Last week, while walking around in the toy department of Target, my youngest (she is 3) was asked by some polite adult stranger if Santa was coming to visit this Christmas. Cayla replied, “No…He can’t…He isn’t real.” The silence and the look I received from that stranger were far from polite. Of course this is not the first instance of a cold, hostile silence involving Christmas.
It was a warm December morning in December of 2002 and I was working at Kennedy over the holiday break. As had been the case the previous three years, there was some scheduled milestone for one of the Space Shuttle Orbiters in the processing facility and I volunteered to work. Christina and Matthew were only 3 years old and 22 months respectively and I needed the money to pay down my student loans and begin to save. A coworker (and friend of 5 years) of mine had asked how our Christmas holiday was and if Santa had visited. Not thinking anything of it, I replied honestly “No – we aren’t teaching our kids to believe in Santa.” Her disposition soured and she exclaimed that she could not believe I would deprive my children of the wonderful experience of believing in Santa. That friend was no longer friendly and she rarely spoke to me after that. I was naïve to the emotional attachment to Christmas and Santa among adults.
Much has transpired since then. But every year we are inundated with news of how the special tradition of Christmas is under attack. Many Christians have now joined in the annual debate over the intentional removal of holiness from Christmas. “Don’t let them take the Christ out of Christmas” they shout or blog. Intellectually, however, no one argues the real origin of the winter holiday and very few Christians actually believe it is the season of the birth of Messiah. Yet, the public debate and rallying cry of many social conservatives is criticism for America to uphold the traditional Christian holiday. What is the nature of the fear? From where does this panic originate?
Bill O’Reilly has begun his usual rant that there is an all out war to eliminate Christmas. But he never articulates the nature of the threat, nor does he elaborate on the meaning and importance of Christmas. So why do many believe that the government can kill Christmas? Perhaps Mr. O’Reilly needs to be reminded that Christmas is special if people (rightly or wrongly) continue to make it so and the government really has no power over that choice. Thus, the source of the fear is identified – that our federal government may extinguish the status of Christmas as a federal holiday. To which I ask – so what if it did?
A more important question would be – Why are we fighting so hard to hold on to a mirage? Ask yourself – why is there so much attention and emotion surrounding Christmas? Don’t misunderstand; every year at this time, we rejoice and enjoy the family time, the end of the year reflection, the changing of the seasons, and the gift giving. Make no mistake – we sing Christmas Carols and we rejoice in the birth of our Savior. But we could do these things in September just as well. If the federal government decided it was no longer a federally observed holiday, would it really change anything?
The Christmas season and all of its symbols are merely tradition. Some of them are borrowed from Judeo-Christian heritage and inserted into a decided secular celebration. But it is not Holy. Holiness is defined and assigned by God alone. Nowhere is it written the date of Christ’s birth and nowhere are we instructed to remember and celebrate it. So as we enter this year-end festive season, perhaps we can dial down the secularist assaults and protectionism rhetoric and merely observe or ignore the Christmas season. It does not bother me that we have a federally observed holiday, nor would it bother me if it were eliminated. True Holy Days and their observance are a personal, family and community concern – not a national one. Being honest about what is (and what isn’t) makes the what is all that more special. Were we to focus on faith and facts, we would find the true Holy-days more fulfilling. Were we to revere reality and reason we would rejoice in our Redemption. Will you?