Home > Religion > It's that time of year

It's that time of year

It’s December. Christmas is coming! I like Christmas in the same way I like open source software. There’s an appreciation of the high-minded principles combined with the base desire for free shit. Larceny misses the first half of the equation and the Fourth of July lacks free shit. So I like Christmas.

Lest anyone is confused about why I appreciate the high-minded principles of an ostensibly Christian holiday, let me explain. Christmas is not a Christian holiday. Not in any meaningful way, at least. I say that ever year, I think, but I like Christmas and I like the history of Christmas, so I repeat myself. Christmas is not a Christian holiday. It doesn’t really even have high-minded principles, but I’ve decided I’m going to believe in the generic Christmas message (more on that in a bit). The origin story of the American Christmas has several stages.

Stage One (maybe this is stage zero, given that it’s not in America): Pagan festival! By the word pagan in front of festival, you know it’s not Christian. The church later decided that pagans would be more likely to convert if they didn’t have to give up all of their revelry, so they decided that Jesus’ birth needed a holiday. When? The winter solstice! How convenient (and implausible, given the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ birth). So now it’s Pagan festival Jesus’ birthday, but that’s not fooling anyone.

Stage Two: Drunken idiots! This is the famous “oh my god, Christians banned Christmas stage.” It’s amusing, but not as amusing as that catchy statement makes it out to be. Christmas was an excuse to get drunk and take to streets for terrible singing and demanding free shit from rich people (and trashing their homes when they declined). It’s understandable why this annoyed the Puritans. It’d annoy you, too.

Stage Two and a Half: Church! One reaction to the previous stage’s idiocy was a movement to get everyone to go to church on Christmas. Since normal people don’t actually like church, it was a miserable failure. Miserable failures don’t get a full stage.

Stage Three: Modern Christmas mythology! Since going to church failed as a solution, certain rich people decided it would be good to just make up some new traditions, which didn’t involve rabble being roused. So Washington Irving, Clarke Clement Moore, and others stole a Dutch tradition and created the idea of families being together and exchanging gifts. Quietly. Gifts have to be bought somewhere, so businesses jumped on the idea and Christmas is born. One of the oldest Christmas traditions was born shortly thereafter: people complaining about Christmas being too commercial. Christmas without people complaining about commercialism is like Black Friday without a demonstration of why humanity is doomed. They’re inextricably linked.

I am not an historian, so some (all) of that is an oversimplification.

What’s surprising is how little Christianity influences the development of an ostensibly Christian holiday. So when people say it’s about celebrating our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, I think that’s nonsense. You had your chance and no one wanted to go to church. The generic message of holiday specials, goodwill, love, generosity, and all that happy crap, makes more sense, given the spending time with family and the gift giving aspect of all of this. Plus, if you want to tweak Christians, you can make the case that Christmas is a metaphor for losing your faith.

Then again, maybe that’s not the best thing. Christians are easily tweaked this time of year. Whether it’s ads (like those on D.C. buses) or uttering a greeting not approved by James Dobson for use during this period of time, it’s hard to know what’s going to set the uptight in Christendom off on a given day.

I think the bus ad has the right idea. Just be good for goodness’ sake. If you do that and relax, this will be a good month.

UPDATE: Added link about the D.C. bus ads, since my original link had nothing to do with those ads.

Categories: Religion
  1. Lina
    December 5, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Is your “ads on buses” link correct? Because from your last paragraph, it sounds like you’re referring to the DC buses (very cool), but I couldn’t find mention of that on your linked page. Anywho, yeah, I take it you’ve heard about DC.

  2. December 5, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Hmm, I thought that link talked about the bus ads as well. I guess not. But yes, those D.C. bus ads are what I was referring to.

  1. December 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: