Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Holidays

Thanks to Bill O'Reilly millions of Americans have decided to take back Christmas. Instead of politely wishing people Happy Holidays, they intended to proliferate the social landscape with blood curdling screams of Merry Christmas. Some have even declared that they intend to inflict this holiday jeer on people they know or suspect as being non-Christian. Jesus must be proud. If you say Merry Christmas but mean go to hell does that make it OK?

Ironically the expression of Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings came about in mainstream parlance thanks to fundamentalist Christians who took umbrage that Christmas was associated with such a display of unabashed commercialism. When retailers would beckon holiday shoppers with attractive signage that wished everyone a Merry Christmas, these devout practitioners of the Christian faith would write letters and stage boycotts because they were offended that their savior was being used to boost year end sales figures. Jesus did not die on the cross for Hasbro.

Now that the flames of insecurity have been aggressively fanned be evangelists hurting for cash and pundits aching for ratings, the push is on to attach Christ to everything. Stores that refuse to specify Christmas are attacked by venomous wags and accused of waging war on Christmas and Christianity. The Nativity must be honored at all costs. Happy Holidays is what the terrorists want us to say.

It's sad because almost everything about Christmas has roots in paganism. The bright colored lights date back to solstice celebrations, the tree is rooted in Norse tradition and Santa Clause is a composite of a number of polytheistic and pagan characters. Jesus never gave anybody presents. He didn't slide down chimneys, or ride in a flying sleigh behind eight magic reindeer.

Theologians concur that Jesus wasn't born any where near the December 25th and peg his birthday in the late spring. In fact, the whole story of the Nativity appears to be a fairy tale concocted to dramatize the undocumented birth of Jesus. As the demand grew for a commemoration of this event, the Catholic Church opted to position the date to coincide with competing holy days. It's no coincidence that December is a busy month for spiritual celebrations. In the northern hemisphere it is the darkest time of the year and symbolizes the beginning of the coldest months. Instead of abolishing ancient tradition, the church decided to trump it. As it would turn out, Christ never really was in Christmas outside of a Papal decree.

Of course none of that matters. Spirituality is a personal matter and how a person chooses to celebrate their beliefs is entirely up to them. It's interesting that so many people of so many faiths choose December as a time to join family and friends to honor their personal beliefs... even if those beliefs are in holiday clearance sales and credit cards. If it brings people together it can't be that bad. Unless it's Old Spice, but then that doesn't bring people together, does it?

That's why people like Bill O'Reilly should just let it be. Why turn the Holidays into some misguided holy war? Whether praise be to Jesus, Santa, Allah, Rudolph, magic Hebrew candles, or low low prices can't we all just get along?

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