Tags: Insisting | 'Merry | Christmas'

Insisting on 'Merry Christmas'

Monday, 20 December 2004 12:00 AM

Back when I was in grade school, my 6th grade class in 1954 made up hundreds of posters and we walked the streets asking merchants to display them saying "Put Christ back into Christmas."

Even men I now realize were Jewish owners of clothing and department stores willingly co-operated. I recall showing a friend my freshman year in high school that the poster I had made was still in the window of the Jacobson clothing store on 16th Street in Racine, WI.

The principal of Holy Trinity grade school, Rev. Stephen Labaj, inspired us kids to make those posters by telling us that some people in the community were trying to take Christ out of Christmas. It is good that Father Labaj didn't live to see what is happening today.

The momentum to eliminate Christmas altogether is gaining strength at frightening speed. You can feel it. Almost no one, not even some clergymen, wish strangers or even friends "Merry Christmas" anymore. We wouldn't want to offend anyone, now would we?

Charles Krauthammer, who is of the Jewish faith, in a brilliantly insightful piece in The Washington Post, suggests that some of this effort to take Christmas out of American public life is coming from secular Jews who have not educated their children in their own rich heritage and who want to shield them from feeling bad when they hear carols which relate to events with which they are not familiar.

He points out that you almost never hear orthodox Jews making complaints about a crèche at city hall or, for that matter, Christmas carols during a school pageant. That is because they understand their own heritage, feel good about who they are and thus are not threatened by Christians or what they believe.

Being politically incorrect, I have made it a point to tell merchants both in person and on the phone who say "Happy Holidays" that it is okay to wish me a Merry Christmas. The reaction is unbelievable from residents of a nation which was once considered Christian. Mostly they gasp. Some look away. Others nervously say, "Oh, okay. Merry Christmas then."

Yes, it is true that early Christians didn't celebrate Christmas. Universal celebration of Christmas did not occur until the 5th Century. It is the only religious feast which began in the West and was imported into the East. But December 25th was not the original date when Christmas was celebrated. The first date of celebration was January 6th, the Epiphany.

Many Russian Orthodox churches still celebrate Christmas on January 7th. I've never heard Orthodox Russians complain that they are discriminated against because they have to keep their presents under the tree longer.

I mention this bit of history because I now find myself being lectured to by non-believers about the fact that Christians didn't always celebrate the feast, as if to justify their actions. Many of these militant secularizers are former Christians. Militant secularizers now number around 14% of the population.

There are enough of them that Democrats had a special outreach program just to garner those votes, the way that Republicans had a special outreach to Evangelicals and Catholics. They no longer believe in Christmas, if they ever did, and by golly they don't want others to enjoy it if they can't. They are angry. The best way they can get back at God and the rest of us is to take away a joyous celebration.

Granted, much which has come to symbolize Christmas has nothing to do with religious celebration. What I remember is the different attitude which came over people at Christmastime. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was based on reality. At Christmas people became kinder. Even old Scrooge softened up and kindness prevailed.

My late father, God rest his soul, used to say that you could feel the difference in the whole society at Christmas time. Even non-Christian world leaders used to make some sort of gesture of goodwill at Christmas time. They no longer do so. Could it be that they don't make such gestures because they know that Christmas has become unimportant?

It was universal. Christmas was the one holiday when people could be sure to be with their family. Of course, firemen, hospital nurses, police officers and other essential people worked. But for the most part things shut down. Not any more.

Here in the Washington, D.C. area, Safeway has announced that it will be open on Christmas day. Safeway employees who formerly enjoyed a day off at Christmas won't get to do so. That will, of course, put pressure on the competition. By next year all major food stores will, no doubt, also be open.

Radio stations which used to play genuine Christmas carols at this time of the year (there are two in the Washington, D.C. area which claim they play Christmas music 24 hours a day) no longer play "Silent night" or "Angels we have heard on high." Rather, it is winter music: Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, The Boston Pops. You get the picture. What little Christmas is left has nothing to do with Christ.

But the real shift has simply been the disappearance of the mention of Christmas. If I hear "Have a nice holiday" one more time I may just scream. If we majority Christians tolerate this, then we get what we deserve. When are we going to stand up and say to this militant minority, "You don't have the right to take Christmas from us."

What is happening is because we have become tepid. We have been conditioned to think that if we insist on celebrating Christmas, other than perhaps in the inner sanctum of our own homes, we will be offending someone. Utter nonsense. If they are offended, it is their problem, not ours. In the current parlance we should just tell them "We're here. We are not going away. Neither is Christmas. Deal with it."

If Christmas disappears it will be because we let it happen. It isn't too late to reverse things. Start with little things. When merchants wish you a "Happy Holiday," tell them "I'd prefer if you would wish me a Merry Christmas."

If the ACLU tries to take Christmas carols out of your public schools, there are at least three public-interest law firms which will take your case at no charge. Likewise, if attempts are made to stop a religious display at City Hall or to prevent a religious float in a so-called Christmas parade, contact Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson (each of whom has a public interest law operation) or the Rutherford Institute, and they will almost certainly help out.

Once those who hate God figure out that we are not going to roll over and play dead, they will find something else upon which to spend their time and resources. Don't you dare blame them for what is happening. Blame us. We have been much too tolerant. It is high time that we put Christ back into Christmas. Fifty years later that plea is far more relevant today than it was back then.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chariman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.


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Back when I was in grade school, my 6th grade class in 1954 made up hundreds of posters and we walked the streets asking merchants to display them saying "Put Christ back into Christmas." Even men I now realize were Jewish owners of clothing and department stores willingly...
Monday, 20 December 2004 12:00 AM
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