If anything represents the spirit of Christmas these days it’s plastic. Plastic toys, plastic blenders and coffee makers. Some people will no doubt find a real gun made of plastic under their plastic tree. Of course plastic credit cards will pay for it all.
Sarah Palin, speaking recently at Liberty University, said, “Revisionists want to secularize Christmas by creating a winter solstice season.” As if a secular Christmas is a new strategy perpetuated by liberal atheistic socialists.
No one knows exactly when Jesus was born, but most historians think that the early Western church designated his birthday to coincide with Saturnalia, a Roman pagan celebration centered around—yes, Mrs. Palin, the winter solstice. The likelihood of pagan origins led many Christian groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, to denounce the celebration of Christmas altogether.
The holiday went generally unnoticed by most Americans through the first half of the nineteenth century. In fact it was banned in parts of colonial America. Later, except for the wealthy, it was celebrated with simple gifts. A typical present for my mother during the 1920s was an orange and a pencil. Even as I was growing up, Santa’s generosity was marked by two or three modest presents. My memories of Christmas relate more to family gatherings.
If Western Christians appropriated a pagan festival when they established Christmas Day, modern capitalists have increased the extravagances. In the 1950s, with TV their prime instrument, they were able to inform us of all the stuff out there. Our Christmas Want List grew longer. Then wants became needs. Today we hear on the news about a successful or unsuccessful holiday season. It’s measured by dollars spent. Now HOPE comes with a Scaremester doll; JOY with an iPad; PEACE with a George Foreman grill.
I have an idea: Let’s keep December 25th secular. Keep the vestiges of paganism: the tree, the partying. Rename the holiday after Santa or Rudolph or Frosty. Welcome everyone to spend a lot of money. Wish each other a Happy Holiday.
Then Christians can select a new date on the calendar (after football season, of course), call it Christmas. Like other world religions we’ll use our special holiday to repent and fast. We’ll make it a day of worship and quiet meditation. Families will spend it together.
If a war is being waged against today’s capitalist, secular Christmas, count me in.