What is So Darn Scary About Christmas?
As a child growing up in Spanish Harlem in a run-down tenement building, Christmas always meant a time of good cheer to me regardless of our dire circumstances. My Jewish neighbors (yes, there are poor Jews) would always treat us with Challah bread, sweets and a bottle of Mogen David wine and wish us good cheer for the holidays. In our society's war on Christmas, I hear snide remarks from fellow Christians blaming it on the Jews because some lawyer in the ACLU is bringing a suit against the city to ban crèches on public land. All Jews get tarnished by a brush that should be directed at secularists and atheists not by people of faith. Each year I get emails from my Jewish friends supporting the celebration of the Christmas season and decrying the negative attacks on our tradition. They ask "who's behind this war on Christmas? It's not us."
I think it's always wise for writers to follow that age-old adage and "walk a mile in another man's moccasins" to see things from another point of view by imagining themselves in his situation. That means that I try to reflect on how I would feel living in a non-Christian country during one of their religious celebrations. If it meant that the season would be full of good cheer, gift giving from friends and strangers and general bonhomie. I'd join right in with the festivities regardless of the reason for them unless the deity being honored wanted me dead for not being a disciple.
So I wonder why Christmas has become so scary to so many people that they attempt to erase any vestige of the event in the public realm. Fox News anchors like Bill O'Reilly have been calling it a War on Christmas, John Gibson wrote a book titled. "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought."
Naturally, the Left's jester, Jon Stewart, mocked Fox's pro-Christmas campaign and proceeded to tout phony information that claimed Congress had met nearly every Christmas Day from 1789 to 1856. The ACLU made the same claim in its attack on Christmas and its source was a flawed magazine article; Stewart's source was The Discovery Channel.
Stewart was later busted by the website Politifact which monitors political statements made in the public discourse. The site investigated congressional records which proved Stewart's allegation was so totally wrong it awarded him their Pants-on-fire rating, their highest grade for lying.
So I have to ask again, "What is so scary about Christmas?"
This festive season used to be warm and fuzzy with Hollywood movies evoking tears and smiles and general schmaltz. Alas, no more. It's all about making money so the big blockbusters are then scheduled to reap in the bucks from children out on holiday break. Commercials for shopping start around Halloween and they have become more ludicrous and groveling every year. When did a luxury car become the ideal Christmas present? Shouldn't big ticket items be given for birthdays instead?
There's a lot to be said about being poor making one appreciate the season more. You'd think with this economic crisis, Americans would clue into that sentiment but Black Friday had the usual crazed shoppers seeking bargains for gifts.
But instead of bemoaning the crass materialism of the season, I'd like to celebrate the signs that there are some people imbued with its true spirit. So here's to those wonderful generous souls across the country who paid off the balances on strangers' layaway bills at K-mart.
Here's to that ex-con who found a $1000 in a lost wallet and turned it in to the cops.
There are many more gestures of kindnesses that don't make the headlines just as there are more miracles that occur coincidentally as a result of fervent prayers.
Christians know that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th nor do we believe that Santa Claus climbs down a chimney with gifts for "nice" children. Nevertheless what we do revere is what the day represents -- that God so loved the world that he gave us His only son who told us we should love one another.
How scary a message is that?