The War on Christmas…

Moron at Huffington Post wants a) people to stop saying “Merry Christmas” to her and b) to inject more of other religions into the holiday season. In short, Christmas is oppressing her, but Kwanzaa would be enlightening.

I’m clearly not pro-Christian, but in many ways – NEITHER IS CHRISTMAS. In 2009, the American version of Santa Claus was a fuckin’ Coca-Cola advertising illustration, and the central identifying decoration – the decorated tree was a pagan holdover. In so many ways, the word “Christ” in Christmas is now like what happened with the much loved tree – it’s a holdover from  Christianity.

The reason Christians need to put up banners on their houses that say “Jesus is the reason for the Season” is because most people HAVE forgotten, and good for all of us non-Christians they have.

XMasTree2009

Here’s my Christmas tree. It doesn’t have anything to do with the storybook character Jesus.

Here’s a little secret. There’s an angel on top… it’s the same one my mother had wanted to get rid of for ages but I wouldn’t allow her to. It was the one I remember putting at the top of the tree my whole life. Decorating the tree was always a big deal in my house. I remember my dad lifting me up when I was a tiny Kevin, and after my parents split, I would stand on a wobbly stool and perch her on top of the evergreen with my mom and my sister around. It always went on last. My sister ended up dying about 13 years ago, on my 21st birthday. Messy drunken one-car crash. I’d been a self-confirmed atheist for quite a few years at that point. I remember the first Christmas she wasn’t there, how emotional it was for my mother, how sad of a time it was. I didn’t invest that little angel tree-topper with any magical powers, but it was there every single year. The tree and that angel, like so many family traditions, bring back to mind good and bad times. I want all those memories to come back to me, and the new ones, too. Now I have a wife, and we bought our own tree, and we’ve put it up for the third year. The Christmas that my wife and I got married, my mom gave me that angel in a little box. I’m sure part of her was happy to get a more fashionable and up-to-date topper, but another part – the important meaningful one, was passing along that little package of memories, good and bad, of our family.

To me, that goddamn paper angel, with her tossled fake hair, over 30 years old – means more than 99% of anything else inanimate in the room when it sits atop our garish pink tree. I don’t talk to it, or bow to it, burn incense, light candles… it’s not supernatural, has no religious meaning. But it and my tree have strong, secular meaning.

If Abby caught a glimpse of my Christmas decor, my little aging angel, maybe she’d feel offended and oppressed – but my holiday isn’t about her, it’s about me  and my family- she can go fuck herself.

XMasTree2009b

Abby L. Ferber thinks is just awful – it’s like the Holocaust all over again, Christians planning pogroms with their reindeer death sleighs and doesn’t Santa coming down the chimney remind you of gas chambers!? Okay, she doesn’t actually mention the holocaust.

She kvetches:

Sorry to be such a scrooge, but let me tell you about my day…

I woke up and turned on my favorite morning show. I learned new recipes for the favorite holiday drink–egg nog; tips on how to decorate for the holidays on a budget by trimming the mantel and staircase with wreaths, green swags, and small lights; followed by the best toys to buy for kids this holiday season.

I then read my local newspaper, which featured a big story about how the Colorado governor’s mansion has been decorated for the holidays, accompanied by a large photo of the Christmas tree. Every section in the newspaper featured Christmas-themed ads.

I then drove to work, flipping through the car radio dial to find music that was not Christmas-themed. I entered my office building, where a large Christmas tree sat in the lobby. Due to concerns raised a few years back about the heavy focus on Christmas, the tree has now been renamed “The Giving Tree.” It is decorated by ornaments made by children at the campus day care center, with requests for donations as a part of our annual Holiday Service Project. I wonder how Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian students feel each time they enter the building…

I would know – because I’m non-Christian and I hear/see all the same. What do I do? Ipod is better than radio, websites are better than newspapers, and Hulu, DVDs and .avi files are better than TV. I do like Egg Nog, but I don’t drink alcohol, so no booze in it. Should I be offended that they put booze in it because I don’t drink? Should I be offended that they’re donating to a charity I don’t support? Seems like renaming it a “Giving Tree”, they’re already “giving in” to complainers like Abby. What do Muslim students feel??? Really??? Probably the same as Christian students in a predominantly Muslim country with a Secular government – they feel out of place, because they’re a minority. Minorities will ALWAYS feel like they’re outside of the mainstream, because they ARE.

