People forget that "Happy Holidays" includes both Christmas and New Year. So when I wish someone "Happy Holidays" and they say, "No, you mean "Merry Christmas'" I tell them "Fine. Have a *****y New Year."
Yesterday Chris "The Lutheran Zephyr" Duckworth wrote a snarky blogpost about The War on Christmas in which he said:
Even though the Gospel of Luke reports that Jesus brings good news to the poor and sends the rich away empty, to fully participate in Christmas America-style, an upper-middle class income or higher is really necessary, because Christmas in America is about the gifts. (Frankincense, gold and myrrh didn't come cheap, bucko.) And so Christians established Christmas as a holiday that can truly be shared in its ideal form only by those who are well-off, further thrusting Christ into the center of the American yearning for wealth and material goods.
Read the entire post here, and don't miss the comments. Snark begets snark.
Today, Chris posted again. This time his words are more measured. A sample:
And so by the mid-to-late 19th century Christmas was widely celebrated in America, with a growing emphasis on gift-giving and elves, a large man in a red suit and reindeer. Washington Irving's popular writings made celebration of the home and hearth central to our understanding of Christmas. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, widely read in America by the 1860s, further sentimentalized Christmas as a holiday of kindness and compassion.
This is not all bad, but it ain't Baby Jesus, either. The imperative to care for the poor and to share gifts surely has roots in Christian tradition and teachings, and Christians should be glad that the wider culture promotes works of charity at this time of year. But it is hard to deny that in the 19th century Christmas - the Christ Mass - was branded by a variety of cultural traditions and emphases that had less to do with explicitly religious celebrations of the birth of Christ and more to do with good cheer, generosity, and the comfort of the hearth.
Again, the entire post is worth reading. Find it here.
The detail from Giotto's fresco of the Nativity was found here.