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Christmas 2003: A Twelfth Night Roundup
[VDARE.COM note: January 6th, Twelfth Night, the Feast of the Epiphany, is traditionally the day when Christmas decorations are taken down and when VDARE.COM likes to announce the winner of our competition to find the most disgusting attempt to abolish Christmas. But Peter Brimelow is late again, so we post Tom Piatak, who opened our competition this year.]
War against Christmas 2003: At the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, a 12 foot Christmas tree was replaced with two smaller, undecorated trees—intended to represent "Indiana woods during winter"—after Professor Florence Roisman complained. In Glenview, Illinois, Christmas decorations inside a fire station were taken down after one malcontent spotted them through the window, even though 1000 residents asked the city to let the firemen keep their Christmas display. The ACLU chased Santa out of the schools in Baldwin City, Kansas, and a teacher in Bethel, Washington censored the word "Christmas" from songs her students were singing, even though she also had them sing about the "mighty miracle" of Hanukkah. Professor Butler Shaffer reported at LewRockwell.Com that a "Holiday Party at his law school featured a sign reading "Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah." When Professor Shaffer asked about the omission of Christmas from the sign, he received "an empty stare that might just as well have come from advocating child abuse or cruelty to animals."
This year saw a number of unlikely defenders emerge on behalf of Christmas, from the Marxist Alexander Cockburn, to the politically correct "conservatives" at The Wall Street Journal and National Review (which, sadly, still has a "Holiday Books" issue). All of these efforts are welcome, because each shows that more people are becoming aware of the War against Christmas and each will, in turn, make more people aware.
My favorite of these defenses came from the Canadian multiculturalist, Paula Simons, writing in the Edmonton Journal. Ms. Simons is not Christian, but she misses religious Christmas carols, which are being displaced by secular Christmas songs as well as "ersatz 'Xmas' songs, fake Kwanza songs, as well as fake Mexican fiesta numbers" in Canadian schools. Simons rightly scoffs at the claims made by the multiculturalists for suppressing Christmas music: "I'm as big a fan of multiculturalism as you could ever hope to meet. But trashing great music in favour of vapid pop tunes isn't multiculturalism. It's anticulturalism."
Of course, anticulturalism is at the heart of the War against Christmas, which merely uses other cultures as an excuse for attacking Western culture and the Christian faith that has been its central component. [Cultural Censorship is Ruining Christmas Carols, by Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal, 12/17/2003]
Simons also noted something that should be obvious to our own teachers—the great educational value of Christmas music:
"Traditional Christmas carols are beautiful songs. They combine rich, lyric poetry with melodies of timeless power. A child who grows up hearing and singing the likes of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen or Silent Night . . . or the other great world classics gets a profound musical education. The intricate harmonies and modalities of real carols don't just move our hearts. They train our ears to appreciate more sophisticated musical forms and our voices to sing in concert with others."
One of the favorite arguments of those assailing Christmas is that the Church chose December 25th as the date for Christmas to supplant pagan solstice observances, so Christmas is "really" just a celebration of the winter solstice.
This is silly, of course, because the celebration certainly became a celebration of the Birth of Christ, as shown by all those carols that Ms. Simons loves, not to mention the crèches that used to appear all over the West from the time Francis of Assisi erected the first one up until the advent of the ACLU.
But it turns out this argument is factually flawed, too. In the December issue of Touchstone magazine, historian William Tighe makes a compelling argument that the Church chose December 25 as the date of Christmas because of the ancient Jewish belief that prophets of Israel were conceived on the same date as they died, and Christians in Rome had, by the time of Tertullian, calculated the date of Christ's death as March 25. Hence Christmas on December 25. As Tighe writes:
"December 25th as the date of Christ's birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences . . . . And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians."
This year, I was asked to write two Christmas essays, both by VDARE.COM and the American Conservative. They were picked up by a number of internet sites, were mentioned in both the Washington Times and the on-line edition of the Charlotte Observer, and caused me to be invited to join a discussion about Christmas on NPR's On Point program. [Listen in RealAudio.]
Predictably, my arguments prompted some leftists to respond by revealing their own hatred of Christmas. After I appeared on NPR, one wrote in station WBUR's forum:
"Listen to Bach, it might teach you to feel good without engaging in genocide. Kill a little pine tree if that makes you feel better. But don't put your Technicolor Santa-dreck on my tax bill, ok?"
(This person apparently had also never heard of St. Patrick, and blamed Christians for nearly "annihilating" Celts for "not being Christian enough.")
Another wrote at something called the "Wienerboard" [here or here] that "in no way can any sane person claim that there is a 'seemingly inexhaustible treasury of beautiful Christmas music.' That is just a sick, sick thing to say."
Anyone doubting that hate drives the War Against Christmas need look no further than statements like these—equating Christmas with genocide and an appreciation of Christmas music with insanity.
It doesn't take large numbers of people holding beliefs like these to have a dramatic impact on our culture—if no-one pushes back.
But the mere fact that I was asked to talk about Christmas on NPR shows that we are indeed making progress. All of the e-mail I received in response to my essays was positive. And the responses my appearance generated from NPR listeners—hardly stereotypical conservatives—confirm this progress. One wrote in the WBUR forum, describing as "strange" the "self-censorship" that causes people to eschew "Merry Christmas" and noting "Christmas does feel like a dirty word now . . . I don't know if it is a good thing or a bad thing, but some thing does get lost in the push for multiculturalism."
One of the callers to the show relayed that, after saying "Happy Holidays" for several years, he has gone back to saying "Merry Christmas"—and that the reaction has been positive. And as more and more Americans come to realize the true nature of the War against Christmas, I expect "Merry Christmas" will return.