Monday, December 20, 2004

Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. And I'm a non-Christian East Coast Elite Goddess! Saying "Merry Christmas" will label me as a wingnut, or that's what wingnuts hope. Because Christmas is under attack from people like me. Bill O'Reilly and other wingnut pundits tell us so.

Of course Christmas is not under attack. What the wingnuts are complaining about are restrictions on religious Christmas displays in public spaces. Interpreting these as warfare against Christmas is just the newest ploy to make the voters forget about the war and the unemployment and the loss of medical benefits and the general crapping down of America under Bush. To make them forget that the Republicans now control everything, everything, and that therefore everything that goes wrong is the Republicans' fault. This is a tricky situation: the wingnut media personalities must work very hard to remain the embattled, oppressed majority when they have all the power. But it can be done: find something that can be blamed on the liberals, and there you go. Nary a comment about how Social Security will be stolen or about how many dead corpses are quietly sent back from Iraq. Worry about Christmas instead.

Because Christmas is about Christ, and anyone who doesn't say "Merry Christmas!" in a loud, bright voice is against Christ. Not just against Christmas, mind you, but against a God. That's how something trivial can be translated into another religious divide.

I look around and see Christmas everywhere. True, most of it isn't about Christ, but that's not my fault. Most of it is about consumerism: buying as much as possible, eating as much as possible and then having as many fights with relatives you can't stand as you can possibly squeeze between Christmas and the New Year. Then there are the nauseating songs that you can here in every shopping mall.

For the more traditionally minded, there is the Christmas tree: a pagan symbol if there ever was one. There is ivy and holly and even mistletoe: all pagan symbols of renewal in the midst of winter. There is Santa Claus or Father Christmas. He is not mentioned in the Bible, either. The Yule log, a cake which might hark back to the original pagan Yule festival.

Christmas is not very Christian in this "Christian country". There are people who celebrate a religious Christmas, of course, but I'd bet that they are a very small minority. Most Americans celebrate Christmas very much like they celebrate Thanksgiving. In a sense, Christmas is a secular holiday, and the liberals have done nothing to make it such. It was the wingnuts' best friends, the corporate business interests, that managed this conversion. If Bill O'Reilly wants to know who stole Christmas, he could ask his CEO pals.

Strictly speaking, it was the Christians who stole a holiday. Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but there was this pesky pagan holiday, celebrated in late December, and newly-minted Christians in Europe just wouldn't stop partying and drinking that time of the year. So the church fathers decided that they were toasting Christ's birthday. That's how Christmas was born.

I don't mind public displays of Christianity, actually. I'm fine with having the manger-and-the-donkeys display right next to my snake shrine in front of the White House. But I bet Bill O'Reilly wouldn't let me erect a shrine there, and if I asked he'd tell me to go back to Snakeland.