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For Christ's sake II: The Wrath Of X-Mas

Last week, there was a bit of a dustup in Boston. It seems that the city was announcing the annual lighting of the Holiday Tree. This got certain fundamentalists' knickers in a twist, who are on a crusade to make sure that nobody disses Christmas. The leader of this particular faction is the ever-loathesome Jerry Falwell, so I was all set to reluctantly stick up for Boston just on the prinicple that, pending any other strong feelings on an issue, opposing Falwell is usually the safe move.

But then I happened to hear one of Falwell's minions talking about the issue, and heaven help me if the guy didn't make sense.

Falwell's people had done something ingenious, something that should have occurred to me in the first place. They went to the guy up in Newfoundland who gives Boston the tree, for free, every year, and asked his opinion. And he was mad as... er, heck. He said he gave them a CHRISTMAS tree, and if they wanted something else, they could get it from someone else next year.

The city of Boston quickly caved, and the Christmas tree-lighting is still on schedule for tomorrow.

That got me thinking about the whole Christmas thing. Every year, a bunch of people get all bent out of shape about Christmas celebrations, decorations, observances, and anything else that might in some way be considered a state endorsement of the holiday. And every year a bunch of other people get all bent out of shape defending the very practices that so bothers the first.

As a self-declared agnostic, intellectually I have to side with the first group. But this is one of those cases where I simply don't think it's that big a deal, and absolutely not worth fighting over. It's on the same level to me as the "IN GOD WE TRUST" on our currency.

The vast majority of the United States celebrates Christmas. That is a fact, and one that is not likely to change any time soon. So right off the bat, doing ANYTHING to change the status quo is a hell of an uphill battle.

Secondly, speaking historically, there really isn't a heck of a lot "Christian" about Christmas. It doesn't really celebrate Christ's birth -- historians say that he was born in the springtime, not in the dead of winter. The origins of Christmas actually date back to the Roman conquest of Britain.

The Romans -- who were nominally Christian at that point -- were looking for ways to subvert the native Celtic religious beliefs and traditions, as part of assimilating them into the Empire. They took their Winter Solstice holiday, complete with all its accompanying rituals, hallmarks, symbols, and the like, and wrapped them up into the "birth of the savior" thing. Trees, garlands, wreaths, and the like -- they are all Pagan in origin.

Let's take another pragmatic approach. December 25 is a dreary time of year. It's the beginning of winter, right around the solstice. It's the end of the year, a time to wind down and prepare for the new year. Most everyone could use a little time off.

And what are these holiday traditions that have the anti-Chrismas forces in such a dither? Singing. Eating. Spending time with family and friends and other loved ones. Exchanging gifts. In general, being happy and joyful and cheery.

Nope, can't have any of that. Especially if someone's doing it with a -- gasp! -- RELIGOUS intent!

Yeah, I suppose, technically things like making Christmas a national holiday and putting up decorations and trees and creches and the like might bend the spirit of the "no establishment" clause. But it's not black and white. It's gray -- and so gray as to be almost white. We have far more important things to worry about than people being merry one day a year.

Besides, I dunno if the retail economy could survive the loss.


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Comments (33)

I'm sure when Menino attend... (Below threshold)

I'm sure when Menino attends the lighting of the first candle on the giant menorah to be erected on the Boston Common, as in years before, the city's website will refer to it as a "holiday candle holder".

Exactly. I'm not millitant ... (Below threshold)

Exactly. I'm not millitant about it, but I'm not going to stop saying "Merry Christmas" because it might offend some hypothetical pagan with a chip on their shoulder. Or to satisfy some imaginary unbreachable wall between the government and the culture held by the people that government exists to serve.

If someone wishes me a happy Ramadan or Hannakuh I may be momentarily confused but I certainly wouldn't be offended. So I honestly don't get what people find offensive about Christmas, and I have really tried to understand it. I must conclude that some people just get off on being angry.

And let's definitely get on... (Below threshold)
Mike:

And let's definitely get one thing straight. There is nothing religious about a Christmas Tree, nothing. This is a national holiday and a Christmas tree display is simply the same as having firewords on the 4th of July.

Now if there was a Nativity scene next to the tree, then maybe there would be an issue. A menora however is a religious symbol. Why people don't get more upset about that is beyond me.

Hey Jay Tea: Now all us <i... (Below threshold)
Nova Scotia:

Hey Jay Tea: Now all us Blue-nosers are gonna be offended that you don't even know where the tree comes from - or why we send it....

Brian C, liberals want to k... (Below threshold)
Todd:

Brian C, liberals want to kill off anything that remotely relates to Christianty and the Christian relion. So if Christmas is generally considered a Christian holiday, then the PC crowd wants to get rid of "Merry Christmas" and the "Christmas Tree." However, libs do like Islam, Buddha, Hindu, and anything pagan.

