At left: Our Lady of Good Counsel, stained glass from St Mary's, Greenville, SC.
In this post, I quoted a progressive feminist Hindu on Twitter who was angry that Yoga was being used by non-Hindus. People erroneously believed I was attacking her, when in actuality, her remarks hit a nerve with me, and I understood what she meant. I compared Yoga to Christmas. I was informed, in short order, that this was not an appropriate comparison. And so, I will infuriate everyone, by once again making the comparison.
Because I think it's a perfect comparison.
Yoga is dazzling and wonderful, accomplishes several utilitarian aims at once, and is perfectly-suited to mass-marketing and cultural imperialism. Christmas is also.
I have been arguing (nicely!) with atheists today on Twitter, and when I go to their web pages, I see that the winter holidays have colonized their heads as thoroughly as they have everyone else's. Yes, yes, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Yule, yada yada. I know what Saturnalia is. (I even keep track of the little-known Feast Days, and their original derivations.) But Santa and reindeer haven't got squat to do with the Solstice. You will automatically get December 25th off work, not December 21st, unless you ask for it.
Let's face it, Christmas has been COMMANDEERED by mass American culture, the government, Macy's, and by a lot of people who don't know what it means or who have zero respect for the religious concept.
Can we take it back?
I've been thinking that we might.
In fact, the more fuzzy and watered-down "mass-market Christmas" becomes and the more it is referred to as "the holidays" (as in the nebulous, Dr Feelgood bleat of "Happy Holidays!" every whichway you turn)--the better it is for REAL Christmas. We should separate the actual Feast Day of the Nativity of Our Lord, from sleigh bells ringling, jing-jing-jingling too. They have little in common, except a Bishop named Nicholas.
If we don't like the wholesale capitalist theft of Christmas, it is up to us to take it back.
What I am proposing is the opposite of the right-wing's dreaded "War on Christmas"--an idea that seems based on the concept that the secular lefties, agnostics and atheists are dedicatedly de-Christing Christmas. In fact, it was Christians who first brought Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman and all of that into the festivities, in an effort to get the children involved and provide them with religiously-neutral songs to sing at Christmas celebrations in public schools.
It's interesting to note that most American Protestants never liked all that foofaraw much anyway. Kenneth C. Davis writes at HuffPo:
The Founding Fathers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were not a festive bunch. To them, Christmas was a debauched, wasteful festival that threatened their core religious beliefs. They understood that most of the trappings of Christmas --like holly and mistletoe-- were vestiges of ancient pagan rituals. More importantly, they thought Christmas -- the mass of Christ-- was too "popish," by which they meant Roman Catholic. These are the people who banned Catholic priests from Boston under penalty of death.(Personal Note: I have always found it shocking when churches are CLOSED on Christmas Eve.)
This sensibility actually began over the way in which Christmas was celebrated in England. Oliver Cromwell, a strict Puritan who took over England in 1645, believed it was his mission to cleanse the country of the sort of seasonal moral decay that Protestant writer Philip Stubbes described in the 1500s:More mischief is that time committed than in all the year besides ... What dicing and carding, what eating and drinking, what banqueting and feasting is then used ... to the great dishonour of God and the impoverishing of the realm.In 1644, Parliament banned Christmas celebrations. Attending mass was forbidden. Under Cromwell's Commonwealth, mince pies, holly and other popular customs fell victim to the Puritan mission to remove all merrymaking during the Christmas period. To Puritans, the celebration of the Lord's birth should be day of fasting and prayer.
In England, the Puritan War on Christmas lasted until 1660. In Massachusetts, the ban remained in place until 1687.
So if the conservative broadcasters and religious folk really want a traditional, American Christian Christmas, the solution is simple -- don't have any fun.
So, when these same folks talk about the war on Christmas, what about their own history and their own lack of worship on Christmas? I get where Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly are coming from (Mormon and Catholic, respectively), but people from Puritan traditions have no room to criticize secular folks for 'making war' on Christmas.
It is up to us, if we want it. There is the secular, mass-market "holiday season"--and then there is the birth of One many of us believe was God, and what that signaled to the world, and to us: Wake up. Rejoice, there is hope.
This hope does not reside in shopping and in earthly treasures, because as we were counseled, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Do you really want to leave your heart in Macy's?)
To my brother and sister Christians: Let them have it. Stop fighting. If they don't know "the meaning of Christmas"--then don't worry about it. You do, and you are the one who will be held accountable for knowing. The so-called war on Christmas is being waged by right-wing Christians who don't want to let the mass-market version carry on in peace, and who want to keep all winter holiday celebrations partitioned for a certain demographic they deem suitable and worthy.
We have ours, and they have theirs. And that's fine, isn't it? What's wrong with that? Peace on earth, yes?
War is over, if you want it.