A Haphazard Post-Christmas Thought

If ever anyone actually fought a War on Christmas, I think they won this year. For the first time in my 29 years, I started feeling uneasy when people wished me a Merry Christmas. The greeting, friendly or at worst benign throughout my years, started in 2006 to sound like a Republican code word.

I never called myself “pro-life” for very long, and I thought that “family values” sounded a bit squirrelly even back in high school. But in the moment when I realized that “Christmas” had been tainted, claimed as property by a political party, I got mad. And when I get mad, it tends to last only a couple minutes, and then I start to think.

The booger about Christmas is that every stage of its development is contested territory. Its origins might or might not have something to do with Saturnalia, and the historical tradition that links it with Saturnalia might or might not have its own agenda. The consumer orgy might or might not be a deviation from a pristine ur-Christmas with all the Advent fasts and proper piety, and the urge to return to that pristine Christmas might or might not be a quasi-liturgical neo-Puritan impulse. Of course, I tend to see complexity where others don’t. (Hate the phrase “over-think.”)

The lazy but literate part of my self wants simply to fall back on Dickens and Irving, to claim some easy “middle ground” in which Christmas is at once sacred and secular and in which the archaeology of genetic moments is an unnecessary trifle and for which the proper response is not thought but revelry in whatever happens to be there. (BTW, “A Christmas Carol” is the obvious Dickens reference; Irving’s Sketch-Book has a number of Christmas chapters.)

And then I realize that I’ve wandered far afield from the suspiciously-partisan-sounding insistences that in fact it’s time for Merry Christmas and not for a Happy Holiday.

And then I realize that the spring semester begins in four days. Thank the heavens I can think about something simple then, like Old English participles or Heidegger.



Filed under Political Entertainment

6 responses to “A Haphazard Post-Christmas Thought

  1. J.Wizzle

    Well Nate, I hope that you had a merry Christmas or, if you prefer, a happy holy day! 😛

  2. John Fraiser

    What evidence do you have that “Christmas” claimed as property by a political party? Did Republicans all get together and vote on it? Or maybe you heard someone somewhere say something and you attached it to the entire party (maybe, I say).

    Your post makes it seem like the GOP changed something by saying “Christmas.” The problem isn’t that some people have STARTED saying Christmas. People have for at least a couple hundred centuries said it. Instead the problem is that some people began to argue in recent years that we should STOP saying “Christmas”. Isn’t it the work of certain political action groups (not necessarily along party lines) to deem it politically incorrect to say “Christmas”?

    But, according to you, those who defend their right to use the word in the public square against socio-political pressure to ban the word from public use are somehow the ones who have tainted the holiday. I don’t think so.

    This is an interesting piece of spin you have here.

  3. forestwalker


  4. Angela Stanbrough

    Working retail gives an interesting perspective on this. If you don’t wish people a “Merry Christmas”, then there are definitely some who will snap at you. A handful will have some long screed about their “right to Christmas” (ahem). It becomes obvious that they DO have an agenda. They want you to be one of them. They don’t want you to be “other”- a Jew, a Wiccan, an Atheist, etc. There is real fear in their responses, and sometimes their responses can inspire real fear in you.

    I felt like a moron and a hypocrite saying “Merry Christmas” to these random people I don’t know and will never see again. But then, I was so burnt out on American Christmas Stuff that I didn’t even bother with a tree this year.

  5. J.Wizzle

    I used to work retail as well (Toys R US). I always said Merry Christmas to people. I never gave it any thought really. I never felt pressured to say it or to not say it. I just did it…no agenda, no hidden meanings, and not to make people feel like an “other.”

  6. Nathan P. Gilmour

    I responded to some of your comments in a new post.

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