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"War on Christmas"

Every year, The Usual Suspects get their underwear in a wad over the "war on Christmas." This "war" seems to consist of saying "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I have to say, this whole brouhaha is (as typical with The Usual Suspects) historically illiterate.

First, Christmas is at least somewhat a pagan holiday. There is no date given in the Bible for Jesus's birth, and the contextual evidence points to March or April, not December. (Shepherds aren't in the fields in winter because the sheep are in barns. They are out in spring because the sheep are out having baby sheep.) Christmas was set on December 25 because that was around the date of a Roman holiday, Saturnalia, a celebration of the Roman god Saturn. (Also a bit of a drunk-fest.)

Second, I knew that at least some Christians, most notably the Puritans of Massachusetts, had outlawed the celebration of Christmas. (Now, that's a real war!) Then today I read this fascinating article about the history of Christmas in America.

Now, I've mentioned before that 19th century holidays tended to be rowdy drunk-fests. I learned that the tradition of caroling was really "thuggish extortion with threat of violence." I also learned that Washington Irving was the first guy put on the job of civilizing Christmas. (He failed.)

In short, (from the article) Christmas in America isn’t a religious holiday that got hijacked by secularists and merchants; it was a manufactured secular holiday, made by merchants, whose followers adapted it for religious purposes.

So anybody complaining about a "war on Christmas" gets short sympathy from me.


Dec. 20th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
The thing is, the people screaming loudly about the 'War on Christmas' are missing a few things:

2) Christmas as they perceive it is a really REALLY recent invention, last 120ish years recent - the reason Scrooge wasn't giving Bob Cratchett Christmas Day off is it was a working day... and we know who forced the honest job makers to accept all those stupid holidays...
3) Yes, it can be offensive to some people to wish them a Merry Christmas when they're not Christians... on the other hand, the correct response by ANYBODY to being wish a Merry _something_ is to say "Thank you, and you too..."

That said, the alternative form of Merry Christmas in the UK has been Seasons Greetings for as long as I can remember and that works too.
Dec. 20th, 2013 02:59 pm (UTC)
You can also dodge the whole question and just wish people a Happy New Year, in Soviet fashion. [Though «С Новым Годом!» really means “A New Year!” I guess if Dear Leader lets you have another year you're presumed to be happy on general principles…]
Dec. 20th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
Well, there's some religious agreement with the Soviet position, if my memory serves the Russian Orthodox, and in fact, the other orthodox faiths tend to celebrate the Epiphany ahead of Christmas anyway.
Dec. 20th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
I know all my Orthodox coworkers (Greek, Ukrainian and Serbian) don't celebrate Christmas, but do take Epiphany off of work. I would assume that the Russians do the same.
Dec. 20th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)

Yes - when was the last time your place of business shut down at noon the day before Kwanza? Or Passover? Or really any religious holiday?
Dec. 20th, 2013 04:43 pm (UTC)
Well, coming from the UK, that would be Easter, specifically Good Friday and Easter Monday :)
Dec. 20th, 2013 05:24 pm (UTC)
I did not know that. (Perhaps that's obvious.)

Which makes me wonder why America didn't pick up the same custom.

It also clarifies why all the UK-ians in SF talk about Eastercon like it was a big deal.
Dec. 20th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Well it is the national con, but yes, it's a 4 day weekend so it's an ideal weekend.
Dec. 20th, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
UK has a state religion of course :)

I'm thinking that's a good way to defang Christianity ;)

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This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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