‘Tis The Season
By Larry Kolczak
It’s that time of year again. ‘Tis the season when the Right Wing media launches its crusade against the War on Christmas. And so, they have started their annual witch hunt, scouring the country for examples of people trying to put the X into Xmas.
The War on Christmas has not been a war of bullets and smart bombs. It has been a war of lawsuits and dumb words. Lawsuits over nativity scenes on city property. And dumb words like “Season’s Greetings,” and “Happy Holidays.” You know — all those mamby-pamby, politically correct, gluten-free ways to wish people a Merry Christmas without actually saying the “C” word.
To the Fox News crowd, these things are a direct assault on the Christian values of our Christian forefathers whose Christian work ethic built the greatest Christian nation on Earth. You get the picture? These guys are big on Christianity. Up to a point. That business about “turning the other cheek” kind of goes against their grain. They tend to be more the “Stand Your Ground” kind of Christians. And one stand they have taken is that Christmas should be celebrated the way our Christian forefathers intended.
Whoa, Rupert. You’d better think twice before sending that Christmas wish off to the North Pole. Let’s dust off our old history book and look at how the War on Christmas began. Flip back to the very beginning — chapter one, page one. To Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims landed in 1620. That’s where the real War on Christmas started — with the Pilgrims. You know – those guys who gave witch hunting a bad name. It was the Pilgrims who put the kybosh on Christmas. Big time.
To them, December 25th was just another 16-hour work day. Merchants and schools remained open. There were no Christmas church services. No nativity scenes. No Christmas trees. No holly. No ivy. No lords a leaping. Christmas was, in a word – “No.” The Grinch had nothing on these guys. From the very beginning, they didn’t like Christmas, or the reindeer it rode in on.
They considered it blasphemy because it had no basis in scripture. The bible never said “Keep holy Jesus’ birthday.” And, besides, nobody actually knew when Jesus was born. Where was His birth certificate? The Puritans considered December 25th a pagan holiday because that date had been chosen by church fathers back in the third century to replace the Roman winter solstice festival.
The Puritans didn’t just refrain from celebrating Christmas. In 1659, they passed a law against it. Christmas was illegal in Massachusetts for more than 20 years. If you put up a nativity scene in early New England, it wasn’t the ACLU you had to worry about. It was thy holier-than-thou neighbors who were likely to come after thee –with torches and pitchforks.
And it wasn’t just the Puritans. It was that whole patchwork quilt of Protestant religions that settled in the New England colonies. Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Methodists – they were all loyal soldiers in the Bah Humbug Brigade. In early New England, the Moral Majority wasn’t fighting to put Christ back into Christmas. They were fighting to extinguish any glimmer of Christmas from their shining city on a hill. And they succeeded for nearly 200 years.
It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that Christmas began to sneak back into New England thanks primarily to popular literature. In 1822, the poem “Twas the Night before Christmas,” introduced people to Jolly Old Saint Nick and his flying circus. With all those reindeer prancing and sugar plums dancing, the Christmas juggernaut began to snowball.
About the same time, Washington Irving published five charming Christmas stories in a book that included “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” And so, Christmas got carried out of the shadows on the coat tails of the Headless Horseman.
And in 1843, Charles Dickens put the frosting on the fruitcake. His blockbuster story about the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge took the nation by storm. Once New Englanders got a taste of Christmas dinner with Tiny Tim’s family, the Puritans’ goose was cooked. Finally, in 1870, the U.S. Congress declared Christmas a national holiday. So, the puritanical War on Christmas finally ended. You are now free to smother your front lawn with nativity scenes. You can play Perry Como Christmas Albums on your ghetto blaster till your neighbors go nuts.
So, to all the talking heads at Fox News, I offer this holiday advice. Chill out. The real War on Christmas is over. It ended 150 years ago. But if you can’t resist preaching about how we should celebrate Christmas, don’t use a Pilgrim as your poster boy. Ebenezer Scrooge would be a better choice.