Just Say “Merry Christmas”, OK?

I hate to argue with Kevin Drum, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about lately. And I’m not trying to make this out to be a strident attack on Christianity, like some are doing. But it seems like more and more, businesses and organizations are using “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays”, and almost straining to avoid saying “Merry Christmas”. Are we, as a society, really so committed to making this into a bland winter break? Yes, Christmas has been over-commercialized. and yes, the Santa Claus Christmas has become almost a separate-but-equal counterpart to the Bethlehem Christmas. But at the root of both is the story of the birth of a little child, an event that, whether or not you choose to ascribe to the beliefs that arose from that birth, has at least partially determined the course of Western civilization since. And so we’re left with the spectacle of schools banning religious songs and references from school plays, and towns banning Nativity scenes from Christmas displays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and state. But if you’re going to observe Christmas, you can’t do it without admitting there is a religious aspect to the occasion. Yes, I know that the date of Christmas was probably chosen to coincide with the date of pagan mid-winter holidays. But if you want to claim some “a priori” justification, there’s still a religious element. And I wonder if some of those so offended by the inclusion of Christian symbols would be similarly offended by Druidic symbols. It does seem sometimes that the only religious displays that bother people are Christian in nature.

For me, it’s pretty simple – if you choose to celebrate Christmas, then part of what you celebrate is the cultural acceptance of the Christian myth – and by myth, I mean John Ruskin’s definition: “A myth, in its simplest definition, is a story with a meaning attached to it other than it seems to have at first; and the fact that it has such a meaning is generally marked by some of its circumstances being extraordinary, or, in the common use of the word, unnatural.” Without the story of a Jewish boy being born in a small village two millennia ago, there would be no holiday as we know it. That’s the one reality of Christmas Day.

December 19, 2004 В· Harry В· 8 Comments
Posted in: Other Stuff

8 Responses

  1. jim - December 20, 2004

    I’m atheist but agree, Merry Xmas! I wouldn’t have a nativity in my yard but if someone else or the city/county wants to go right ahead. Put a 10 Commandments monument in the courthouse and we need to talk, but a nativity to me is harmless. You are correct Harry, it IS the reason for the season.

    To be fair though, one reason people use Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings is because there’s more than just Xmas in December now; there’s also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, and who knows what else. By using the more generic terms you’re being more inclusionary, which is swell I guess.

  2. Dave - December 20, 2004

    I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying, though I would disagree with a particular assertion: “Without the story … there would be no holiday as we know it.” Depends on what you mean by “as we know it”.

    Nearly every culture has some sort of celebration linked to the Winter Solstice, and most of them involve light or fire. Without the Christian holiday, we’d still have solstice lights, Yule logs, big feasts, reindeer, mistletoe, and maybe even presents. Which, when you look at how secularized the holiday has become, isn’t substantially different from what we celebrate now.

  3. scott - December 21, 2004

    It’s about meaning. You can celebrate the season without Christ, but doing so is a chasing after the wind.

  4. Dave - December 22, 2004

    Not true. Christmas is a celebration of new beginnings, light, hope, and occasionally human kindness. It was that before Christianity in many cultures, and it continues to be even for non-Christians.

  5. Harry - December 22, 2004

    It’s true that mid-winter or Solstice celebrations were common, but they wouldn’t be the nation-stopping occasion we have now.

  6. Dave - December 22, 2004

    Fair enough, but I wouldn’t consider that a positive.

  7. scott - December 22, 2004

    One may have real Peace, or transient peace, but for Christmas sake, let us have peace. Let us celebrate the mysteries of light and hope, kindness and belief. Let us live and love with the innocence of children, and mayhap find wisdom. Let us chase the wind. Who knows? We might catch it, or be caught by it.

    Joy to the world!

  8. Michele - December 22, 2004

    Doing as requested: Merry Christmas (wait, I am saving that for a comment tomorrow).

    This particular visit can be blamed on Pink Poppy who chose you as one of her ten lord-a-leaping. Of course I have never been privy to the spectacle of a Lord Leaping so of course I came to see for myself. Oh she is correct….I seen that leap. Well done.

    Ta ta for now. I am off to tell my friends the good leaping news.

    And yes I usually do say Merry Christmas. However I will sometimes say Joyeux Noel.