Let’s start with a bit of (kind of serious) humor, shall we?
Brad Stine: “I remember when people said things like, ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other. EVERYBODY said, ‘Merry Christmas! Hey, Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Lohenstein. Do you know why? Because it wasn’t about a religion, it was about something as a culture that we thought was so valuable, even if I disagreed with the religion behind it, because it was good for ALL of us instead of just me.
But what do people say now? ‘Happy Holidays.’ ‘See, I just say, “Happy Holidays,” because I don’t want to say, “Merry Christmas,” because you don’t believe in Christmas, and I don’t want to offend you, and…*chipmunk noises*'”
Oh, yes, we want to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ because we don’t leave anybody out. Really? How come there’s a ton of holidays in February – nobody says, ‘Happy Holidays’ in February, do they? They say what it is, ‘Happy Valentines’ – OOOO, do you believe in love?
But nobody wants to say, ‘Christmas’! Everything else but ‘Christmas’. Why? I know why. You do, too. It’s because it’s got ‘Christ’ in it, and after 2,000 years He’s still intimidating people. You see, when a religious person says, ‘I am the way,’ people don’t want to hear it. They don’t!
I say you gotta say, ‘Merry Christmas’ because it IS! If you don’t believe in it, fine. But I’ve got a flash for you: Christianity happens to be the religious heritage of my country whether you like it or not…
So if you’re not a Christian, or you don’t like it, and you don’t want Christmas celebrated, God bless you! But let me tell you something: if you think you’re gonna stop me from saying it because it offends you, hey, I’ve got a flash for you: PUT A HELMET ON! It’s my country, too!”
Listening to the choir sing We Three Kings, tears welled up in my eyes and began to overflow. I love Christmas, with the colored lights and shiny ornaments and wrapped gifts, the celebrations and get-togethers and baking marathons, but one of my most favorite parts of Christmas is the music.
Christmas music has always been a tie that binds our people together; nearly everyone knows the lyrics to the traditional carols and songs and can sing them with a bit of nostalgia. I love that sense of shared tradition and culture and was reminded of it this past Monday when our family attended Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village, as a large group of strangers squeezed together in a horse drawn wagon and sang Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and Jingle Bells; later everyone assembled outside the town hall where a small choir led us all in Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, The First Noel, and Joy to the World while fireworks exploded overhead.
My husband and I were just discussing how when we were children, our schools always put on an annual Christmas concert – not a “holiday” concert, mind you, but a Christmas concert. Phil told me that every grade in his school in Dearborn tried to sing their best on The Little Drummer Boy because his principal had once told them that it was his favorite Christmas song. When I was in high school, our ambitious choir director taught us to sing The Hallelujah Chorus and we performed it at Holy Family Catholic Church because our school had no auditorium. The church was lit with candles and filled with wreaths and poinsettias and looked simply magical and mystical, as a church should.
Even if they don’t perform in churches, we have lost something of value in our culture by allowing atheists and Muslim immigrants to say that we cannot have school children learn and sing the traditional Christmas songs. No one is forced to believe or accept anything and could simply view the songs as interesting historical and cultural artifacts if they don’t like the Christian themes in them. Rather than enriching us, “diversity” in this way has made us poorer, robbing us of our traditions and culture and turning Christmas into nothing but mindless consumerism and glitz, devoid of our shared cultural heritage.
I don’t oppose gift-giving and Christmas glitziness – in fact I rather enjoy those parts of Christmas – but it is important to realize that those parts are just like icing on a cake. Without the cake, all you have is enjoyable but meaningless fluff that leaves you feeling vaguely unfulfilled. The truly meaningful parts of Christmas that will feed your heart and soul are the celebration of the story of Jesus’ birth (and even if you aren’t a Christian, it is a lovely story, but I must remind you that it is in fact actually a true story) and the celebration of shared cultural and family traditions.