How to Redeem Christmas

Let Protestants have it.

Thomas (nee Tommy) Kidd’s review of Christmas in the Crosshairs notices that not until Protestants took up the cause of December 25, the holiday became safe for the women and children.

Before 1800:

In the medieval era, Christmas became a fixture of Catholic festive culture, which sometimes featured drunken celebrations and “social inversions” such as the “Feast of Fools” and “Feast of the Ass” (that is, the donkey that carried Mary). These rites made Christmas a prime target for many Reformers, who viewed them as an unbiblical “popish” riot. In the 1640s, the Puritan-dominated English Parliament banned Christmas and “all other festival days commonly called ‘Holy-days.’ ” A century and a half later, radical French revolutionaries renamed December 25 “dog day,” viewing citizens who stayed home from work as potential enemies of the secular regime.

Then English-speaking novelists saw an opening:

By 1800, Christmas was in bad shape, associated largely with working-class drunkenness and violence. But in the early 19th century, Christmas “revivalists” like Washington Irving and Charles Dickens began recasting it as a generically religious, culturally wholesome, and family-centered holiday. Clement Clarke Moore made perhaps the most significant contribution with his 1822 “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known as “ ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” A friendly Santa Claus supplanted St. Nicholas’s traditional threats of wrath against disobedient children. Other menacing nocturnal visitors who had been fixtures of medieval Christmases, such as central Europe’s “Perchta the Disemboweller,” soon vanished before Santa’s kindly image. The gift-giving Santa also transformed Christmas into the merchants’ holiday par excellence.

As for me and my house, we’ll stick with Thanksgiving as the best holiday. Rule Americania!

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13 thoughts on “How to Redeem Christmas

  1. Leave my unredeemed holiday alone. I got lights, presents, trees, days off, food and employees who lose their mind and make horrible decisions that affect the rest of their lives. It’s a time to drink heavily and hold on.

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  2. Kidd: The gift-giving Santa also transformed Christmas into the merchants’ holiday par excellence.
    Interesting facts : Spending (source CNBC, 2010)
    7. Halloween $6.0B (gained alot of ground since)
    6. Father’s Day $10.2B
    5. Easter $14.02B
    4. Mother’s Day $14.88B
    3. Valentine’s Day $17.60B
    2. Thanksgiving $30.5B (turkey/all the trimmings doesn’t come cheap)
    1. Christmas $135.16B (many retailers rely on it to drive their earnings)

    but even still, and anyway, since Jesus did come, being born on a day, thinking it’s okay to want to celebrate that day for what it truly is

    6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.
    The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9

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  3. Might you feel better about Xmas if it had more Nisse’s?

    The Puritans weren’t into Christmas, knowing how shaky it was theologically, and the holiday was brought to America by the Dutch. It was in New York that Christmas became American with the invention of Santa Claus. It was in 1820 that Clement Clark Moore, living down in Chelsea, which was uptown then, coming home in his sleigh with the Christmas turkey, got the idea to write a poem for his children, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which a friend of his copied down and sent to a newspaper in Troy, New York, which published it without attribution. Mr. Moore was a professor of Hebrew and Greek at the seminary down on Ninth Avenue and Twentieth Street, and he had no wish to go down in history as the author of light verse, though of course he did.

    His poem gave us a picture of Santa Clause that was new and American. The Dutch version was less jolly: Sinterklaas came on Christmas and put cinders in the stockings of bad children. Professor Moore took out the judicial element and made him a sort of jolly uncle who brings you whatever you want no matter what. And the cartoonist Thomas Nast drew the picture of him as a rotund fellow with rosy cheeks and a big grin.

    The Norwegians had never seen him as jolly either. They believed in the Christmas elf, the nisse, who was mischievous if not actually malicious and who came around on Christmas Eve. You had to leave him a gift of rice pudding, because it was he who would decide whether you had good luck or not so good. The nisse didn’t bring gifts; he got them. He tasted your rice pudding, and if it wasn’t creamy enough or if it was too creamy or if there weren’t enough almonds in it, he wrinkled up his face and the next week you had a terrible earache, and the week after that a tree fell on your garage, and then your dad went in for prostate surgery. You had to learn to make rice pudding the way the nisse liked it. Otherwise, your life would be rotten. And if you made a great rice pudding, sometimes the nisse out of pure meanness would make your toilets back up and get the IRS to call you in for an audit, and you’d open the door to find Mike Wallace and a cameraman filming. The stock would go down. Your newsboy would sue you because he tripped over the hose. You’d get your water tested; it’s got lead in it. One thing after another. All because of the pudding.

    Some of us feel that this is truer to life than the idea of a fat man coming down the chimney and giving you all of your heart’s desires. It’s no wonder Clement Moore didn’t want his name put on his poem—he was embarrassed by it. He was a theologian; he knew he had created a commercial legend that would help sell things and that would cause disappointment, envy, impatience. What made him do it? It was a nisse who wrote the poem, out of sheer meanness.

    Garrison Keillor, “Life Among the Lutherans”

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  4. @ Ali: Indeed, there’s no harm in observing, or not. Rom 14.5-6. The Caglets have had Advent calendars upon a time.

    There is harm in

    (A) Creating a church-wide, mandatory (or socially coerced) religious observance, which runs afoul of Rom 14.

    (B) Creating an American quasi-religious, quasi-commercial “thing.”

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  5. Jeff Cagle @ Ali: Indeed, there’s no harm in observing, or not. Rom 14.5-6. The Caglets have had Advent calendars upon a time.

    Thanks Jeff. I guess if one is debating about it, maybe your kids in the future when they are on their own, being on the fence, decide to go ahead anyway, whatever, and celebrate the incomprehensible gift of God taking on flesh, since there is ‘no harm’ in it , they might should just skip it, as you say.

    Jesus 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil 2

    14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives… 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2

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  6. @Ali: … decide to go ahead anyway, whatever, and celebrate the incomprehensible gift of God taking on flesh, since there is ‘no harm’ in it , they might should just skip it, as you say.

    I hope … and I am teaching them this … that they celebrate it every Sunday, rather than merely on Dec 25.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Feast of the ass” and “Perchta the disemboweller”…..I mean, wow! How did we let such seemingly great traditions slip by the wayside? Where is my safespace?

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