Friday, December 16, 2005

On the Christmas boycotts...

Excerpts from
"This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else"
by Adam Cohen, New York Times, December 4, 2005

The American Family Association is leading a boycott of Target for not using the words "Merry Christmas" in its advertising. ... The Catholic League boycotted Wal-Mart in part over the way its Web site treated searches for "Christmas."...

This campaign - which is being hyped on Fox and conservative talk radio - is an odd one. Christmas remains ubiquitous, and with its celebrators in control of the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and every state supreme court and legislature, it hardly lacks for powerful supporters. ...

Christmas's self-proclaimed defenders ... claim that the "traditional" American Christmas is under attack by what John Gibson, another Fox anchor, calls "professional atheists" and "Christian haters."

But America has a complicated history with Christmas, going back to the Puritans, who despised it. What the boycotters are doing is not defending America's Christmas traditions, but creating a new version of the holiday that fits a political agenda.

The Puritans considered Christmas un-Christian, and hoped to keep it out of America. They could not find Dec. 25 in the Bible, their sole source of religious guidance, and insisted that the date derived from Saturnalia, the Roman heathens' wintertime celebration.

On their first Dec. 25 in the New World, in 1620, the Puritans worked on building projects and ostentatiously ignored the holiday. From 1659 to 1681 Massachusetts went further, making celebrating Christmas "by forbearing of labor, feasting or in any other way" a crime.

The concern that Christmas distracted from religious piety continued even after Puritanism waned. In 1827, an Episcopal bishop lamented that the Devil had stolen Christmas "and converted it into a day of worldly festivity, shooting and swearing."

Throughout the 1800's, many religious leaders were still trying to hold the line. As late as 1855, New York newspapers reported that Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist churches were closed on Dec. 25 because "they do not accept the day as a Holy One." On the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was recognized in just 18 states.

Christmas gained popularity when it was transformed into a domestic celebration, after the publication of Clement Clarke Moore's "Visit from St. Nicholas" and Thomas Nast's Harper's Weekly drawings, which created the image of a white-bearded Santa who gave gifts to children....

The Christmas that emerged had an inherent tension: merchants tried to make it about buying, while clergymen tried to keep commerce out...

This year's Christmas "defenders" ... are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians' objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign's leaders insist this is a new phenomenon - a "liberal plot," in Mr. Gibson's words.

But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students.

In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was "an infringement on their rights as Americans."

Other non-Christians have long expressed similar concerns. For decades, companies have replaced "Christmas parties" with "holiday parties," schools have adopted "winter breaks" instead of "Christmas breaks," and TV stations and stores have used phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" out of respect for the nation's religious diversity.

The Christmas that Mr. O'Reilly and his allies are promoting - one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers - fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


At 8:29 AM, Blogger Caribou said...

I'm a small c christian. In our house we celebrate a small c christmas. christmas is a time when all of the family will be together. christmas is a day of commercial free radio, the aroma of the christmas turkey, and everyone sitting around the table enjoying each other's company while stuffing their face with good food. Gift giving is kept to a big M Minimum. Too bad that we hate each other 364 days of the year but only come together on one day to show how much we love each other.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Find me on Google+