Saturday, December 18, 2004

Can We Have Christmas Without Christmas?


The White House "Community Tree"

It turns out that I have plenty of company regarding my attitudes on removing the word "Christmas" from December. Here's a sampling of commentary on the subject. If you learn of more, let me know:

Joseph Bottums analyzes the larger implications of the issue well in The Weekly Standard. Excerpts:

The city marketing director of Wichita, Kansas . . . led a task force that decided to call their annual Winterfest installation a "community tree"--since otherwise Wichita's etymologically astute citizens might hear the "holy day" in "holiday" and tremble for their children's safety.

In fact, what are we doing with trees at all? A few years ago, the city manager of Eugene, Oregon, banned decorated trees on public property during the month of December. And rightly so. Even a secularized symbol for Christmas is still somehow implicated in it all, a co-conspirator in the attempt to turn America into a theocracy. You can't finally eradicate the religious suggestion lurking in the pines, just as you can't wring every last drop of St. Nicholas out of Santa Claus. And if we allow a tree with ornaments on public land, the next thing you know people will be calling out, "God bless us, every one!" and "Peace on earth, goodwill to men!" And then, of course, the Inquisition.

This is about more, Bottum notes, than whining over a loss of holiday symbols:

Exactly twenty years ago, back in 1984, Richard John Neuhaus predicted much of our current situation in The Naked Public Square. Noting that millions of
believers had come, through the 1970s, to feel "a powerful resentment against
values that they believe have been imposed on them," Neuhaus saw that the likes
of Jerry Falwell had been called into existence by the radical secularists.
America is an "incorrigibly religious" nation, he warned, and so it should stay,
for "politics is most importantly a function of culture, and at the heart of
culture is religion." We strip the public square at our peril.

The ever-incisive Charles Krauthammer, who happens to be Jewish, had a piece in the Washington Post yesterday entitled "Just Leave Christmas Alone:"

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian, and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of . . . what? The winter solstice?

I personally like Christmas because, since it is a day that for me is otherwise ordinary, I get to do nice things, such as covering for as many gentile colleagues as I could when I was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I will admit that my generosity had its rewards: I collected enough chits on Christmas Day to get reciprocal coverage not just for Yom Kippur but for both days of Rosh Hashana and my other major holiday, Opening Day at Fenway.

For a more, shall we say, reserved and politically correct analysis of the issue, here's Michelle Cottle in The New Republic. Her piece is entitled "The Battle Over Christmas." Cottle describes some of the more extreme efforts to battle the PC Christmas as done by "a bunch of nutters" and "Christmas crazies," but she does admit that their side of the debate has a point:

In an effort to acknowledge everyone's beliefs, we're creating a climate in which people are too paranoid to allow the expression of anyone's beliefs.
Clearly this shouldn't be the case. The courts have already established that the
way to handle the issue of religious expression isn't to banish Christmas trees
from the public square but to ensure equal access for anyone who might be
interested in displaying a menorah or the seven symbols of Kwanzaa or a 30-foot
velvet poster of Elvis dressed as the angel Gabriel. (Well, maybe not that last

Basically, everyone needs to unclench and have a cup of frigging eggnog. This is not a slippery-slope issue. A couple of carols sung on school grounds aren't going to lead to mandatory recitation of the Lord's Prayer in math class. And the occasional "Happy Holidays" sign won't open the door to a new era of stoning Christians.

Read them all. And Merry Christmas!


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Saturday, October 01, 2005 5:58:00 PM  

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