When 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.