Today is the day after Thanksgiving and it’s already Christmas. In fact, Christmas started on the first of November, when strings of cheery light bulbs and white-trimmed red ornaments usurped fake spider webs and gory décor.
A two-month-long holiday. Nothing is wrong with that in and of itself – except that it’s a two-month-long religious holiday, arguments that Christmas is a secular holiday notwithstanding.
Christmas is certainly commercialized, no doubt about that. It’s only so big today because Coca-Cola turned Santa into a marketing opportunity in the early twentieth century. And historically, Christmas simply appropriates a set of pagan holidays, including the famous Roman Saturnalia, based around the winter solstice – Jesus’ actual birthdate is unknown and contested.
Ancient holidays aren’t the only things Christmas takes. When Christmas becomes inseparable from the idea of huddling before the fireplace with your family, clutching hot cocoa in slowly-warming hands as a blizzard rages outdoors, that sentiment is taken away from those who don’t celebrate it. Christmas appropriates just about every good winter feeling.
Christmas does this through commercialization. The commodification evident in Santa, presents and candy canes is the true problem. Everyone should be able to celebrate Christmas, religiously if they wish, in a wintery, family way, or in any other manner they want. However, they should not broadcast Christmas on the radio and TV, plaster it on shop windows and spew it into the streets.
Countless times, I’ve seen it begin to snow, and people cry out, “It’s Christmas!” No it isn’t. It’s frozen water. This has nothing to do with Jesus or Santa. Leave the snow alone. Everyone deserves to have snow. And December is not Christmas, December 25th is Christmas. Everyone deserves to have December.
Christmas looks to me like a distinctly Christian holiday. In fact, it looks that way to a little over half of America, according to a Pew Research Survey. This makes the prevalence of Christmas in society a serious problem. It excludes others. Starting Christmas two months in advance of the actual holiday creates two months of the year where I don’t feel comfortable participating in society because everything is Christmas-themed.
This exclusiveness causes a couple of reactions. Some feel obligated to celebrate Christmas, even if they aren’t Christian. Pew found that 87 percent of religiously unaffiliated people celebrate Christmas. However, only 68 percent of those people think Christmas is more a cultural holiday than a religious one.
Others, especially those who are religious but aren’t Christian, retreat into their own holidays. Religiously, Hanukkah is not a big holiday for Jews. In truth, Hanukkah only became big among North American Jews in the 1920s, in response to the similar commercialized expansion of Christmas at the same time. Hanukkah isn’t the Jewish Christmas, but it is something to do when the world around you turns red and green. And Hanukkah too has become more and more commercialized over time, in an attempt by Jews to attain that warm family feeling without just resorting to celebrating Christmas.
Christmas itself isn’t the problem. The overwhelming presence of Christmas in society is. It forces those who don’t celebrate the holiday to do so, or to make their own holiday to celebrate. It creates a narrative that Christmas is for the good boys and girls, for the devout, for those who truly want to feel warmth in the harsh winter.
And those who don’t celebrate Christmas? Those who dare to speak out against the white-trimmed red and green that covers the world for two months? Why, they might as well be the Grinch, crouching in frigid caves, glaring jealously at all the fun the good kids are having.
But my heart isn’t “two sizes too small.” The winter should be my season too, and those who don’t celebrate Christmas shouldn’t have to spend two months feeling uncomfortable because of an over-commercialized holiday. So when it starts to snow in December, look around you and think about whether you really want to claim snow itself for Christmas.