Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Is Coming - Again!

Well, Christmas is coming again. I wrote about it last year, so I won't rehash what I said then. If you missed it, here's the link:

I do have one crochet to get off my chest. Why do Christian radio stations play "Christmas" songs that don't mention the birth of Jesus? Aren't Christian radio stations supposed to glorify Him? Some Christmas songs don't even mention Christmas! "Winter Wonderland" and "Jingle Bells" are more about winter than anything. They fit in the middle of January as much as they do in December. Have these people thought about this?

I guess these stations are just going along with what's popular. And that brings me to the next topic I want to talk about: Why is Christmas so popular in America? Is it just due to commercialism?

Many of the colonists that came to America were Calvinists. They wanted to get away from the practices of the Catholic Church that they saw as corrupt and pagan-influenced, and so they did not celebrate Christmas. At the end of the American Revolution, most of the people that did celebrate Christmas were Catholic or Episcopalian. The Catholics included many in Maryland and the Hessian mercenaries that had fought for the British. The Episcopalians were dominant in Virginia and the Carolinas. Somehow, the observance of Christmas spread and became acceptable to groups that once ignored it or outright shunned the practice. How did this happen?

I attribute the change to 2 factors: immigration and literature. Music, movies, radio and television continued and amplified the influence of literature.

During the 1800's as the country expanded West, aided by the increasing speed of transportation brought by the development of railroads, and the by the increased speed of communications brought by the telegraph, the promise of new lands and new opportunties spurred an increase in immigration. Many of these immigrants were Catholics, coming from Catholic lands such as Ireland, Poland, and Italy. This increased the number of people observing Christmas.

The contribution of literature to the popularity of Christmas comes from two sources.

First is the poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore in 1822. You could probably recite most of it from memory from having heard it so much. This one piece of literature has defined so much of the imagery associated with Christmas. Of course, the sentiment and whimsey make it irresistable! For this reason it has become a tradition no only in many families, but in other places as well. One of the local TV stations every Christmas Eve has their staff, both on- and off-camera personnel, read the poem, one line per staffer in a video presentation.

Charles Dickens was known for the other great piece of traditional Christmas literature, A Christmas Carol (1843). He wrote other works on Christmas, and his novel A Tales of Two Cities (1859), has an important scene take place at a Christmas Eve service. The popularity of these works just added to the popularity of Christmas. Because Dickens was a lifelong Anglican, his works helped make Christmas acceptable to Protestants.

Of course, the popularity of a practice doesn't necessarily justify it. In the case of Christmas, I believe that what you celebrate has more to do with it than anything. Are you celebrating a day, or an event? The Bible doesn't tell us to celebrate Christ's birth, but it doesn't forbid it either. If you're not celebrating His birth, what are you celebrating? Aren't you glad Jesus was born?