Christmas Season, Not Holiday Season
To judge from the commercial advertising with which we have been bombarded from the end of November, we can safely conclude that "the Holiday Season" is upon us once more. At the same time there is, once more, talk of the "the War on Christmas."
All of the department stores, restaurants, public schools, malls, shopping centers, and businesses of various other sorts are decorated to the hilt, adorned with glorious signs wishing all who read them: "Happy Holidays." Store clerks, likewise, are (usually) quick to express the same wish to customers.
The decorations on display this time of year are just as beautiful as the well wishes that people, including strangers, exchange with one another. To this judgment, only the proverbial "Scrooge" could take exception.
Still, the stone-cold truth of the matter is that the "Holiday Season" that pervades our country every year during this time isn't anything of the sort.
There is no "Holiday Season."
The one season that our whole economy eagerly awaits, the one season that charitable organizations of every conceivable kind spare no occasion to exploit, is not some amorphous, politically correct invention; the season in question is what it has always been: the Christmas season.
Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, must know this to be true -- regardless of whether they choose to recognize the Christmas season for what it is or not.
It isn't "holiday" music that we find impossible to escape, regardless of whether we are in our cars or out and about; it is Christmas music -- some of the greatest music to have ever been created -- to which our auditory apparatuses are routinely subjected day in and day out through the months of November and December.
It isn't "holiday" programming that television stations supply during this time of year. It is Christmas shows in which millions and millions of adults, no less than children, delight.
It isn't "holiday" movies that exponentially boost the film industry during the last month of the year. It is always Christmas-themed movies upon which Hollywood relies in order to increase profits.
We may choose to call the enormous tree out front of Rockefeller Center in New York City, or the comparably magisterial tree at the White House, a "Holiday Tree." But, in fact, we know that they are Christmas trees. We could even decide to change the name of Dickens' A Christmas Carol to A Holiday Carol, but in the end, there would be no circumventing the unpleasant facts that Dickens' classic was originally written as a polemic for Christmas, and that it long ago established itself as a timeless Christmas classic. In short, there would be no "Holiday Season" if not for Christmas. Our culture and our economy -- our country -- benefit incalculably from the birth of a Galilean peasant in a manger some 2,000 years ago. In some sense, at some level of consciousness, there is scarcely a soul in America who doesn't know this.
It isn't, of course, that everyone knows that Jesus of Nazareth was God Incarnate. Nor do I mean to suggest that everyone, or nearly everyone, is aware of the eternal salvation that His birth made possible. Rather, it is the economic, moral, and political rewards accruing from the birth of Jesus of which we all seek to avail ourselves. Most tellingly, it is those who in one way or the other have abetted the so-called "War on Christmas" who seem most eager to reap these fruits.
Whether it is politicians who insist upon calling a Christmas tree a "Holiday Tree" or corporations that forbid their employees from wishing customers, the vast majority of whom are Christmas shoppers, a "Merry Christmas," everyone, it seems, seeks to capitalize upon the common belief among Americans that this season, the Christmas season, is a time to act more thoughtfully, more generously, more compassionately, than at any other time during the year. The readiness with which politicians attempt to exploit this belief in pursuit of greater support among the electorate for their various redistributive schemes is matched only by that with which corporate executive officers do the same while in search of ever-greater profits.
Those time-honored practices that mark "the Holiday Season" -- the exchanging of gifts, say, and the expression of "good will toward all men" that translates into an increase in charitable giving -- have their roots in the traditional Christian account of the birth of Jesus. Christmas films, television shows, and songs, even when they exclude explicit references to Christ -- think White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and even the Public Broadcasting System's Christmas Eve on Sesame Street -- converge around one unmistakably Christian idea: the idea that Christmas is a time for joy and miracles.
And this idea, of course, is not only inspired by, but inseparable from the idea -- indeed, the Idea -- of the birth and incarnation of Christ.
Just as there is no "Holiday Season," so there is no "War on Christmas." If there is any such war, it is among the most poorly prosecuted as any that has ever been. If there really was a "war" on Christmas, then Christmas's standing as a federally declared holiday would be repealed; public schools would be in session on Christmas Day; corporate America -- always so careful, as it is, to be inoffensive to the sensibilities of its customers and potential customers -- would see to it that every last vestige of the traditional Christmas Season was eradicated: no more trees, lights, signs, "Holiday" brochures, sales, pictures with Santa Clause, etc. -- no longer anything to be covered up with the generic, and misleading, "Holiday Season"; television networks, film studios, and radio stations -- all required to satisfy licensing and programming criteria established by the federal government -- would stop, or be made to stop, promoting Christmas.
The Christmas Season is as alive and well today as it has ever been. Rest assured: unless and until America becomes overcome by militant atheists, Muslims, or the adherents of some other creed, each and every December will mark another Christmas or "Holiday" Season.
Too many classes of people have too much to gain from it to let it go -- even if they prefer to call it "the Holiday Season."
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. blogs at Beliefnet.com, "At the Intersection of Faith and Culture," and The Philosopher's Fortress at www.jackerwick.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and "friend" him on Facebook.