December 14, 1997
A Christ-less Christmas By Joseph Kellard Christmas has always been a primarily secular celebration. The essential and most glorifying attributes of modern Christmas were fathered by ancient paganism, the Enlightenment’s secularism and 19th century America, which thus illustrates Christianity’s practice of adopting pro-reason, life-affirming ideas to cloak its anti-life essence. Early Christendom had no Christmas. From December 17 to January 1, the ancient Romans had the Saturnalia, at time of feasting, mirth and exchanging gifts to celebrate the winter solstice’s earthly renewal. Christians scorned such this-worldly, materialistic revelry. They preached the afterlife, not this life; the renunciation of self, body, sex and pleasure. Their heroes were Jesus, who came here to suffer and die; the ascetic saints and men who only ate sheep’s gall and ashes, drank laundry water, and used rocks for pillows. On December 25th, pagans worshipped their Sun God, and by the fourth century A.D. the Christians decided to resist no longer. They thereafter knowingly proclaimed the falsehoods that Jesus was born on that day and that the solstice celebrations belonged to their church. American Puritans regarded Christmas as a day of mourning rather than of rejoicing in voluptuous dancing to Gods that dishonored Jesus. Can you in your consciousness think that our Holy Savior is honored by mirth, said Cotton Mather, a seventeenth-century Puritan. Shall it be said that at the birth of our Savior we take the time to do actions that have much more of Hell than of Heaven in them. Thanks to the primarily secularist, pro-reason Enlightenment, nineteenth-century Americans had unprecedented freedom from the religious tyrannies that impoverished Europe during the Middle Ages. Although Christmas was largely unrecognized in early America, as evidenced in that era’s newspapers, and only became a federal holiday in 1870, the popularity and glory associated with it today is owed to freedom, capitalism and the Industrial Revolution. America’s industrialization and mass production spawned the toy industry and large, elaborately decorated department stores, such as Macy’s and Woolworth’s. Gift-giving thereafter grew increasingly fanciful and became Christmas’ essence. Ancient Romans celebrated with evergreens and tree-worship was common among European pagans, who decorated trees with candles. These customs were imported to America by Germanic and Scandinavian immigrants. Thanks to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, the advent of electricity, the lightbulb and the industry of wiring, circuits and switches replaced candles with spectacular lights. Christmas carols originated as pagan dances. The most popular of these songs are also the most secular, such as "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas"; the latter having been written by Irving Berlin, an American Jew born in Russia. During the 1890’s, Christmas cards became a prominent feature, due to the invention of the multicolor lithographic printing presses. Christmas’ secularism is best personified by Santa Clause. The Americanized fable of Santa originated with Clement Clarke Moore, who in 1822 wrote for his children a poem entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas." He had Santa traveling on Christmas eve with gifts in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Cartoonist Thomas Nast depicted Santa as a jolly, chubby man who embodied American plenty and materialism. Santa is still scorned by neo-Puritan Christians, since he implicitly contests their fundamental ethics and has obscured Jesus’ association with Christmas. Instead of denouncing the rich and demanding that they give to the poor, Santa gives gifts to poor and rich children alike by dismissing Christian mercy for absolute justice: "He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes." Thus, unlike Jesus, Santa is no practitioner of promiscuous love and forgiveness; he gives gift’s only to children who earn them through their good behavior. Now neo-Puritans denounce Christmas’ "materialism" and "commercialization" by scorning Santa’s popularity and by preaching: "Put Christ back in Christmas." They attempt to invoke the specter of unwarranted guilt in Americans by condemingly emphasizing how much more they "consume" during Christmas in comparison to people of poorer nations. Christmas’ glory comes not from Christian faith, other-worldliness, self-sacrifice, redistribution of wealth, and asceticism, but from reason, earthliness, self-interest, business, and the pursuit of happiness. It celebrates benevolence among men through the trading of gifts and values with those one values and/or loves. The spiritualism underlying it is derived primarily from the values individuals produce and possess. To "consume" one must first produce, and when producers consume they should do so guiltlessly. They should seek to make Christmas increasingly secular, materialistic and commercial, and to invoke the idea that it is best to give and receive, to produce and trade. This is the truest meaning of Christmas.
[Certain facts and ideas presented in this article were derived from the Leonard Peikoff radio show (KIEV) based in Los Angeles, CA.] --(C) 1997 OSG October 12, 1997
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