Strange times we live in. Here’s a Christian pastor, C. Joshua Villines, who says we should take Christ out of Christmas. Compare that to noted Pagan, T. Thorne Coyle, who wishes we’d all put Christ back in Christmas. They both make interesting points. As far as I can tell these two essays were written independently within a few days of one another, but they make a wonderfully perplexing point-counterpoint.
Here’s a couple of choice quotes. See if you can tell who wrote which.
Christmas, at least how it is celebrated in the U.S. overculture, has become a sort of Frankenstein’s monster. The sewing together of old Pagan customs, Christian theology, and rampant consumerism has wrought a beast that is ugly, fearsome, noisy, and out of control. Christmas has so overtaken us, that even many Jews have upgraded what used to be a fairly minor holiday into a gift exchanging extravaganza. It is hard not to at least try to compete with the juggernaut that is Santa’s sleigh.
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is not, in fact, the “Christmas Season.” It has become the Christmas Shopping Season, but that is a very different animal. Identifying this time of year with Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity, Jesus, the Nativity or anything theological. Instead, advertisers and shopkeepers use the “Christmas Season” as an emotional lure to persuade people to buy more things they don’t really need. Even Christian fundamentalists realize this.
I don’t really have any wisdom of my own to add, except to note that it does seem evident that whatever “Christmas Season” there is seems to have shifted. Once upon a time we thought of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” which as any New Orleanian knows run from Christmas to Epiphany, aka Twelfth Night. In other words, the season started at Christmas. I found further evidence of this in some old recordings from my grandparents. They noted that in their childhood, a tree would be erected at home only on Christmas Eve, after they had gone to bed; they only saw the tree on Christmas morning. I assume the tree remained up for at least the twelve days if not longer. But today the run-up to Christmas is is so overwhelming that even many enthusiasts are thoroughly and completely sick of it by the time the 25th rolls around. This shift from a post-Christmas to a pre-Christmas season seems significant to me.
In yet another essay, the always fascinating Bron Taylor introduces a new phrase — new to me, at least — and one that resonates: The War on Solstice. Good stuff, and probably the best reflection of where my head is at now. Check it out.
Now we’re taking some time to visit family and friends for Christmas and other generalized festivity.
Just in case you’re wondering, I am healing up nicely from my recent surgery. And so, in the spirit of the hostilidays, I’d like to present this special and oh-so-appropriate video.
Cheers! I’m having an Old Horizontal as I type this. Do love me some barleywine, and it seems like the perfect thing for Xmas Eve.