When I walk outside to the mailbox that evening, my neighbors’ homes twinkle with colorful Christmas lights and reindeers. I leaf through the day’s mail, which includes numerous ads such as the one from my local car dealer, offering special prices on oil changes for the holidays. The entire mailing is red and green, with images of red bows and candy canes.

What’s your fucking point? I bet the local car dealer has a “special deal” for any occasion they think will pull in enough extra customers to pay for the mailer and put a few extra bucks in the ol’ piggybank. If you’d come from some tribe in Africa, you’d be boggled that your neighbors don’t live in mud huts. What’s your fucking point!?

So you see, while it may not seem like a big deal that someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” and I genuinely appreciate the good will and cheer being offered, for non-Christians like myself, this time of year can be anything but merry (24% of the U.S. population of about 304 million do not define themselves as Christian).

So, what you’re saying is that you can’t be happy at the same time others are, if you can’t be happy for the same reason they’re being happy? What kind of miserable cur are you? Oh yeah, one that would write this stupid shit.

And the Christmas mood is impossible to ignore or avoid. In the workplace, schools, shops, radio, newspapers, television, movies, private and public spaces are all Christmas themed from mid-November through the end of December. Lately I have been mortified to discover myself humming Christmas songs as I walk across campus. I bet I can sing the words to more than a few dozen Christmas tunes. I ask my Christian readers, how many Chanukah songs can you recite? And it is not insignificant. Not only is it all-pervasive, all day long, when I do the math, I discover that is adds up to about ten years of my life that I live in this exclusionary Christian culture. (If I live to be eighty, one and half months per year of that time adds up to ten years over a lifetime!)

Oh boo-hoo… I find the absolute worst songs running through my head _year round_ – perfectly secular popular garbage that I overhear rom the noise pollution of every day life. I’m just as offended by it as she is by the chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” bobbling about the noggin. I just don’t assume I’m so important that I shouldn’t be exposed to it because I happen to not like it.

Lemme check that math real quick. Let’s assume that you are exposed to Christmas music in your non-Christian house and non-Christian car for two hours a day (including television and radio, this is a lot more than I’m exposed to, but I’m being generous). I doubt that she is exposed to Christmas music while she is working (see her bio at end of post), so we’ll add on 15 minutes at work that she hears it on average (and that’s being generous again). If she spends a full 8 hours a day outside her house on weekends in places that she is forced to listen to holiday tunes, then that brings us a total of 27.25 hours a week. 27.25 hours x 6 weeks = 163.5 hours for the season. This is a total of 6.8125 days of the year. If she lived to be 80, and spent each one hearing that average number, and assuming she remembers the first few years, she’d have accumulated 545 days of Christmas music, or 1.493 years. A FAR cry from the decade.  Pure fucking drivel.

BTW, I hope it wasn’t “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin, a secular Jew.

Save the high-horse for when you need it to tilt against a real opponent – like when the government (not your lousy office party) is basing federal law on the Bible.

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I have started talking about this issue with some of my Jewish friends and family members. One friend complained to me about her workplace tree-trimming party. When I suggested she talk to someone about it, she responded with fear, “I am not going to be the person who took away Christmas!” Unfortunately that is the way it is often seen. As if non-Christians who complain are trying to take away Christmas. Suddenly Christians become seen as persecuted. But the question is not how do we stop the celebrations, but instead, how do we create a more inclusive culture, a climate where everybody feels included? I don’t have the answer, but I can think of many ideas. As a starting point, it would be wonderful if organizations had meetings or discussions to brainstorm ideas about how to make their environments feel religiously inclusive. Simply demonstrating that this is an issue worth thinking about is one step to making people feel more included.

