The last time I wrote about Christmas I thought I was being pretty polite, considering the message I was getting from my friends and relatives and neighbors. To wit: How DARE you even THINK about not wishing me a Merry Christmas! Which, of course, led me to respond by pleading “not guilty”–which caused me to tell a lie at Christmas since I didn’t feel the least bit guilty. Why would I?
I say “Merry Christmas” quite a bit at Christmas time. I’ve been saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” ever since I could say the words, which, I’m guessing, was around December, 1939, when I was just over two years old. Sometimes I say “Have a great holiday!” without mentioning which holiday I mean when I say that. There are times when I say “Happy New Year!”, forgetting to say “Merry Christmas”, even though it may be several days before Christmas. I can’t help it. It just comes out.
For weeks now I’ve been getting those admonishing Facebook posts and emails about keeping Christ in Christmas by saying “Merry Christmas”. (As if, if we don’t keep repeating those words, everyone will forget who Christ was.)
I hadn’t planned on writing yet another blog about the “war” on Christmas. Even Bill O’Reilly himself is getting bored with it. I can tell. (He has now declared the war is over and he won it.) But today I received the email that was the straw that finally broke it.
It was an email from a dear friend and the subject line read, ” MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The picture that topped it was an old fashioned Currier & Ives etching with digital snowflakes falling, falling, falling. A colorful “Merry Christmas” banner arched over the top with a bright red ribbon wreathed with holly and ivy.
So lovely. . .
And this is what it said:
What. On. Earth. Really?? At risk of never receiving another Merry Christmas greeting from any of you ever again, I’m going to say this and I hope you will take it in the spirit in which it is given:
What is wrong with you people?
It’s Christmas! Millions of us love this season. We look forward to it, we read about it, we sing about it, we who are parents can’t wait to experience it with our children. We plan, we decorate, we bake, we go shopping, we party. We find a million different excuses to hug each other. We hang mistletoe just so we can kiss under it.
We fill food baskets and donate money because it’s Christmas and there is nothing sadder than the thought of someone not enjoying the holidays. Our happiness is so acute we smile at perfect strangers and wish them good tidings. Joy, my friends, is busting out all over.
Many of us only go into a church at Christmas time; some of us not at all. I love the story of the baby Jesus. I love Christmas carols. (Last night I watched the St. Olaf Choir Christmas Concert from Norway on PBS. It was beautiful–a mix of the sacred and the secular–like Christmas.) I love the happy faces. The candles. Nice. All nice.
But let’s talk about Christmas tradition:
December 25 is closer to the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice than it is to Jesus’ birth, which most Christian scholars put nearer to summer, based on historic events.
The Christmas song “O Tannenbaum” was based on a 16th century tune, put to secular lyrics in 1824.
Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. While it ends with, “God bless us, every one!”, it’s a morality tale about the rich holding terrible power over the poor.
Irving Berlin, a Jewish songwriter, wrote “White Christmas” in the late 1930s and it became the most popular Christmas song of all time.
Charles Schultz’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was released in 1965 and has been shown every year since.
We love “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Let It Snow” and “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. We love red and green and silver and gold. We love twinkly lights and Santa and snowmen. And elves. We love elves. WE LOVE CHRISTMAS!
And you’re spoiling it for us.
It takes all the fun out of it when you think you get to decide for us how we’re supposed to spend Christmas. For you, Jesus is the reason for the season. Amen to that. For us, it’s a wonderful, happy holiday that is open to so many interpretations you could get the idea it’s mainly about peace on Earth, goodwill toward mankind.
But we would never know it now, what with this sudden ruckus about putting Christ back in Christmas–as if there were sinister factions out there trying to erase him for all eternity, the main weapon being two words: “Happy Holidays”.
If Christmas means Christ to you, there is no better time than the Yuletide to celebrate him. But you simply cannot butt into our celebrations, Grinch-like, throwing wet blankets all over our happy days. If there is a war on Christmas, it’s a one-sided battle and it’s coming from you. You can have it. For me, it’s the happiest, happiest time of the year. I feel love in the air and I plan on enjoying every minute of it.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a joyous New Year.