If you don't think Christmas is a big deal, then congrats, you're not a liberal.

I dunno about the people pi... (Below threshold)
blue:

I dunno about the people pissed off by decorations, but I can explain why the music can drive normal men and women to blasphemy. Work in the service or retail sector over a holiday break and you'll get every single minute of your working hours filled with random 'holiday cheer'.

It doesn't really celebr... (Below threshold)
Seam:

It doesn't really celebrate Christ's birth -- historians say that he was born in the springtime, not in the dead of winter.

I beg to differ, Jay Tea. Christmas does indeed celebrate Christ's birthday. The fact that we don't know exactly when He was born is irrelevant. The fact that the early Church may have chosen the date simply to usurp and overshadow other pagan celebrations is equally irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that the Church, which declares Holy Days (which are more commonly known as holidays, now) instituted the celebration of Christ's Mass, now known as Christmas, to celebrate Christ's incarnation.

The secularization of the holiday does not detract from its original and continuing purpose, to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Jay Tea,Your parti... (Below threshold)
Robert:

Jay Tea,

Your partially right aboutthe historical evolution of Christmas. Yes, it was trying to suppliant Celtic rituals but the Romans also had their rituals too, that needed to be handled during that time of year. The Romans had Saturnalia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

I have a couple of friends who still follow the holiday of Saturnalia. One of them owns his company and for one day the bosses switch places with the employees. He tells me not much gets done that day but all of them have a great time getting to experience a day in the life of. This is precisely what happened during Roman times. The masters and slaves also switched roles during this holiday. It was one of the favs during the Roman Republic and Empire.

To throw even more fuel on ... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

To throw even more fuel on the fire, I've read where the current Christmas tree is actually derived from the "tree of life" featured prominently in medieval German morality plays which centered on Adam, Eve, and the whole garden of Eden thing. Thus the tree is more spiritual than Santa, who is of course a "saint" and also religious in origin.

Brian C, liberals want t... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Brian C, liberals want to kill off anything that remotely relates to Christianty and the Christian relion.

See, this is the kind of delusional paranoia these idiotic arguments foster. No, Todd, liberals don't want to kill off Christmas or christianity. I'm a liberal and an atheist and I want nothing of the sort. I don't give a shit what the city calls their decorations; they could call it a "Praise Jesus Tree" and I wouldn't be offended. I don't understand calling a Christmas Tree a Holiday Tree or whatever, but this sounds like political correctness run amuck (as usual), not some vast conspiracy to destroy christianity. It's also clear that department stores are simply trying to be inclusive by saying "happy holidays" or whatever, though that is also PC garbage (who would not buy gifts because the cashier sent the wrong holiday message?). Besides, something like 75% of Americans self identify as christians (many of them liberals!), among elected officials the percentage is even higher. No one is going to take your religion away from you (shouldn't you be celebrating Christmas in church, anyway? Or was your church closed down by the liberal anti-christmas gestapo?) You and the rest of the O'Reilly tin-foil hat brigade need to find something more important to worry about, like boycotting France.

Joyeux Noël chacun!

To pick a nit (albeit small... (Below threshold)
Cagey Patent Attorney:

To pick a nit (albeit small):

"It doesn't really celebrate Christ's birth -- historians say that he was born in the springtime, not in the dead of winter."

There seems to be support for the birth of Christ occurring sometime in September, near the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, which would also fall in line with the intersection of Jewish traditions / holidays / celebrations and the emergence of "Christianity" as it were from the teachings of Christ.

liberals want to kill of... (Below threshold)
WrongWingLiberal:

liberals want to kill off anything that remotely relates to Christianty and the Christian relion. So if Christmas is generally considered a Christian holiday, then the PC crowd wants to get rid of "Merry Christmas" and the "Christmas Tree." However, libs do like Islam, Buddha, Hindu, and anything pagan.

Lay off the Rush radio moron, or crack, or whatever is causing your brain to malfunction.
Just because non-right-wingers don't wear their religion and so called moral superiority on their sleeves doesn't mean they hate Christians.

“Holiday Tree”? “Holiday Tr... (Below threshold)

“Holiday Tree”? “Holiday Tree”?! What other “Holiday” do we buy trees for other than “CHRISTMAS”? If they are going to start calling them “Holiday Trees”, then I guess we will start seeing ”Holiday Trees” for sale on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving! On Easter, are we going to hide “Holiday Eggs”, have “Holiday Eggs” decorating kits, and start celebrating the arrival of the “Holiday Bunny”? This is getting a little ridiculous!