Won’t happen, there’s always a complainer (ahem, Abby!) – always someone being “left out” no matter how far one bends over. What percentage of the population is is acceptable to discriminate against – at some point you have to. Cars aren’t designed for little people or giants…you’ll never make everyone happy, and more times than not compromising just makes everyone miserable. At some point, you’ve got to discriminate – that’s life.

The Jewish holiday gets LOTS of play this time of the year, but Jews compromise only 2.5% of the total population. Would Abby be happy with two and a half percent of the decor being Jewish? 10-15% can be secular/non-religious? If it was representational, would that make her happy – I doubt it. What about the office workers who want NO celebrations? How does one compromise with that? Paid vacation day? Not an inclusive move….
Wait, how many Jews are non-religious, quite a significant portion, that’d knock that 2.5% figure down even lower… maybe they’d get half a menorah.

My point – it’s already probably disproportionately inclusive. I’ve never had a work/office Christmas party that wasn’t thouroughly secular, aside from mentions of Jeebus in the lyrics of background music here and there. No preaching, no big crucifixes, no prayer.

Some workplaces and schools take the minimal step of including items like menorahs and kinaras in their holiday displays. But in writing this, I started to think about all the people in this country whose religions have unwisely failed to schedule a major holiday in December. Because of Christmas, December has become defined as THE holiday season. Even within Judaism, Chanukah is only of minor significance, yet it has become the most widely known and recognized Jewish holiday because it falls close to Christmas on the calendar.

You’ll have a tough time with some Jewish run businesses as well – I and friends have worked at quite a few that deck the office with Christmas decor. My current job – me and a religious Jewish (reformed, plus some screamingly retarded new-age beliefs) boss – no bonus, no party, no problem with me. I get the day off, that’s it. Would I like a lazy day where I was given food? Sure.

And you’re complaining that Chanukah is now a “widely known and recognized Jewish holiday”? Really? Okay, how about people forget it alltogether, or mention it 2.5% of the time.

Oh, and a “kinara”?A fucking KINARA?!?!

There MAY be a million or two people who celebrate that Marxist woman-torturing racist holiday, that’d be less than 1% of the US population. Good luck figuring out how to decorate .6% of your party Afro-centric.

Don’t push for more religion during school plays, push for more FUN. Christ is not FUN, reindeer and candy canes ARE. Snow and snowmen are fun, wreaths and tinsel are fun. Though our government was founded on a secular document, it’s run by Christians. They have their holidays, you have yours, or none at all. Here’s the rub, it’s getting less and less Jesusy, and it works to everyone’s advantage. You don’t want to celebrate it, fine, great, but believe you me – if you come out against it – that’ll cause them to react, and it’ll become a LOT LESS SECULAR.

Here’s the bigger rub though:

This is what Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe call “Christonormativity.” It means that Christianity is the normative culture in the US, and we are oblivious to what that means for non-Christians. Experiencing the overwhelming sense of exclusion I feel at this time of year, I try to use this insight to understand what it feels like for LGBT people in this heteronormative culture of ours. Or for people of color in this predominantly white culture. It gives me some insight into what they experience all year round. And just as most Christians are oblivious to how non-Christians feel this time of year, my privilege allows me to be oblivious to how it feels to not be white and heterosexual.

So, my hope this holiday season is that we will all take a few minutes to stop and think about what it means to have privilege, as well as what it means to strive to be inclusive. Not everyone is made to feel that this is the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Christianity and heterosexuality ARE the norm in the US. Again… Minorities will ALWAYS feel like they’re outside of the mainstream, because they ARE. Your entire blog has shown that the mainstream HAS bent over for non-Christians, example after example a Christmas tree has been renamed something else, decorations from other religions are present, clearly you are then full of shit when you say that Christians are oblivious.

