One Person's Opinion

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Monday, December 20, 2004
The latest claim of persecution by the right wing is that Christmas is supposedly out of fashion. Evil secularists are devaluing the importance of the Lord and Savior by saying "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays", the Salvation Army has been booted from in front of Target stores, and kids can't sing carols in school. The right wing media talks about this every day on every talk show, and Fox News features a discussion of it on every program, which indicates that Republican central handed this down as the party line. Obviously, tarring liberals as anti-Christmas would be the ultimate political masterstroke.

But even granting the right wing's premise (which the mainstream media has quite skeptically examined and found to be almost total BS) that Christmas is under attack, has anyone asked these guys about Santa Claus? If there's any single figure that has done more to destroy the "real" (i.e., religious) meaning of Christmas, it's the fat guy in the red suit. As is well known, Santa has nothing to do with the birth of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the manger, the three wise men, or any of the rest of it. Santa was created in the last 500 years, not 2000 years ago.

And Santa-- not liberals spouting inclusive messages of "Happy Holidays"-- is the main and central threat to the religious message of Christmas. Every child thinks of Santa coming down the chimney and bringing presents, every advertiser features red suits and hats in its Christmas ads, and every shopping mall has a Santa Claus. (How many malls have nativity scenes?) I'd say the average American sees 10 images of Santa or Santa iconography for every one image of Christ or Christian iconography this season.

Yes, Santa stands for good values-- gift giving, living a virtuous life, etc.-- as well as a few bad ones, like gluttony and residential burglary. But the point is, the Jolly Old Elf enjoys a stronger association with this holiday than the person whose birth is being celbrated.

In contrast, people who say "Happy Holidays" are being inclusive. They are saying, in shorthand, "Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan, and everything else". They aren't excluding Christians, they are including everyone else. (The spokespeople of the religious right pretend there's no difference between the two, but I hope they repent for the sin of dishonesty after they say such things.)

So I'm waiting for the right wing to turn its fire on the real reason people don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday-- Santa Claus. I am not holding my breath, however. The reason the right wing has chosen to go after schools that don't sing Christmas carols is because they are easy targets-- a form of over-the-top secularism. Santa Claus, on the other hand, is extremely popular. But if this issue were about principle and not politics, they would go after Santa, because Santa's vision of a secular Christmas-- with reindeer and stockings and presents under the tree-- is what is really standing in the way of a solemn, pious observence of the birth of Jesus.

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Well, a merry Christmas to you and yours!
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