So, I guess in this age of political correctness where we are trying not to “offend anyone,” and to be “all-inclusive,” we should change the name of Veterans Day to something else because not everyone is a veteran. And while we’re at it, we can change the name of Thanksgiving to something else because not everyone is thankful. And, oh my gosh, Valentine’s Day, we need to abolish that altogether, because, not everyone has a spouse or a dating partner to celebrate that with. Can’t have Mother’s Day or Father’s Day either, not everyone has parents who are still alive. I think you get my point here, there is no way on God’s Green Earth that life can be lived without someone either being offended or left out.

So....any-hoo....who's gett... (Below threshold)

So....any-hoo....who's getting one of those upside down/hang from the ceiling trees?

So....any-hoo....who's g... (Below threshold)
mantis:

So....any-hoo....who's getting one of those upside down/hang from the ceiling trees?

Nope. Only a Festivus Pole for me. Excuse me, Holiday Pole. ;)

Nope. Only a Festivus Po... (Below threshold)
WrongWingLiberal:

Nope. Only a Festivus Pole for me. Excuse me, Holiday Pole. ;)

You mean Jesus Pole!!
Why do you hate Christians mantis???

WrongWing: you can make li... (Below threshold)
Seam:

WrongWing: you can make light of it if you want, but you'd be wrong. The fact remains that the only holiday that gets squashed is Christmas. You don't see anyone trying to change a Menorah lighting ceremony to a "Holiday candelabra" lighting ceremony. You don't see Kwanzaa activities labelled "holiday" activities. Only Christmas is consistently shut down. For some reason, it isn't okay to use the term, it makes people feel "excluded". Well la-dee-da, the only people that are excluded are the ones not participating. I know, that was a "deep thought" - and patently obvious. I'm excluded from Hannukah because I don't celebrate it. Why are my feelings not taken into account when local or state government has a Menorah lighting? How exclusionary of them!

Yes, the concept of calling a Menorah lighting or Kwanzaa activity simply a "holiday" lighting or activity is ridiculous. And so it should be with Christmas celebrations. But it isn't. And that's just insulting.

So you may scoff at the idea that Christmas is under attack. But an objective look around certainly leads one to believe that it is.

Why are my feelings not ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Why are my feelings not taken into account when local or state government has a Menorah lighting?

Out of curiousity, what state and local governments are you referring to?

To answer Mantis:T... (Below threshold)
tiby5:

To answer Mantis:

The Star of David Shines in Boston's Sky

http://boston.about.com/library/weekly/aa112602a.htm

Looks to me like the Menora... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Looks to me like the Menorah lighting in Boston is organized and performed by the Chabad House of Greater Boston, not the city. There's nothing about it on their website (not updated), but you can see Boston's holiday calendar here.

(Dec.)
2
HOLIDAY TREE LIGHTING
Mayor Menino flips the switch to light the
Boston Common, 6:30PM, Parks Department

8 - 14
MENORAH LIGHTING ON
BOSTON COMMON
Chabad House of Greater Boston
8 & 9 AT 5:15PM • 10 AT 2:30PM • 11 AT 7PM
12 AT 4PM • 13 & 14 AT 5:15PM

So if anyone can point to a city or state government organizing and performing this ceremony, that'd be great.

That's last year's calendar... (Below threshold)
mantis:

That's last year's calendar, but same difference.

How about <a href="http://w... (Below threshold)
Sean:

How about California for one.

And while the following ceremony was publicized by Chabad, it was performed at City Hall, by the Mayor:

Wednesday December 8

Join Chabad at a Grand Menorah Lighting at North Brunswick Town Hall with Mayor Mac Womack at 5:30pm. 710 Hermann Road, North Brunswick.

This article is from 2002, but notice that it refers to the City's "annual" lighting, hosted by the mayor.

New York City's annual Hanukah menorah-lighting ceremony, hosted by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, was held Monday night in the Surrogate Courthouse Atrium in Lower Manhattan.

The Los Angeles Police Department lights a menorah in honor of Hanukah, even inviting employees of the department to attend. Talk about state sanctioning of religion! Yet, not a peep in protest.

Apparently, we even have a National Menorah.

And this year a Hanukah menorah was in the White House residence.

Just a few examples of prominent public displays of religion that nobody seems to feel the need to relabel as a "Holiday festival of lights". I've yet to see someone suggest that "Hanukah" celebrations be whitewashed in the same manner as "Christmas" celebrations. This leaves me with the distinct impression that its Christmas that gets the PC crowd's panties all twisted up.

And that took almost no effort on Google.

Mantis, my comment with rel... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Mantis, my comment with relevant links is pending approval.