You’re upset because you’ve been given a seat at a Christmas dinner you don’t want anything to do with. You’re an idiot. Christmas isn’t run by the government, and they can’t save you from it. It’s run by the culture, and the majority celebrate it. What you REALLY seem to want is for Christians to stop being Christians, so stop personally expressing cultural and religious traditions in their private businesses and playing Christmas music on their private radio stations.  You can’t be happy when others are, if they’re happy for a reason you don’t like. I think you’re just a miserable person who complains about everything that doesn’t feed your precious fragile little ego.

There’s a BIG FUCKING DIFFERENCE between separation of church and state, and trying to stop a majority population from expressing their culture and heritage. Christmas has come a long way baby, and your blathering is only giving ammunition to the Christian blowhards who are trying to put Jesus back into Christmas.

Well, what kind of lady is Abby, besides a lousy complainer? Oh… she’s a professional victim of white male oppression…  her bio:

As a Professor of Sociology, and Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies, all of my work is committed to advancing social justice. My first book was White Man Falling: Race, Gender and White Supremacy and most recently I co-edited Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: The New Basics. I direct The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, work with the national White Privilege Conference, and co-founded and co-facilitate the Knapsack Institute, a national curriculum transformation project.

I guess Santa Claus is just another dead white male rapist. For a professional complainer, she sure does do a piss poor job of it.

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  • http://kevinislaughter.com Kevin I. Slaughter

    Ayn Rand on Christmas

    [In answer to the question of whether it is appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas:]

    Yes, of course. A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

    The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

    The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

    The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976.

  • http://n/a adan flores

    Well. . .at least the Romans were able to keep the ”Saturn” in Saturnalia.

  • Pingback: The War on Kwanzaa – A better target than Christmas | Kevin I. Slaughter

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  • Jean

    I’ll likely be unpopular, but – I AM a Christian, Catholic by baptism (was goign to say birth, then realized just hwo ridiculous THAT really would be. :-)

    I think that it is important to keep Christmas religious; that Hanukkah is an important Jewish tradition (the miracle of the oil burning, which I think has been distorted – but ththat is true of most if not all religious stories); and that Kwanzaa is a made-up collectivist celebration of racism occluded by political correctness.

    This should not be used to exclude atheists or agnostics from the season. I can accept a certain amount of secular cheer, observing others’ traditions in respectful manner, etc. Where I tend to get upset is when there IS an “assault” on religion. Most of this country was settled by those of WASP countries, with some Jews, Catholics, Shintoists, Taoists, and probably athesits and agnostics thrown in for good measure. The “backbone” was Christian (even Protestant), though – and that is what allowed the country to grow and prosper. Take a look at the Jefferson Bible, for example. Thomas Jefferson was not the only one who “adjusted” the Bible to his beliefs, either. John Adams suposedly did as well, and I’d expect that Washington, Franklin, etc did as well. It meets the Protestant birth-pattern, anyway. ;-)

    I have pagan friends (Wiccans; their word, not mine, I would’ve said Wicks), Jewish friends, Christian and Catholic friends; most of them are secular, not religious, and I’d guess overall I fall into that grouping, too. I don’t have much faith in “Mother Church”, and even less in the leadership of said fallen POLITICAL institution. Examples such as St. Patrick driving out the “snakes” (Druids) from Ireland comes to mind, not to mention the Church history of multiple Popes, excommunication of leaders who didn’t bow to Papal authority, etc. The Church wanted to control the world, too. It was a human institution. How much do you trust the government?
    Look at how people obey the law, you’ll see similar trends. Amish come to mind, with a TV hidden in the barn… Speeding, petty theft, parking violations, etc. Nothing big, merely indicative of how people relly obey “the law”, whether it be a King, the “King of Kings”, or some public-service slug with a Napolean complex.

