Call this the year in which Americans finally got fed up with the absurdity of the elite?s efforts to take the Christmas out of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrated by the more than four-fifths of Americans who call themselves Christians plus many others who just like the lights and the trees and the spirit of holiday giving and good cheer.
At last, people have just started to laugh at the silly Christmas-squelching contortions of public officials terrified of getting sued by some miffed atheist or other. Yes, the U.S. Constitution eschews the established churches that marked traditional European societies, and yes, we pride ourselves on respecting and honoring all faiths. President Bush both celebrated Hanukkah in the White House and proudly lit the National Christmas Tree (yes, it?s still a Christmas tree).
So it’s been a joy to see the Grinches and poltroonish poobahs openly mocked. Here’s Joseph Bottum, writing in the Weekly Standard:
“THE MAYOR OF SOMERVILLE, Massachusetts, is sorry. Really sorry. He recently called the city’s annual December celebration a ‘Christmas party.’ And we can’t be having that. What he meant to say, he explained, is ‘holiday party,’ because the word ‘Christmas’ contains . . . um, a word they don’t use in Somerville, Massachusetts.
“But wait a minute. Doesn’t ‘holiday’ also contain a reference to that which dare not speak its name? The city marketing director of Wichita, Kansas, noticed. She 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.”
And here’s Mark Steyn in the U.K. Telegraph:
“This year, there’s no shortage of contenders for silliest Santa suit. In one New Jersey school district, the annual trip to see Dickens’s A Christmas Carol has been cancelled after threats of legal action. At another New Jersey school, the policy on not singing any songs mentioning God, Christ, angels, etc, has been expanded to prohibit instrumental performances of music that would mention God if any singers were around to sing the words. So you can’t do Silent Night as a piano solo or Handel’s Messiah even if you junk the hallelujahs.
“But let’s not obsess on New Jersey’s litigious secularists. In Plano, Texas, in the heart of God-fearin’ Bush country, parents were instructed not to bring red and green plates and napkins for the school’s ‘winter’ parties, as red and green are colours with strong Christmas connotations and thus culturally oppressive….
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph long ago got the heave-ho from the schoolhouse, but the great secular trinity of Santa, Rudolph and Frosty aren’t faring much better. Frosty The Snowman and Jingle Bells are offensive to those of a non-Frosty or non-jingly persuasion: they’re code for traditional notions of Christmas. The basic rule of thumb is: anything you enjoy singing will probably get you sued.”
And here’s syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer:
“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.”
“[T]he annual fuss about taking Christ out of Christmas misses the central point about the holiday season in America. This time of year captures, perhaps better than any other, the defining characteristic of Americans in the modern world ‘ their lack of cynicism and scepticism, their enduring hope and faith in themselves, their country and even the world around them.
“In Britain and most of Europe, Christmas has become that special occasion for wallowing in cynicism. We love to complain about the shopping, the train delays and the weather. Popular culture disdains the spirit of the season, and plays up instead the secularist, sceptical, mocking, lost innocence tone of British life….
“Americans indulge their sentimentality, pander to their idealism, reaffirm their belief in the spiritual contingency of human nature and their popular culture reflects that.
“Nothing is too schmaltzy or saccharine. Even Hollywood for a brief moment casts aside its usual predilections and expresses a wide-eyed child-like thrill at the coming of Christmas. Radio stations become an endless loop of Christmas songs ‘ not the typical ‘So Here it is Merry Christmas’ British classic ‘ but shameless repeats of Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Harry Belafonte.
“It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra’s hymn to sentimentalism, will doubtless get a look in somewhere in the British TV schedules, but in America it will own its usual spot, slap in the middle of NBC’s prime time on Christmas night and I guarantee that there will not be a dry eye in the country when once again George Bailey hears the bell ringing for Clarence, the angel who gets his wings….
“But, at this time of year, a bit of simple faith, a bit of uncynical joy and a bit of human hope induced by that unfathomable miracle that happened a couple of thousand years ago, is right on the mark.”
Amen.! So, go ahead and sue, ACLU–Merry Christmas to all! And while you’re feasting and enjoying yourself this weekend (I’ll be back Monday, although The Other Charlotte will be at the North Pole), don’t miss TOC’s lovely tribute to traditional Christmas music (see Our Common Heritage, Dec. 23), which includes links to favorite carols.