On The “War On Christmas” & America’s Crisis of Identity

Christmas is nearly upon us and the nation buzzes with the typical consumerist drivel that has come to characterize the holiday. Almost every year, just before December, one hears the cry, “There is a war on Christmas!” This cry is most typically raised by conservatives who are aghast that some tiny progressive atheist group has put up some kind of display which makes a mockery of the nativity or refuses to say “merry Christmas.” These same irreligious groups then will tend to go out of their way to shoot back, claiming the intolerant Christians are trying to force all of America into a kind of ideological conformity to promulgate their religious beliefs. For instance one might recall the silly back and forth between FOX News host, Sean Hannity and David Silverman (a conservative republican) which occurred in 2013. For those who might have forgotten, David Silverman, a atheist activist who is notorious for his seasonal billboard campaigns urging Americans to “take the Christ out of Christmas” made the case that Christmas can be celebrated validly without Christ worship whilst Hannity took the opposing view. I could name a thousand more such instances however I shall spare you the inevitable headache such shouting matches would doubtless inspire.

The wholly petty nature of these encounters evinces a rather serious point, that of America’s rapidly disintegrating collective identity. One should understand that a holiday is not just a day of paltry fun but a expression of the desires, hopes and dreams of a people; it is a outward manifestation of their spirit, there essence, as it were.

From a religious perspective Christians look upon Christmas as the time of the year to give thanks and celebrate the birth of their lord, Jesus of Nazareth. However, the holiday does not find it’s roots in Christianity, but rather in Asatru tradition. All of the key characteristics for the holiday, whether it is the Yule Log, Santa Claus, the seasonal wreaths, the candles in the window, the exchanging of gifts as well as the “twelve days,” stem from pagan sources such as the praise of the Norse goddess, Frigga.

Indeed, realizing this fact, one can well understand the reasoning behind the Puritans who were one of the only American groups to ever wage a real “war” against the much anticipated holiday. The Puritan settler’s who carved out the wilds of Massachusetts were exceedingly religious Christians but unlike the Christian pastors of our modern America they had great contempt for Christmas. So much did they despise Christmas and Yule that they referred to it as Foolstide and, in 1659 the Puritan General Court of Massachusetts Bay outlawed the holiday in it’s entirety and fined anyone who was so impious as to violate this injunction via a fine of 5 shillings. Their contempt for Christmas was partly due to the rowdy nature of past Christmas celebrations but was largely a product of their rigid theology which was extremely literalistic. That is to say, the more zealous Puritans wished to comport themselves in such a way that all injunctions in The Bible were observed to the letter and, as anyone who has ever read it will know, there is no command or even suggestion within The Bible to observe The Nativity nor anything concerning it nor does scripture ever note a specific season or day as regards the birth of Jesus.

However, worse to the Puritans than all of that was the pagan roots of Christmas. Knowing their history the settlers well understood that Nativity celebrations traced their genesis back to ancient Rome and the syncretic joining of Saturnalia and Christian rite. Thus the Puritans rightly observed that neither the solstice nor Saturnalia where Christian in any wise and indeed that Christmas was simply a pagan holiday which the Catholics had heretically adopted without scriptural basis. In this way, the Puritans believed that any celebration of Christmas, that is to say, any pagan celebration, dishonored Christ. It is somewhat amusing that due to these facts, Silverman’s proscription for taking the Christ out of Christmas might indeed be said to be a thing which would, theologically speaking, be a boon to serious Christians.

I could not be said to care in any personal capacity how anyone chooses to celebrate the holiday but the continued clashing of various different tribes within America over it should be of concern to everyone, for if, as I have previously stated, a serious holiday is a expression of a people’s outward manifestation, those who cannot agree upon even a thing so minor as such celebrations are, in no uncertain wise, of a different stock entirely. Rather than bickering about this scriptural passage or that ancient record concerning the worship of Frigga the whole of America would benefit greatly from celebrating the fact that, come this winter season, our ancestors shivered in tiny log huts, some dying of the cold whilst shall be laughing in the face of Old Jack Frost, here at the very summit of the world. When I raise my glass this Yuletide it shall be to Americas continual conquest of the cold.