War On Christmas? [Reader Post]

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‘Tis the time of year for the annual “war on Christmas” complaints.

The idea is that there is a secular plot to undermine Christmas through the use of terms like “Happy Holidays,” “Holiday Tree,” “holiday cards,” etc. People get downright incensed when department stores and such put up “Happy Holidays” signs.

Christmas was always a private religious holiday until President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law designating Christmas as a national holiday in 1870. At that moment, Christmas was officially secularized (First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion”). Congress had no right to declare a national religious holiday — by designating Christmas as a holiday for all Americans, it was, Constitutionally-speaking, declaring Christmas to be a non-religious, secular holiday.

The following Christmas songs were written by Jews (cribbed from a web site, but I first heard the story on a locally produced radio show of an NPR affiliate station):

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Writers Mel Torme and Bob Wells…Jewish
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Holly Jolly Christmas and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Johnny Marks was a Jew who specialized in Christmas songs.
Santa Baby – written by Fred Ebb and Joan Javits (both Jews, Javits of the famous family)
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Walter Kent, who wrote the music and Kim Gannon, who co-wrote the lyrics…Jewish
Silver Bells – Jay Livingston and Ran Evans…Jewish
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – George Wylie (not his birth name) is also famous for writing the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song
Sleigh Ride – Mitchell Parish who wrote the lyrics, was Jewish and born “Michael Hyman Pashelinsky” obviously.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – lyricist Sammy Cahn and music composer Jule Styne … Jewish
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays – Al Stillman, the lyricist…Jewis
White Christmas – Irving Berlin wrote this one… his birth name Israel Isidore Baline

Of all the Christmas songs, the one with the largest national air play on TV and radio is the “Chestnuts roasting” song.

All this music was a direct result of declaring Christmas to be a national (secular) holiday. Were Christmas treated the same way as Easter (not a national holiday), it would have about the same impact, culturally speaking — i.e. an important day for religious Christians, but something on akin to Halloween or Valentine’s Day for the un-Churched.

Would we really wish Easter to rise to the level of Christmas, as a secular holiday?

Christmas is a huge holiday in Japan, where a grand total of ONE PERCENT of the people are Christian. On one of my trips to Japan, I was there for several days after Thanksgiving. On every block there was not just one but about a dozen public Christmas trees — everywhere in downtown Tokyo. Lots and lots of silver streamers and other decorations. Lots of TV commercials, promoting Christmas products. Enormous live Christmas trees in the lobbies of the big hotels. And everywhere you go it’s “Merry Christmas” (“Merikurisumasu” –> “Me-ree-koo-ris-mahs-u”). Not “Happy Holidays.”

Huge holiday. All “Merry Christmas” — but devoid of any and all religious meaning.

I personally think that “Happy Holidays” is a much better term for use in commercial advertising, secular decorations, greetings from non-Christian people, etc. The way to put the Christ back in Christmas is to take Christmas out of the secular culture, which means not to force secular people to say “Merry Christmas,” when all they are really trying to say is “Happy Holidays.”

– Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA
P.S. Merry Christmas

199 Responses to “War On Christmas? [Reader Post]”

  1. 51

    Smorgasbord

    I’m not an atheist, but I’m not a believer either, but I don’t have a problem with the different religions and their different events. The federal government cannot establish a religion. To me, this means that no religion should be used to help decide what laws are passed, or how legal decisions are made. If a religion is to be used in legal decisions, and it is the Christian religion, because it is the most prevalent, that would mean that if another religion becomes the more prevalent religion, then the laws will be decided on that religion.

    Our founding fathers added the part about the government not being allowed to establish a religion because they came from an England that had a church that had almost as much power as the government. They didn’t want that to happen in the USA, and I don’t either. What if the Muslim religion becomes the prevalent religion, should the laws and legal decisions be based on them?

    I have no problem with CHRISTMAS displays or other religion’s stuff being put on public property, as long as it is the kind of stuff that teaches love and helping others.

    Which nationality wrote, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer?” I love and hate the song, and will never buy it. Why did the writer have to kill grandma instead of having her wind up in the hospital, and why was grandpa so happy she is gone?

  2. 54

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @Aqua: Really. I can imagine some Christian sects stoning people because that’s what the Word says so. However, Giles Corey, an eighty-year-old man “pressed to death” under boulders, defiantly refusing to answer the bogus charges against him. Another five alleged witches died in prison. That must have been painful—in the name of God.

