The Jewish Journalism of Joel Shurkin

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Christian War on Christmas

There is indeed a “war” against Christmas. By Christians. The evangelicals and the Fox commentators ought to be reminded of the sagacious Pogo, who exclaimed that he had met the enemy and “he is us.” It is the Christians who have become the enemies of Christmas, certainly in the U.S.

I always thought this was a good time of the year not to be a Christian. I don’t have to be offended by what they’ve done to my most important religious holiday. “They” are not Jews or Moslems or secularists. They are Christians.

Some historical background would be useful here. Christmas doesn’t really coincide with the birth of Jesus. If the New Testament is accurate, he was born in the spring. Remember the shepherds and lambs? There are no lambs in December. The holiday in December derived from the pagan worship of the winter solstice. The Yule tree is one of the pagan symbols, which is why the Puritans banned Christmas trees. In fact, they banned Christmas for several generations because for the holiday’s pagan origins.

Christmas itself was not always the major Christian holiday it is now. Easter was more important. It became a big deal during the Victorian era, at least in the English-speaking world. Most of the Christmas carols, which sound so ancient, actually were written in the 19th century. Americans tend to give credit to Clement Moore and his poem about the night before Christmas, written in 1822, which morphed St. Nicolas into Santa Claus, the holiday’s prime icon—a jolly old guy who drove a sleigh of reindeer and dropped down the chimneys of homes—millions of them simultaneously—to bring presents to the families. You see a lot more pictures of Santa than Jesus these days.

But a more likely fashioner of the modern Christmas was Charles Dickens whose A Christmas Carol (1843), one of several Christmas stories he wrote, created the aesthetics of our current holiday. Think of how many images of Christmas come in Victorian dress. Throw in a little Currier & Ives, and you have our idealized holiday.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Indeed, it’s quite lovely, actually, especially the music. But that’s the ideal. It turns out Christmas is nothing like that at all.

It has become a materialistic orgy with the Jesus part just noise.

When I was a kid, the rule was that the Christmas season began the weekend after Thanksgiving. Now the ads and the decorations begin before Halloween and the ads come in torrents. Christmas has become not a religious holiday, but a commercial event, the biggest of the year. For many businesses, your profit comes in November and December or it comes not at all. I stay out of malls in November and December because the goyim are out in droves shopping and dropping credit cards.

What the hell does any of that have to do with the purported birth of the messiah. Ain’t my messiah, but if he is yours, why aren’t you offended? You cannot name a product that doesn’t have a Christmas ad, sometimes invoking the melodies of carols to sell stuff. From celebration of what you believe is the most important event in history we get a holiday of consumption, materialism and bad taste.

It wasn’t the ACLU that did it. We Jews don’t care what you’ve done to your holiday and I doubt many Moslems do either.

Is there a war on Christmas? Yes, and Christmas lost. And Christians did it.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy New Year. Don't bother me with Kwanza.

And, as my Christmas present to you all, the words of Walt Kelly:

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Kabbalah and evolution—Madonna not withstanding

"The theory of evolution accords with the secrets of Kabbalah better than any other theory. Evolution follows a path of ascent and thus provides the world with a basis for optimism. How can one despair, seeing that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate the inner nature of evolution, we find divinity illuminated in perfect clarity. Ein Sof [the essence or light of God] generates, actualizes potential infinity."
From The Essential Kabbalah; the heart of Jewish mysticism, by Daniel C. Matt.