Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Real Culprits Whom Culture Warriors Should Blame For Taking "Christ" Out of "Christmas"

Here are the unusual suspects:
  • White Christmas
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • The Christmas Song ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ...")
  • Let It Snow!
According to Harold Meyerson, these humongously popular Christmas songs reflected a trend among songwriters in the 1940s to assert common national holidays stripped of sectarian content. In particular, Irving Berlin, a Jew married to an Irish Catholic raising nominally Protestant children, started the cultural shift away from Christian-only Christmas to a "cosmopolitan, American" Christmas with his composition of White Christmas. Meyerson argues that the more inclusive Christmas has predominated for 60 years, until Fox News started its crusade to dismantle that sense of Christmas.

Almost all of these songs explicitly wish us "Merry Christmas" without reference to "Happy Holidays," yet they all embody the anti-sectarian thrust of choosing the word "holiday" over "Christmas," which local yokels like Eric Crafton and Steve Gill so hate. Another stark contrast: while contemporary demagogues suggest that American Christians are somehow persecuted because of the naming of a tree, Irving Berlin actually experienced real persecution in Czarist Russia, thanks to brutal pogroms generated by Christians. His response? To write Christmas songs that people of all faiths and of no faith could join together to sing.

12/28/2005, 5:00 p.m. Update: As you can surmise from the links section, Nathan Moore--who has always struck me in his blogging as more devoted to the almighty dollar than to almighty divinity (what with his making nonmoral capital a virtue and all)--thinks he has taken me to task for merely pointing out that the defenders of Christmas (God help us if those are the best defenders we Christians have) have mistargeted. He calls it "writhing three days after Christmas" and he insists that my "liberal" logic fails to see the "Christ" in these "Christmas" songs. Given that neither Jesus Christ nor his adoration is ever mentioned in these obviously secular songs or in the songwriters' original intents, his point breaks apart on its own. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" is no more about Jesus Christ than Hecht's "After Christmas White Sale" is. All Nathan had to do was recite Berlin's lyrics in his head to see the common sense of that. And I proceeded to question the purity of Nathan's conservativism in his comments section if he does not understand that, according to the ages-old Christian calendar, Christmas does not end until "Twelfth Night," which is January 5 (hence, the "Twelve Days of Christmas"). Is it me or is it actually Nathan who fails to see the Christ in Christmas? After all, he thinks that the holy season of remembrance of Jesus's birth is over just because he has unwrapped the last gift and eaten the last sausage ball. But above all one wonders: if this is such a "non-war on Christmas" as Nathan argues, then why is he still attempting to join the fray?

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