. I think those are also a war on Christmas.

I have believed for decades that we are in a post-Christian society and can expect little help from the culture around us.  Christmas as a Christian celebration can only be achieved with effort in our time, and we have hunkered down and put in enormous effort since the very beginning here.  We still have an advent wreath with nightly readings and candle lighting increasing throughout the season, even though the children are long gone. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. For people who are miffed because clerks say "Happy Holidays," I think as Wally said in Dilbert "We ate that banana years ago." I yield to no man in my hatred of Baby Yoda, but this is not the hill to die on.

There has also been a trend over my lifetime for a different type of nostalgia to emerge at Christmas, of "Peace on Earth" with entirely secular intent, not really cognizant that there is any other level, or "But isn't that what Christmas is really about..." (I think nearly every completion of that sentence is dangerous) "that we should love each other/be tolerant/think good thoughts?" 

Christmas brings out the clearest examples of the ways that conservatives and liberals get the faith wrong, the former moving to the idea of defending a traditional culture that used to be more Christian - which is how you get to a whole night of winter songs and cocoa and thinking you've kept the Spirit of Christmas or reinterpreting Christian teachings in a watered-down way to mere niceness. Let's be sad about the poor. We politicise these things because we want to give concrete expression to our feelings - laudable as far as it goes - but recoil from the charities and forgivenesses in our own circle. Those cost, in contrast to the warm feelings you get comparing people to Scrooge or watching Hallmark, both of which pay you

Update: It occurs to me that there are feedback loops on both the left and right, that when they are drawing new things into the faith or dropping them, there are of necessity doing it from within our culture, which has been infused with a great deal of Christian assumptions from the start. Much of what unreflective people would consider "just normal," and mostly secular values come directly from Christian or sometimes Judaeo-Christian thought. However, that is not to say that all bricks that went into the house were Christian. The materials have been modified and adapted, not always for the good.  For anyone trying to build anew, what they mostly have lying around is material from parts of the house that date back two thousand years, however changed.  In all cases, it gives the new builder the strong belief that he is continuing in the old tradition and is the true heir to the house.


Donna B. said...

...well-known to those who know more Mexicans...

Or Cajuns.

I hope you enjoyed a Merry Epiphany!

james said...

WRT the tradition builder: that reminds me of eating at a Korean restaurant. One of the little side dishes was sliced hot dogs with a Korean sauce. In one sense that was absolutely traditional--using available meat (which had the same texture as a fish cake!) with traditional sauce.

Texan99 said...

Lots of culinary traditions play on the hidden-treasure theme--king cakes, epiphany cakes, Twelfth-Night cakes.

Having been raised secular, my early associations with Christmas are pure festival. The tradition that appealed to me was the sense of a special time set apart for gathering and tending to each other with gifts and feasts. I'll always be a sucker for Christmas stories about people getting past a barrier, lightening up, reconnecting, showing an unexpected mercy, remembering what's important, surrendering old grudges. Of course a lot of it was about the solstice, moving past the darkest part of the year with hope. That aspect probably is much stronger in colder, darker climates, but nearly all cultures are touched by the theme of the spark of light and hope in the cold, frightening dark.