    But Christmas? That’s the REASON we have a “Holiday (HOLY-day) Season.” Yule, Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, these have meaning. Most Americans don’t know what Yule is, or that it was actually FOBIDDEN to research the date of Christ’s birth for a long time, or what Hanukkah is about. (And most don’t know much about Kwanzaa for a reason – they is WHITE! ;-) )
    Yet they call themselves Christians, in spite of the whole thing. They go to mass, pay their tithe, listen to a piss-poor sermon admonishing men to be better providers and women to take more time for themselves, and they come out and do ungodly things to each other, from committing murder in their hearts, to adultery in both heart, mind, and sometimes the neighbor’s bedroom, to slander, to vandalism, to actual murder even, and never blink over the cognitive dissonance their professed morality should cause.

    These same people are often the hardliners who want to insist everyone ELSE accept Jesus as their saviour, and remember Jesus is the Reason for the Season, etc. Hypocritical to say the least…

    If the Russians could keep Catholicism alive untilt he fall of the Soviet Union… Why has it fallen apart here, in the land of plenty?
    Because there IS plenty. More than enough, even. “Where wealth accumulates, Men decay.” Kipling, IIRC, and it was true then, and before, and now. We are seeing it in many fronts – the entitlement mentality of women, the Christians enforcing wrong morality (Do as I say, not as I do), the dissolution of youth, disrespect for elders, complete lack of caring for or about history… I do not blame people for getting upset, I just wish they’d do it for the RIGHT REASONS.

    I shuold not have to NOT put up a Christmas (Religious, at that) display, because you MIGHT get offended. OTOH, shuold some Muslim be offended and take issue by destroying it or defacing my house, that property crime should be pursued by the police. (Destruction of property makes for bad neighborly relations.) Same is true in reverse – I shouldn’t be interrupting a Widdershins dance to proselytize to you about how evil you are, or the wrongful nature of it, etc. (We’ll leave aside how interrupting the ritual is no-class behavior, and the property damage issue. Stealing your athame might be more accurate, but suggests B&E, which is a crime of different magnitude due to the home invasion.)

    Perhaps we rellay SHOULD be mroe tolerant of each other. Wish the Jews a Happy Hannukah. Wish pagans a cool yule. (Although I feel sick using that phrasing.) You want non-religious displays on town square? OK! No problem. Inclusive? Sure! Yule log can burn next to the German-rooted Christmas tree, with a menorah next to it, or maybe a spinning dreidl (menorah being explicitly religious, dreidl not as much). I’d even be OK with a Kwanzaa candleabra. (We know who to lynch then…. Just kidding. mostly…) As long as it’s not harmful to the society, and we DO respect each other, and try to udnerstand the differences while focusing on our common bonds, it’s great. Like your paper angel tree topper, or my (Jewish) friend Lori’s Hanukkah bush… It ties the past and present to the future, keeps the memories alive.

    Shoving it in everyone’s face is no different from the Pride parades (which I think most peopel would prefer to miss), or the Vietnam-era war protests, even. We want to focus on what brings us together, not what divides us.

    Speaking of which – Might I suggest you do a piece, from the pagan perspective, on forced religious instruction in public schools? Specifically, it’s Islamic instruction in New Jersey Public Schools. Teaching about the forgiving Christ is verbotten, but teaching about the pedarest and bandit Mohammed (Piss be upon him) is not? Anyone else see the fundamental disconnect with that “Wall of Separation” between church and state? As I’m Catholic, I’d be seen as too anti-Islamic simply because I showed up. But maybe someone who does NOT have an axe to grind could be seen as objective. Now, if these classes were offered as a series of events – one year being Buddhist, one being pagan, one being Christian, one being Muslim – I’d have no big issue. It’s the violation of the progressive left’s arguments that bothers me most (I want a clear answer, ’cause if it’s religion in the public schools – well, we can’t be EXCLUSIONARY, can we? We can kvetch about the conversion issues later.)

    Sorry for rambling so much.