Boston, or any other city, ... (Below threshold)
Tim Mazac:

Boston, or any other city, state or county, can ban or establish whatever religious holiday, relic or observance they like. The "no establishment" clause in the constitution very specifically says that only “congress” shall not establish. The attempt to shift this prohibition to the states is new and contrary to any historical precedent.

Hmmm.Funny how so ... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

Funny how so many people are bent out of shape over Christmas, but have no problems with Ramadan.

Everyone is arguing about w... (Below threshold)
edmcgon:

Everyone is arguing about whether the liberals are trying to run Santa out of town, when Jay already made the most important point:

"Besides, I dunno if the retail economy could survive the loss."

Lose Christmas today, Walmart is filing bankruptcy tomorrow. When you have to pay twice as much for all your retail purchases, let's see how much you miss Christmas then.

Damn! You conservatives ar... (Below threshold)
seamus:

Damn! You conservatives are on to us! WAE thought you would be too dumb to figure it out, but we didn't count on such heroic men as Bill O'Reilly and John GIbson and Neil Cavuto to shine a light on our nefarious plans. It's all true! Once we had changed the christmas tree to the holiday tree, and changed Merry christmas to Happy Holidays, we were going to round you all up and martyr you to your phony god. But alas you christians are too wiley for us. Well played, clerks!

Dang it, Todd, you're makin... (Below threshold)

Dang it, Todd, you're making me agree with mantis. I don't think most liberals have any problem at all with Christmas celebrations. Some liberals are too ready to apologize for any religious feelings and inclined to keep quiet about such things, but your average liberal isn't actively trying to stamp out Christmas.

What's happening is that a few angry secularist zealots scream and stomp their feet, and spineless politicians and public officials (of all political stripes) cave in immediately lest they be sued by someone. As religious minorities Jews and Muslims have learned to fight back to keep their holidays and cultural traditions in public view. Now that Christans are learning that same lesson, I think politicians and beauracrats will no longer consider banning Christmas to be the path of least resistance.

I think there's a deeper re... (Below threshold)
WrongWingLiberal:

I think there's a deeper reason for these outlandish "get the base fired up" issues.
It seems Christians need to be a victim or their not whole. They need to feel persecuted like Jesus was persecuted for his beliefs. I think this boils over into the right wing too.
There's a strong conservative movement in America right now. Republicans hold many offices in state level and obviously in the federal level. But if you were to only read right wing blogs you would think the opposite is true.
If it's not the Superpowered Secret Extreme Liberal Cabal magically controlling public education or higher education it's the Mysterious Magic Liberal Cult attacking Christmas. I can't wait for next month's chapter to find out what the Satanic Death Liberal Cult of Krypotnite plans on attacking!

Hee-hee! Now this is toooo... (Below threshold)
seamus:

Hee-hee! Now this is toooooooo f'-ing funny! Salon just reported that the President's Christmas cards have gone out...and they don't mention the word Christmas! It wishes a happy holiday season! Man, I hope for Dumbya's sake Bill O'Reilly isn't on his X-mas card list!

It seems Christians need... (Below threshold)
Sean:

It seems Christians need to be a victim or their not whole. They need to feel persecuted like Jesus was persecuted for his beliefs.

Uh, as a Christian I can say - that's assinine. It boils down to pausing, looking around, and realizing, "why is Christmas the only Holiday that gets protested?" Either eliminate them all, or leave them all alone. Only someone with blinders on cannot see that Christmas is the only holiday affected by the PC idiots.

The "no establishment" clause in the constitution very specifically says that only “congress” shall not establish. The attempt to shift this prohibition to the states is new and contrary to any historical precedent.

Someone either never took, or failed, their Constitutional Law class. Ever wonder, Tim, why States cannot pass laws banning free speech, or newspapers, or the right to assemble? I mean, you've pointed out how that pesky First Amendment only applies to Congress. Perhaps its because the Fourteenth Amendment causes all the other Amendments (Establishment Clause included) to apply to the individual States? Nah, that can't be it, my ConLaw prof must have been smoking dope.

Uh, as a Christian I can... (Below threshold)
WrongWingLiberal:

Uh, as a Christian I can say - that's assinine. It boils down to pausing, looking around, and realizing, "why is Christmas the only Holiday that gets protested?" Either eliminate them all, or leave them all alone. Only someone with blinders on cannot see that Christmas is the only holiday affected by the PC idiots.

I see "Happy Holidays" as being inclusive to the many diversve people that make America unique. Such as the Jewish holiday, the new made up African American one, the pre-Christian, the Christian, and all in between. Happy Holiday includes everyone, even you! But these opportunist crazy right wing conservatives see it as an attack on their religion. Who's are moonbats again?

Not just an attack, a liber... (Below threshold)
seamus:

Not just an attack, a liberl attack.. Becasuse you knoe them folks over at Wal-mart are such liberals!




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