"Jesus is not "the reason for the season," as so many ... have smugly informed me in recent weeks. The return of the sun in this hemisphere is the reason for the season, and there are many ways to celebrate it."
`Revolt' makes season a lot less merry
Published December 23, 2004
Revealing moments in the radio talk-show debate over Christmas, part one:
Jeff from Memphis, calling the nationally syndicated, Chicago-based program "Beyond the Beltway" (on radio station WLS) Sunday night:
"Merry Christmas! When I was a child, coming from a Christian family it was Christmas ... But now it's been taken over by the Kwanzaa group and some of these other radical groups. ... We already have Black History Month. Why didn't this guy, in California in 1966, put his, quote, holiday, Kwanzaa into Black History Month? Why did he try to interject it [in] a Christian holiday?"
Ooo, "the Kwanzaa group" is it now? And how could they dare try to glom onto the Christian merriment instead of finding their own niche on the calendar?
Well, maybe because "the Christmas group" pulled the same sneaky trick in the 4th Century. Even though scriptural clues put Jesus' birth in the warmer months--September, many scholars say--Christian leaders set the date for celebration to coincide with existing celebrations tied to the winter solstice.
Zagmuk, observed by ancient Mesopotamians, for instance. Sacaea, observed by Babylonians and Persians; Saturnalia, observed by the Romans; Kronos, observed by ancient Greeks; Yule, observed by pre-Christian Germanic people, and so on.
Hanukkah has expanded to meet the cultural challenge of Christmas that Kwanzaa addresses, as it has in recent years the secular humanist celebration of HumanLight and the pop-cultural celebration of Festivus.
Jesus is not "the reason for the season," as so many from "the Christmas group" have smugly informed me in recent weeks. The return of the sun in this hemisphere is the reason for the season, and there are many ways to celebrate it.
Revealing moments in the radio talk-show debate over Christmas, part two: "Well, first of all, Milt and Colleen, let me say, Merry Christmas."
These were the opening words of attorney John Mauck, in his Dec. 13 debate on radio station WGN with American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois Executive Director Colleen Connell.
Program host Milt Rosenberg seemed to take it in stride, but wishing a Jewish person "Merry Christmas" on the seventh night of Hanukkah (nearly two weeks from Christmas) felt awfully aggressive to me. I said so in an e-mail to Mauck and his law partner, Andy Norman, who are leading the local griping that poor, feeble Christmas is threatened by rampaging secular blandness.
Norman wrote back that I was being "a bit over-sensitive." But am I?
More than ever this season I'm hearing "Merry Christmas"--used defiantly, pointedly--as an in-your-face sack dance of a greeting meant to underscore Christian dominance in American society.
For years, it's been considered simple good manners to wish someone a generic "happy holidays" when you're not sure which of many December occasions for celebration he observes. It's a statistically broader salutation, unambiguously generous in its sentiment and efficient in the way it adds an implicit "Happy New Year."
Syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker wrote proudly this week of "the `Merry Christmas' backlash," in which those who are fed up with "politically correct" holiday greetings are using the expression to one and all as part of a "revolt" against those who think religious celebrations shouldn't be state affairs.
It's sad to see these angry people turning a glad tiding into a battle cry, especially since it's totally unnecessary: The dominance of Christmas and Christianity in this country is not threatened by efforts to allow all belief systems in on the seasonal jollity.
The only threat comes from those whose "Merry Christmas" now includes an implicit nyahh-nyahh.
By appropriating the words for their "revolt" in the culture wars, they're doing what right-wing jingoists did when they appropriated the American flag for their brand of "love-it-or-leave-it" patriotism in the 1960s: defiling a symbol in a misbegotten effort to save it.
Those who observe Christmas can, should and will always wish one another "Merry Christmas" with a full and generous heart.
But those who also observe its true spirit will offer inclusive greetings whenever they're not sure.
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