Currier and Ives and Norman Rockwell… Remember those guys? I’m old enough to remember the days when “happy holidays” referred to Halloween, July 4th, St. Patrick’s Day and Groundhog Day all rolled together. All of those holidays were… happy! And December 25th was strictly …. Wait for it…. Christmas Day! I know saying “the C word” is not politically correct but no one ever accused me of being PC.
What happened? What changed? Some even think there is an actual war on Christmas? Granted, not everyone is Christian and recognizes or appreciates it, but expending the time to actually declare a war? Really? How many Christians do you see marching around with signs and lobbying legislators to do away with Hanukkah, Kwanza or Winter Soltice because the physical reminders of that holiday are, in some way, offensive? I haven’t seen one. Live and let live. Buck up, and stop being offended by every little belief that you don’t agree with. Is Christmas a Christian holiday or just a secular frenzy that starts the day after Thanksgiving? Why has Christmas, a time-honored tradition in the United States, now threatened year after year by a relative few? The answer lies in history. Many questions and problems could be addressed if people just took the time to study history.
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.
The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870. But where did Christmas originate?
Christmas is celebrated to honor the birth of Christ over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. As recorded in the Book of Luke from the New Testament, The Virgin Mary was His earthly mother and God was His Father. This is the general belief though many religions, cultures and peoples interpret this most significant event somewhat differently. Though coming to earth to save humanity from their sins, Jesus was born in a lowly stable as there was “no room at the inn” for Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, who had traveled many miles by donkey to pay their taxes. Surrounded by barnyard animals, in very humble circumstances, Christians around the world believe that The Savior of the world, was born that night and was named Jesus. Humble shepherds followed the North Star to behold the small babe whose birth had been prophesied for centuries. Three wise men sought the tiny king to pay homage and witness this miracle.
Throughout the ages Christian cultures have developed traditions and beliefs based around the birth of Christ. Gift giving emulates the gifts presented by the three Wise Men. Candy canes represent the shepherd’s crook and shiny and beautiful decorations emulate the brilliant North Star as its light lead the way to the Christ child. Even the Santa Claus of today has developed from legends of St. Nikolaus, and Kris Kringle. Most come from the belief in a kindly old man who loves children and brings them gifts and goodies on Christmas Eve. The Scandinavian Kris Kringle put oranges, nuts and berries into the toes of the children’s stockings that were left out to dry; hence Christmas stockings.
Generally Christmas is a joyful time of year when men’s hearts turn to doing good to all men and away from themselves. It is a time when the air is filled with “goodwill ” which stems from service and turning our hearts toward the helpless and needy. I don’t know anyone who would personally disagree with that. The problem is, in my humble opinion, is that “the natural man” has taken Christmas hostage and turned it into an almost pagan holiday and greed fest. Just this year, for the first time that I can remember, stores were opened on Thanksgiving Day. “So what? you ask. A day to give thanks and spend time with friends and family used to be held in high regard. Granted, not everyone has friends and family to spend time with (or maybe doesn’t want to!!) so why not, huh? We might ask those employees who now have to leave their families to go to work on a day that traditionally was revered as family time. You know what we should do? Just forget Thanksgiving and dive right into the crazy Christmas season!! Which once again would prove that the almighty dollar is king. Unfortunately, this isn’t what bugs the “War on Christmas” crowd. They are offended with signs of Christ, a Nativity or heaven forbid!!! Innocent children being forced to sing Christmas carols! Even worse, when they are verbally assaulted with a “Merry Christmas!” from a well-wisher. Tragic. Many department stores caved to the few and demanded that their employees stop saying the “C” word. Guess what happened? Their sales took a nose dive. The buzz kill didn’t go over well with shoppers. Miraculously, those stores have changed their happy tune this year. Which goes back to the almighty dollar and what people really want.
We as concerned Americans, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children, need to step back and look at the big picture here. At what point do we become adults and allow our fellow Americans to practice their religion as stated in the constitution to practice how they see fit? Are there crazy zealots that want you to believe as they do? Yup! I’m one of them! If everybody did it my way, I’m convinced they’d be a lot happier. The world would be super boring though, so please don’t!
So yes Virginia, Christmas is a nationally recognized holiday as of 1870 by President Ulysses S. Grant. It is the most recognized and beloved of all the national holidays because wait for it…. The people love it, cherish it and this is a government of the people. Majority rules. If you don’t like something, you can go through the proper legal channels to change it, but until then, do yourself a favor and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!! It’s super fun and will make a heart that might have been two sizes too small… grow with love and service.