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.