Monday, December 19, 2011


Not to bum everyone out, but let's put the "War on Christmas" in some perspective. The Puritan colonists of seventeenth-century New England banned the celebration of Christmas, considering the holiday (correctly) as pagan in its origin. The worldly liberals who attempted to celebrate the holiday were heavily fined. Puritan Christian views on the subject were so ingrained that it was not until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday in the United States, by which time the holiday was no longer associated with drunken partying, as it had been for centuries, but rather with generosity and gift-giving (a la Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in 1843). This shift in Americans' concept of Christmas corresponds to the height of the Industrial Revolution and its "Captains of Industry" (Carnegie, Mellon, Morgan, and Rockefeller) and the rise of department stores (hence modern consumerism) in America's and Europe's big cities.

As an atheist (with a long, grueling fundamentalist, bible-believing background), I have no problem at all in wishing you a "Merry Christmas." It's no more tormenting to my atheist disbelief than saying, "It's Thursday," even though I don't believe in the Norse god Thor, or "It's Monday," even though many different languages, including English, associate the day with devotion to a moon deity. I rather like merriment of most every sort, even when steeped in superstition and mythology. In fact, religion is often helpful in throwing a little crazy into the mix. A party is a party, as I see it--though it is a shame that commerce has steadily choked any semblance of human spirit and liberty out of the holiday, dressed up Santa in Coca-Cola colors, and replaced twelve days of gambling and chasing skirt (December 25th to January 5th--ah, for a Pepysian Christmas again!) to a glee-less battle with long lines, heavy traffic, and purse-snatchers that lasts a whopping four weeks or more now (at the very least, taking Nordstrom's lead, from Black Friday to Christmas Day).

Oh, and how's this for a kicker? The pious picture above of the blessed virgin Mary and the baby Jesus was painted in 1913 by Adolf Hitler, who, at age 24, thought of himself as an artist and a devout Catholic. Frohe Weihnachten, holiday shoppers!

But, seriously, merry Christmas to all, especially to the poor, the ill, the lonely, the homeless, and those far away from a place they call home.

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