Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So You're Worried about the War on Christmas...

If all four candles aren't lit on the advent wreath, it's not Christmas.
I wrote this piece a few years ago.  As the rhetoric of the “War on Christmas” heats up again for the season this year, it seemed worth dusting off and updating a bit as we move toward the beginning of the season of Advent on December 2.

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I’ve never liked the whole War-on-Christmas hysteria. I’m afraid history shows us that Christmas was always a time of popular revelry, as this time of year had been well before there was a Christmas. Somehow, I’m betting that few of the folks out there who are thumping their chests about the War on Christmas spend the weeks of Advent preparing for the big day in fasting, almsgiving, and penitence. (And, if you do, bully for you.)

If you like your holidays pure, I suggest you make the most of Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas on January 6.  It’s an uncontested day for the miracle of the Incarnation.  Go to church, throw a Twelfth Night party, and feel as pious as you want.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about the War on Christmas, does your own Christmas tree stay up until at least Epiphany? If you throw your tree out on New Year’s Day or any time before the Epiphany, you are cutting the season short and supporting the War on Christmas.  If you are truly concerned about the loss of the season, you might leave it up until Candlemas on February 2, but do keep the fire extinguisher handy.

I suppose I need not say that if your tree was up and decorated while it was still Advent, you are part of the War on Christmas.  Christmas starts on the evening of December 24.  No cheating!

You know it’s time to decorate the tree when you’ve opened the last door on your Advent Calendar. No Advent Calendar you say? Then you are supporting the War on Christmas.

How do you greet people after December 25? If you’re not still saying, “Merry Christmas!” for all 12 days, you are part of the War on Christmas.  Yes, people will look at you like you’re crazy, but it’s not easy being a real Christmas warrior, so have the courage of your convictions.

Is the Baby Jesus already in his crib in your nativity set? If you said yes, get some toothpicks and Saran Wrap to make a little incubator because you’ve got a preemie on your hands—he’s not here yet and you are promoting the War on Christmas.

Finally, you might be saying, "I'm a Protestant, we don't do this Advent and Epiphany business."  Well, truth is, you're not supposed to be keeping Christmas either.  Back in the 1600s when the Puritans were serious about running one nation under God in Boston, Christmas was banned as a pagan holiday and a superstitious, Catholic custom with no Biblical basis.  To use the old language for it down here in the South, having a Christmas tree may be a sign that you're backsliding and you probably need to be repenting of your worldliness and idolatry. (You can read more about that here.  Hat tip to a more mellow Bostonian.)

In short, if you’re worried about the War on Christmas, instead of signing petitions and filling comboxes with righteous indignation, keep the four weeks of Advent and all Twelve Days of Christmas with the customs and devotions that go with them.  If you’re not interested in any of that, but you still want to complain about the War on Christmas, you might really just be a cheapskate or a Grinch.