  3. 56

    Tom

    @ Larry,

    Great post. Very thought-provoking.

    @Wordsmith:

    People simply need to quit being offended all the time. And quit teaching their kids to be offended by the inoffensive! I remember during one winter camp with kids, one young girl piped out, “Don’t wish me a Merry Christmas because I’m Jewish!” Oooookaaay….

    I can’t argue with your general point, Word, but at the same time it feels a little convenient for the Right to preach tolerance for religious expression in a Christian-dominated society. Would Bill O’Reilly feel the same tolerance if US towns replaced nativity displays with iconic images from other religions? I doubt it. He or others would likely point out that it’s not the same thing because America is a “Christian nation”, and thus tip their hand, and their agenda. This isn’t about tolerance for expressions of Christianity; it’s about attempting to define America as a Christian nation. This is what secularist are pushing back against, not against people saying “Merry Christmas”. My question is, why not just come out and directly make that argument to the American people, rather than trying to Trojan Horse it into their lives through this ragged defense of holiday expression? Again, no rational person is going to object to a well-meaning Christmas salutation, or a creche on the front lawn or lights on the house. It’s the sanctimonious preaching of “tolerance” while ramming a religious political agenda down our throats that grates.

  4. 57

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @Aqua: Josephus is not a fraud, but the religious people who transcribed his words are—according to scientific investigation. But, of course, you, like most of the conservative right-wing reject science when it doesn’t agree with their opinions—it’s all a liberal plot. I repeat: Only Josephus has any credibility as a historian on this matter—and his is questionable. This is what research shows.

    Incidently, as far as Buddhism goes, supposedly Buddha believed is gods. Many sects of Buddhism believe in the supernatural—like Karma—that’s why it’s considered a religion. But it has some good philosophical ideas too. If Christianity didn’t believe in the supernatural—like the Trinity—then it could be considered a philosophy. But, as it is, it is a religion with some philosophical overtone.

  5. 58

    Tom

    @Skookum:

    If my fast fading memory serves me correctly, didn’t the tyrant Lincoln set up Thanksgiving as a national holiday to entice people to forget the carnage being waged in America in 1863. Carnage based on the right of Northern States to impose tariffs on Southern states.

    Skook, I encourage you to use those prodigious writing talents to craft the defining history of the valiant War Against Northern Tariffs. I imagine it would be a somewhat dry affair, considering the nature of the cause. It’s too bad there wasn’t some larger issues to do with the Rights of Man, bondage and Human suffering that could c0me into play, but you can only work with what history gives you I suppose.

  6. 59

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @johngalt: I call progress more freedom for all people—unlike the ultra-conservative belief in freedom for some. History is full of conservative examples, i.e., gay rights, slavery, women’s voting rights, inter-racial marriage, etc.

    By the way—before you go off on this issue—Lincoln may have been the first Republican president, but he wasn’t a conservative regarding slavery. Conservatism posits either maintaining the status quo, or going back to a previous period. Slavery was the status quo.

  7. 60

    openid.aol.com/runnswim

    Regarding the “did Jesus exist” debate:

    Bart Ehrman is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He’s been on both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, among many other popular culture gigs. He is a former evangelical turned agnostic. He’s written a number of books which please agnostics and atheists. But he unconditionally asserts that Jesus was a genuine historical person, and recently published a book which, on a point by point basis, challenges the writings of the various “mythical Jesus” authors.

    http://www.amazon.com/Did-Jesus-Exist-Historical-Argument/dp/0062204602

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/03/did-jesus-exist-bart-ehrman_n_1400465.html

    If you are interested in the topic, but don’t have the time to read the book, the following is a very nice summary of the high points of the Ehrman arguments, presented in an interview with another New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/05/bart-ehrmans-on-did-jesus-exist-part-one/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/06/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-two/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/07/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-three/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/08/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-four/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/09/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-five/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/10/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-six/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/11/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-seven/

    – Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

  8. 63

    ilovebeeswarzone

    well I’LL BE damn ,
    my comment was erase in the middle of it.
    I was saying the TROLLS ARE GATHERING TO SEND NEGATIVE OPINIONS
    INTO CHRISTMAS, at this time,
    but this time they have a favorable climate change in the WHITE HOUSE IN THE LAST 4 YEARS
    AND STILL GOING FOR MORE, ELECTED WITH A QUESTION, WELL MANY QUESTIONABLE ACTIONS,
    SO the ATHEISTS are being empower by the MUSLIMS who where allowed by a big number in the last four years, very similar to the many illegals in this COUNTRY MORE OF IN THE SAME TIME OF OBAMA REGIME, they are in the same mindset who think the same for different ideals and intents,
    they where outrageous enough to forbid the returned WARRIORS TO BRING CROSS ON THE TOMBS
    OF THEIR BROTHERS IN ARMS WHO DID NOT RETURNED ALIVE,
    now they come for CHRISTMAS negative babbles,
    the ATHEIST NEVER made as much fuss before, why did they joined the wrong side? because of their propaganda, and if you are not a solid mind or CHRISTIAN YOU MIGHT GET INDOCTRINATE ALSO,
    so beware, of that subliminal message in all the publicity you run in to,
    specially the young people who are still processing their thoughts on what is right and wrong they are very vulnerable and there is some of other faith not peaceful as they say, who are recruiting them in where they are, the SCHOOLS ARE A PRIME PLACE FOR THEM TO DO THEIR JOBS.TOM ,, THE SILENT DISPLAY ARE ONLY SENDING MESSAGE OF GOOD WILL AND GOOD WISHES IF ONE DON”T AGREE WITH CHRISTMAS, just pass on your way,and BE CAREFUL TO NOT BE TOUCH
    BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS

  9. 64

    liberal1(objectivity)

    @retire05: The difference is that there is actual historical evidence for such people as Cleopatra—the evidence for Christ is scant, according to empirical evidence (and questionable at that).

    Of course I can’t prove there is no God—but when you consider the data (which I’m sure you never haven’t), it becomes quite apparent. For example, there are some parts of the human body which are non-functioning, or poorly functioning; why wouldn’t a god make such errors when making a person—especially when man was made in god’s image. Another thing, about Noah’s Ark: Imagine gather a pair of each species of the earth—including North and South America—every type of insect and bacteria—there wouldn’t be enough room on an ark of any size. But these are just a few. Can you prove there is a God? No. But given enough time and motivation, I could muster a myriad of evidence against belief in god. All you can muster is your faith.

    By the way, on evolution. Evolution is the next thing to a fact—ask any biologist. And, besides, Gravity is only a theory.

  10. 65

    Skookum

    Tom, the United States was the only country in the world to end slavery by Civil War; although, Lincoln had no interest in ending slavery before the war. The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in states that were in rebellion, but did nothing to address slavery in states loyal to the union or neutral to the war effort.

    If you read Lincoln’s writings, and not the propaganda, you will find numerous instances where he exhibits extreme racist views. He also wrote that he would have never started such a war over the question of slavery.

    Lincoln, like so many contemporary politicians, argued both sides of a question in deference to his audience. In Texas, he encouraged Texans to secede from Mexico with the tenet that people had the right to separate from a government that no longer represented them. However, in his inaugural address:

    “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.”

    The South seceded because of Northern tariffs designed to subsidize Northern industry. There was no movement other than by abolitionists to end slavery, not from Lincoln or our government. The North wanted the South to buy only their manufactured goods with higher costs and to support the federal government with disproportionate taxes and to prevent the South from trading internationally. The tariff was began in 1828 long before Lincoln came on the scene, but it is forgotten in the history text books. The North had the political power, much like New York and California wield political power in Washington today. If they would begin to impose taxes on “lesser” states for their advantage, a similar situation would soon evolve.

    After thirty years of unfair taxes and tariffs, the tea pot boiled over. Thirteen states decided to peacefully secede, but Lincoln swore to “collect the duties and imposts” and in April of 1861, when congress was out of session, Lincoln blockaded the Southern ports (considered an act of war by many) and suspended habeas corpus in the South. In 1862, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in the North as well and was well on his way to becoming America’s Caesar.

    He imprisoned 14,000 civilians and shut down over 300 newspapers that were opposed to the war. Secretary of State Seward boasted:

    I can touch a bell . . . and order the imprisonment of a citizen of New York, and no power on earth, except that of the President of the United States can release [him]. Can the Queen of England do as much?

    When I call Lincoln a tyrant, it is because of his actions. If you want his quotes confirming his racist views, I can deliver.

    Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents; not because of the image, but because of the contradiction in fact and legend. He has been manufactured into a man who didn’t exist, a man you would hate in the present day, but America needed heroes and the abolition of slavery came about as an act of war by this misunderstood contradiction of history; consequently, he is revered as a hero, but make no mistake, he was a tyrant.

