Friday, December 09, 2005

Whither Christmas?

I'm going to get a bit controversial here. Bear with me; this is an actual thought process, not some baseless attack.

This was prompted by a news story that certain religious (and Republican) groups are up in arms that the White House is sending our "holiday" cards rather than Christmas cards. According to the article, the White House is not the only target: big retailers and merchandisers who dare proclaim "Holiday Sale" or "Winter Sale" rather than "Christmas Sale" are accused of whitewashing Christmas out of the picture.

This, in my humble opinion, is bullshit.

No, this is not just some knee-jerk leftist reaction. Seriously. I have reasons.

First is, in fact, the classic knee-jerk leftist reaction: It's not just Christmas. Sure Christmas falls around this time each year, but so does Hannukah (however you spell it -- I've seen so many variations), just as an example. So to have the whole December "holiday season" co-opted by Christianity is ludicrous. What, Jewish people don't want to take advantage of December sales too? (That sentence comes across more racist/stereotypically then it's meant -- take it in context, please!)

I know, I know, this country is overwhelmingly Christian and believes in some sort of Christ's birth story around this time of year. To turn a once-popular refrain around, "Do you have to be so in-my-face about it?" The irony is that that question used to be used regularly as a generalized platitude toward gays and homosexuality: "I'm okay with you being gay, but you don't have to flaunt it." Well take your Christianity and practice it at home and at church, where it belongs, and feel free to stop forcing the rest of us to see "Christmas" signs in stores and on seasonal cards. (The same goes for ginormous granite slabs dispaying the Ten Commandments, by the way. If you need to put up such huge displays to shout out to the world how "religious" you are, news flash is, you're really not. At all.)

Second, I would think that it's more desireable to not have "Christmas" plastered all over everything and anything related to the winter holidays. If you truly want to celebrate "Christmas" as a religious holiday -- a celebration of the Christ's birth, etc. -- then putting up the word "Christmas" anywhere and everywhere doesn't serve that purpose. The word "Christmas" has now taken on a generic flair. Even people who aren't Christian can refer to things like "Christmas Break" and not give a rat's ass about Jesus Christ. Is this really what Christian activists want? For the word "Christmas" to so generically refer to this time of year that no one really cares about the religious significance of it?

As it is now, lots of people exchange Christmas gifts in December just because it's such an ingrained tradition. Compare the number of people who give gifts with the number of people who attend church, or who bother to take any time at all to acknowledge the religious significance of the date: you'll probably find the margin to be pretty small. Is "religion" any better served by making everyone call it Christmas even if no one really celebrates it as a religious day?

Not a great analogy, but try this: There was a time when "Xerox" was a copyrighted brand name. Okay, it still is, but now we generically say we need to "Xerox" something even when we're using, say, a Canon copier. I think it loses the strength of the trademark to become so generic. Xerox Corporation could go out of business tomorrow and, while their presence would be missed in the corporate landscape, I'm sure we'd continue to say we needed a bunch of documents "xeroxed." Would anyone care about the history of the word and how Xerox once dominated the market for paper copies? Not really.

So my advice (not that you asked for it) to all these religious zealots whining about the loss of "Christmas": get the stick out of your collective asses. It's your holiday; celebrate it as you see fit, and stop making the rest of the country have to bend to your terms. In the end, for many of The Rest of Us, it's just another day.

UPDATE: If you like this post, you have to check out Janet's post on this topic. Janet comments on this post below.


katie said...

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
-Blaise Pascal.

I really enjoy this quote, and find myself thinking about it a lot these days.

Sub Girl said...


Dop said...

The complaint that we are taking "Christ" out of "Christmas" is such a cop out. Just look around us. We took Christ out of it YEARS ago. The day people began fighting over Cabbage Patch Dolls, Beanie Babies, Elmos and all the other toys - Christ left weeping.

duane said...

I am with you on this. I even wrote a post about it yesterday. It isn't just about Christmas, and I think that it is honestly selfish and inconsiderate to think so. Seriously... Does it really matter that much to call it the holidays? Does it make it any less Christmas for anyone that believes in that?? I just don't understand why these people have such a hard time be inclusive and considerate. In fact, it makes me want to not celebrate Christmas myself. Is it really that big of a deal?!? It is more about xbox and money now anyways... If you are going to preach about the meaning of a phrase and cling to how much you NEED to say it, then why not be truthful to what the holiday ACTUALLY means to you and other people who celebrate it; and take back the xbox and focus on family and togetherness! That is what the holidays AND Christmas are supposed to be about, right?

Sorry to rant, but I just can't stand all of this hypocritical bullshit anymore!


Janet M. Kincaid said...


Hear! Hear! Christ went out of Christmas when commercialism took over the holiday/time of year.

Not only that, but if you look at other Christian type churches, there are some notables that believe Christ was born on Jan. 6 (Greek Orthodox) and April 6 (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) so somewhere along the way, some marketing wack-job got to say that Christmas is in December (let's start with Ceasar Augustus and go from there.)

Good posting, by the way.


DC Food Blog said...

WORD! I am so printing this out and handing it to everyone who complains about the De-Christmasing of the holiday season.