When you think about it, it’s almost comical, because we’re not even aware we won.
“But wait,” I hear you cry, “how can you say we won when Christmas is everywhere.. starting from Halloween until .. well, Christmas Day!”
That’s exactly the point. Christmas has become a one-day holiday for the vast majority of Americans. It’s become the day we travel “over the hills and through the woods” to Grandmas, eat ourselves silly (like we don’t eat ourselves silly the other 364 days of the year), and give thoughtfully mass-produced gifts to one another completely devoid of any deeper meaning other than.. “here.”
If you think about it, all the traditions everybody celebrates on Christmas Day are not Christian. The gifts. The tree. The fire in the fireplace (Yule Log: they didn’t even bother to change the name on that one). The celebration of the birth of the Sun God.
Sorry, that one just leaked out.
But that’s the greater point. In all this talk of the Religious “Right” about a War on Christmas, nobody ever mentions the fact that very few people in the United States celebrate Christmas.. um.. “properly.” I drive around my appropriately festive upper-middle-class neighborhood and I already see my Christian neighbors dismantling the lights outside. It’s not even New Year’s Day yet and one neighbor had already put the tree at the curb for collection by the garbageman.
Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?
Maybe because I grew up in a staunchly proud quasi-German family that held on to the few traditions they felt mattered, but Christmas decorations went up on Christmas Eve (maybe a couple of days before in some cases) and came down on the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
You remember Twelfth Night, right? Surely, you’ve heard.. if not actually sung.. that “Five.. GOOOOOLDEN… RIIIIIINGS!!!!” song. The Twelve Days of Christmas? The Christmas Holiday starts on December 25th (or, in fine Abrahimic tradition, the evening of the day before) and runs for the Twelve Days of Christmas. Each day has some significance in the more orthodox Christian sects, including the Feast of King Wenceslas, ending at Epiphany (the day the “three wisemen came to the manger”) on January 5.
Of course, the entire “Twelfth Night” thing harkens back to Pagan Europe’s traditions of the Lord of Misrule and the traditions of Samhain and Saturnalia.
But the greater point is that Christianity adopted many of the traditions of the pre-Christian peoples of western Europe and adapted them into a wonderful story of their Christ, rich with symbolism, some of which was adopted of course. But some of it was meant to teach Christians what it means to be.. Christian.
And here comes the Religious “Right”, who wants department stores to use the words “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”, and gets offended when some non-Christian politely asks that we tone down the Jesus stuff, because we’re Not All Christian After All. Meanwhile, the very things they are arguing for serve to only reduce the meaning of Christmas to a secular holiday we celebrate on (or about) the Winter Solstice. None of these Jesus Junkies are out there telling people to go out there and celebrate the Divine Liturgy on the Saturday after Christmas Day, or to invite a (poor) stranger into one’s home for the Feast of King Wenceslas.. the latter being doubly ironic because these same people sing the carol attached to that day without actually listening to the words.
All of that has been lost in all the clearance sales, sports games, Doctor Who specials, and leftovers.
So, congratulations, my fellow Heathens. We won the War on Christmas.