  11. 66

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @retire05: I would be happy if everyone kept their religion to themselves, and didn’t let it affect the politics which impinge upon my rights and freedoms.

    Like all the hyper-conservatives, you wouldn’t be doing your duty if you didn’t bring up Marxism.

  12. 67

    johngalt

    @Liberal1 (Objectivity):

    Are you saying that the term ‘fairness’ doesn’t have a meaning in the English language?

    No, Lib1, that isn’t what I was getting at. You were the one who brought up “words have meaning” and I simply pointed out one of the multitude of instances where the liberal/progressives have co-opted a word to use and mangling the meaning of it.

    I call progress more freedom for all people—unlike the ultra-conservative belief in freedom for some.

    Now that is funny. Your “progress” infringes on more freedom than it gives. You cannot see that as you are only concerned with the freedom and liberty you favor. Perspective, Lib1, perspective. I don’t expect that you’ll ever see it from our side of things, though.

    Your examples of “conservative” infringement of rights is a little more complicated than just saying someone who is conservative opposes those “rights”, Lib1. You’d think that someone who claims ‘objectivity’ would realize that. But then, you’ve been everything but objective in your comments and postings, haven’t you?

    As for the topic Larry posted on, I’ll repeat again:

    Our founding principle, relating to religion, is freedom OF religion, not freedom from religion. Understanding the difference is important in order to understand why religion and religious viewpoint, in public, can and should be allowed.

  13. 68

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @Skook: That’s what I call the pot calling the kettle black. Why does your writing always sound like a diatribe. Try a little logic sometime. It sure beats name-calling—which seems to be your specialty. The Word is Reasoned Argument—as opposed to Irrationality.

  14. 70

    Skookum

    Tom, this history was actually written 80 years before I was born. It was the rewriting of the historical record that has created the myth of Lincoln. I have no ax to grind in regard to Lincoln; however, I was in a mild state of shock when I read the actual historical records of the period. We Americans go to great lengths to create historical heroes, and it is much easier if they meet an untimely end. It avoids the uncomfortable and ugly truth they often write about in their memoirs, like our former president Grant.

  15. 72

    Tom

    @Skookum:

    Thanks for your detailed thoughts, which I will have to respond to in detail later, being the rare Liberal/Progressive/Socialist who works. Briefly, I am well aware of Lincoln’s history of racist comments, and I’m not going to spin a relativist argument that it was just a sign of the times. What I will observe is that, unlike many of his contemporaries (and unlike conservative thinking in general, which tend to be static by nature), his thinking evolved. I think you will agree that this is clear if one reads his writings over time. For example, his views of resettlement certainly changed. A thoughtful person who subjects his own thinking to as rigorous a test as the thinking of others is not someone I’ll write off easily based on views he later abandoned. Lincoln always considered slavery an evil. His proposed solutions and timeline were what frustrated the more ardent abolitionists. But just like those zealots were necessary to push and prod Lincoln in the correct direction, Lincoln as a politician had to contend with what could be accomplished in the realm of the possible. And accomplishment rather than good intentions is what lasts and what he rightfully, by most Americans, has been judged by. As for tariffs being the reason for the War, I certainly don’t agree with that, but that’s a more involved discussion I don’t have time for right now. Let me just point out that Lincoln was not murdered for his views and actions relative to tariffs. He was murdered by a racist for his views and actions relative to slavery.

    Edit: my apologies to the author of the post for this side-track.

  16. 73

    Liberal1 (Objectivity)

    @johngalt: You’re very good at putting words in another’s mouth, or imposing your presuppositions on another’s beliefs. Maybe–if you refrained from that habit, and listened to what one is saying once in a while—you’d be capable of learning something.

  17. 74

    Nan G

    @liberal1(objectivity): The difference is that there is actual historical evidence for such people as Cleopatra—the evidence for Christ is scant, according to empirical evidence (and questionable at that).

    And yet, for a few years anyway, there was a teaching that Cleopatra was a black woman!
    It was utter nonsense, of course, and is not taught anymore.
    But it sure was a fad for a while!

  18. 75

    johngalt

    @Liberal1 (Objectivity):

    That’s funny, coming from someone who issues proclamations of what “ultra-conservatives” believe, Lib1. Pot, Kettle……………..you can probably guess the rest, Lib1.

    Do you ever stop accusing others of that which you, yourself, and your brothers and sisters in the liberal/progressive world commit daily?

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