Enough of the war on Christmas

bellsWhen Bill O’Rielly makes a lot of noise about something, does that make it a story? I would hope not.

Personally, I’m sick of the “Christmas Wars” stories (click here and here for some past GetReligion analysis) and this Los Angeles Times article is a wonderful example of how it is not one of those easy to write stories with two clearly defined sides.

Essentially, the war for Christmas — a battle cry of those who believe that secularists in America are attempting to replace the term “Merry Christmas” with more religiously generic terms like “Happy Holidays” — is a battle on which both sides include sincere Christians. Here’s the gist:

Carrasco and his Christian congregation of 60 mainly Central American immigrants at the Iglesia de Dios La Nueva Jerusalem (Church of God the New Jerusalem) believe in Jesus as Lord. But they don’t keep Christmas.

“There is nothing biblical” in the yuletide celebrations, said Carrasco, 56. “And we only practice what Jesus orders us to practice.”

What’s worse, he continued, Christmas was ungodly, a time of revelry, including drunkenness and “pleasures of the flesh. They are not celebrating God,” he said.

In my church back in Indianapolis, there were several families who did not celebrate Christmas for this very reason and that was fine by the Reformed Presbyterian denomination. In most Protestant churches, Christmas is not formally celebrated and in some, it is even forbidden from mention in the worship service.

The celebration of Christmas was in fact once banned in the one of the original colonies. And it was not by some atheistic-secularist, but by the Puritans. Check out Slate’s Andrew Santella article for more details on this fascinating bit of history:

Liberal plots notwithstanding, the Americans who succeeded in banning the holiday were the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts. Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught “observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.” Finding no biblical authority for celebrating Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25, the theocrats who ran Massachusetts regarded the holiday as a mere human invention, a remnant of a heathen past. They also disapproved of the rowdy celebrations that went along with it. “How few there are comparatively that spend those holidays … after an holy manner,” the Rev. Increase Mather lamented in 1687. “But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth.”

After the English Restoration government reclaimed control of Massachusetts from the Puritans in the 1680s, one of the first acts of the newly appointed royal governor of the colony was to sponsor and attend Christmas religious services. Perhaps fearing a militant Puritan backlash, for the 1686 services he was flanked by redcoats. The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.

Then there’s the deeper history of the Christmas Wars, which goes back to Henry Ford’s The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. Go figure.

As Jon Stewart said the other night, it’s “Happy Holidays” because you celebrate two holidays: Christmas and New Years. And people just don’t have the time to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” because they have, um, stuff to do and don’t have the time.

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  • John

    Sure, the Puritans got rid of Christmas. That’s one of the reasons the English eventually got rid of the Puritans.

  • Stephen A.

    I’m glad Bill O’Reilly is such a bad source for this story, but Jon Stewart is so authoritative in your mind. I find both to be entertainers and nothing more. Let’s look for deeper thought elsewhere, eh?

    As for the “Xmas Wars,” while conceding the commercialization problem – after all, what does a baby in a manger have to do with Insane Shopping sprees and going into debt? – I have to point out that some of those “sincere” Christians are the same ones making war on pretty much every other tradition and traditional value in society these days.

    Don’t tell Tom Cruise, but I suspect it’s got to do with a deep-seated psychological issue driving them to seek the destruction of everything the Greatest Generation held dear, including their religious traditions.

    I expect a good reporter with a background in generational studies can dig the truth out of some of these folks in their more candid moments. Perhaps not one with a gray ponytail, though.

  • ceejayoz

    My favorite bit about O’Rielly’s “War on Christmas” claim is FoxNews.com – there’s a bunch of “holiday” story titles on the front page, but few mentions of Christmas.

    I suppose he’s not allowed to criticize his own hosts.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    So Mr. Stewart, why am I getting “Happy HOLIDAY”, singular? Who puts up New Year trees? How many New Year cards have you seen? Why are office “holiday parties” followed by “Newyears parties”?

  • ThePapistTroll

    ‘And it was not by some atheistic-secularist, but by the Puritans’

    who, socially, politically and above all culturally, ARE atheists! Work it out … &:>

  • Stephen A.

    The debate as it plays out in the press isn’t helped when there are willful mistruths being propagated.

    This example is from the Concord (NH) Monitor today:

    “Bowing to the will of conservative groups, Boston’s Mayor Menino renamed the city’s official “holiday tree” a Christmas tree. U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert did the same with the Capitol Holiday Tree.”

    No mention of the fact that both trees were NOT called “holiday” trees until this year, when secular pressure groups demanded the PC term.

    I guess not only names can be bent to the will of the few in the service of political correctness, but facts can, too, if that’s what’s required. Orwell, anyone?

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    No mention of the fact that both trees were NOT called “holiday” trees until this year, when secular pressure groups demanded the PC term.

    Got any evidence of that, Stephen?

  • Stephen A.

    Oh, for God’s sake (or “whomever’s” sake, in your case) use Google.

    The Nova Scotia man who donated the three (the province has donated one every year since 1917 to commemorate Boston’s help after a huge explosion there killed thousands) was irate after some city officials changed the name of the tree.

    In California, writes a Reuters correspondent: “Last year, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lit what he called a “Christmas tree” at a state ceremony. The year before, he and former California Gov. Gray Davis presided over ceremonies for the more secular ‘holiday trees.’”

    The lead of that story, by the way, reads: “Boston set off a furor this week when it officially renamed a giant tree erected in a city park a ‘holiday tree’ instead of a ‘Christmas tree.’” (note the word, “REnamed.”)

    Enough evidence that there’s a contoversy here? Or did you just wake up from a long, 20-year sleep?


    More from that first story:
    “Officials with Boston’s parks department decided it would be less offensive to some people and generally more inclusive if the word “Christmas” was dropped when they referred to the tree.

    “A lot of people celebrate various religious holidays but also enjoy the lights, and we’re trying to be inclusive,” said Toni Pollak, Boston’s commissioner of parks.

    But Donnie Hatt, of Beech Hill, says he wouldn’t have sent his 36-year-old white spruce to Boston this year if he knew it would be called a “holiday” tree. In fact, he’d rather see it run through the wood chipper in his backyard.”

  • http://bloginthewheel.blogspot.com/ Seth

    retailers saying “Merry Christmas”? “Happy Holidays”? in the big scheme of things, “who cares”? anyway we all know everyone should be saying “Christ is born!” followed by “Glorify Him!” hee hee.

  • Stephen A.

    I saw a replay tonight of the rather well-done History Channel show on the evolution of Christmas in America.

    I liked the description of the holiday as one that lives in tension between its religious and commercial aspects. The comment that it’s appropriate that the holiday’s “saint” (Nick/Claus) can be found in shopping centers in such a capitalist nation was cheeky, but correct.

    The narrator noted that without the commercial element, the religious elements would likely not be as strong, or as pronounced. Very interesting.

    Interesting also that Store Santas date to the 1890s. Presumably, those stores wished customers “Merry Christmas” making this a 110+ year tradition.

    Again, most other Christmas traditions date from the 1850s or somewhat earlier. Those seeking to throw out five or more generations of tradition need to be held to account by reporters and asked “Why now?” and their motivations questioned.

    If the answer is “Someone might be offended,” we need to know that’s the underlying reason (so we can ridicule it relentlessly on the editorial pages.)

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com Molly

    Whose Birthday is it Anyway?

  • Stephen A.