Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, December 25, 2021

Like our fearless leader, I try to be a uniter, not a divider. It’s in that spirit that I present Adam Cohen’s look at how current “Merry Christmas” crusaders du jour are actually eroding the season’s spirituality, in much the same way American culture has done for over a century.

The Puritans considered Christmas un-Christian, and hoped to keep it out of America. They could not find Dec. 25 in the Bible, their sole source of religious guidance, and insisted that the date derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens’ wintertime celebration. On their first Dec. 25 in the New World, in 1620, the Puritans worked on building projects and ostentatiously ignored the holiday. From 1659 to 1681 Massachusetts went further, making celebrating Christmas “by forbearing of labor, feasting or in any other way” a crime.

The concern that Christmas distracted from religious piety continued even after Puritanism waned. In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas “and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing.” Throughout the 1800’s, many religious leaders were still trying to hold the line. As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because “they do not accept the day as a Holy One.” On the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was recognized in just 18 states.

Maybe this is why megachurches closed up shop for Christmas this year — they’re going back to strict interpretation.

Or, like I originally thought, they just can’t compete with the commercial trappings of the holiday:

Christmas gained popularity when it was transformed into a domestic celebration, after the publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s “Visit from St. Nicholas” and Thomas Nast’s Harper’s Weekly drawings, which created the image of a white-bearded Santa who gave gifts to children. The new emphasis lessened religious leaders’ worries that the holiday would be given over to drinking and swearing, but it introduced another concern: commercialism. By the 1920’s, the retail industry had adopted Christmas as its own, sponsoring annual ceremonies to kick off the “Christmas shopping season.”

Religious leaders objected strongly. The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out. A 1931 Times roundup of Christmas sermons reported a common theme: “the suggestion that Christmas could not survive if Christ were thrust into the background by materialism.” A 1953 Methodist sermon broadcast on NBC - typical of countless such sermons - lamented that Christmas had become a “profit-seeking period.” This ethic found popular expression in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”…

This year’s Christmas “defenders” are not just tolerating commercialization - they’re insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians’ objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign’s leaders insist this is a new phenomenon - a “liberal plot,” in [Fox News anchor John] Gibson’s words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was “an infringement on their rights as Americans.”

It’s indicative of our cultural mindset now: We expect, even require, validation in the form of commercialized/consumer co-opting. If you can’t find it in the mall, it’s not that important. Unless we can take action upon it, in the form of a commercial transaction (buying it, taking in the marketing pitch, etc.), it’s too abstract to keep top-of-mind.

But that’s the world we live in. So hoist up your store-bought eggnog and savor the flavor!

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/25/2005 02:57:07 PM
Category: Society, History | Permalink |

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  1. Christmas Day has been set aside to celebrate Jesus Christ birthday. The Actial day is not important but rather the giving of praise for the only begotten Son of God who came for the better good of all mankind. He came to give hope, peace, joy, leadership to all who would recieve Him as God’s only begotten Son. With out Him many would be with out peace, love, joy,compassion, self understanding, mercy, grace, not able to love their spouse, children, or their fellow Americans. Yes there are a few people who hate Christ for coming to this world and all who Love Him an give credit where it is due. They are are also thosewho can’t have real relationships or understand giving of themselves for the good of others… Many are well educated who follow this Christ rejection concept, they are blind to anything which give peace and hope… I find most are filled witha sellfish hate of things they refuse to under stand. Yet the Word of God says they can know the truth and the truth will set them free unto peace, joy, love, happiness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God who loves them and died for them…… No wonder they are unhappy !!!

    Comment by Charles C. — 12/25/2005 @ 09:24:23 PM

  2. Thanks for that; it’s not Christmas without a rambling crackpot sermon. Leave me your email address and I’ll send a little something for the collection plate…

    Comment by CT — 12/25/2005 @ 10:01:36 PM


    While it’s directed specifically toward Pat Robertson’s wacko pronouncements, this assessment of their effectiveness applies equally well to many a modern-day phantom menace:
    On the other hand, Brian Britt, director of the Religious Studi…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 02/19/2006 @ 04:58:01 PM


    All the chocolate bunnies and colored eggs (and, oh yeah, Jesus) ought to indicate to you that today is Easter Sunday.
    Unless, like me, you’re Orthodox Christian, and thus won’t be celebrating Easter until next Sunday. (I’ll take th…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 04/16/2006 @ 03:21:39 PM

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