Christmas Holidays are Secularized Cultural Holidays:
Conservative Christians complain about secularists, atheists, and liberals trying to undermine Christmas, but there is little historical understanding and awareness in these complaints. An examination of Christian history indicates that religion has been slowly stripped from Christmas, as well as other Christian holidays, over a long time now and by Christians themselves, primarily the conservative Protestants who are today complaining the loudest.
Michaelmas, a mass traditionally offered on September 29th to celebrate St. Michaels victory over Satan, eventually became the day to settle rents and collect accounts. By the late 1800s in America, it was stripped of all religious significance. Today the date passes without any remark at all, religious or secular. The date has disappeared even for Catholics, who can usually be counted upon to retain most traditional feasts of this sort. Do you even know anyone who has heard of Michaelmas?
All Holy Eve and All Saint's Day:
On November 1, Christian churches traditionally celebrated a feast commemorating the deaths of Christian martyrs who were killed because of their faith. The night before was a traditional pagan holiday celebrating a time when people believed that the dead came back and visited the realm of the living, but Christianity appropriated it. Today, though, there's nothing Christian about these dates in American culture: Halloween has been taken over as secular adult holiday. Read More...
The main part of the Christmas season was traditionally known as Advent and was a time of somber reflection, preparation, and repentance. Christians did not put stockings, ornaments, or Christmas trees up until Christmas Eve. Today the weeks leading up to Christmas are a time of celebrations and shopping; before World War II, Christians used this time to reflect on sins of the world and to prepare themselves for the End Days. People today may have heard of Advent, but few do anything with it.
Childermas was the mass celebrated on December 28th to mark the "Feast of the Holy Innocents" killed by Herod. Today it has completely disappeared it hasn't even been replaced by a more secular holiday such as Groundhog's Day. It's a completely absent holiday that no longer has any meaning, at least not in wider American culture. You probably won't even be able to find anyone outside Catholicism who has heard of it, much less anyone who still celebrates it.
Candlemas & Groundhog's Day:
Candlemas is the Mass Christians used to celebrate "the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple" and the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Celebrated 40 days after Christmas, Candlemas is the true end of the Christmas holiday season for traditional Christianity. By the late 19th century, however, this ancient feast in honor of Mary had been transformed by American Protestants into Groundhog's Day. There's nothing religious about the date in American culture at all anymore. Read More...
Taking the Mass out of Christmas:
Conservative evangelical Christians complain about people taking the "Christ" out of Christmas, but they seem to forget that they have already taken the "Mass" out of Christmas (Mass being a service including Holy Communion). When was the last time a prominent figure on the Christian Right has argued that Americans should remember to attend Mass on this Holy Day? I've never seen it and I don't expect to ever do so. This is just one of many masses that have been excised from the season.
Asking Retailers to Defend Christmas:
Christians want retailers to defend against the secularization of Christmas. This is an error because retailers are the primary reason for secularization. World War II changed things in America because people had to buy gifts early in order to get them to military personnel overseas. After WWII, the early buying season didn't end because retailers got used to the extra money earlier in the year. They thus became driving force behind Christmas becoming a commercialized holiday.
Pagan Symbols vs Christian Symbols:
If Christmas is really a Christian religious holiday, why are so many symbols of Christmas non-Christian? Holly, mistletoe, and Christmas trees are all pagan symbols from winter religious festivals that were simply appropriated by Christianity in order to make conversion easier. Santa Claus is partially a Christian figure, but he incorporates significant pagan and secular elements. Gift-giving, traditional Christmas foods, and many other elements also have nothing to do with Christianity.
America's Secularized Christmas Has Become a Cultural Holiday:
The religious holidays of November and December were designed to help Christians contemplate death and judgment; this, in turn, was supposed to help prepare Christians for the Christmas season when they were supposed to contemplate Jesus, salvation, and heaven. Traditionally, the Christmas season actually lasted through February 2nd, when Christians celebrated the Feast of the Presentation at the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin.
Gift giving occurred throughout January, but most intensely during the 12 days of Christmas, which were the days between Christs Mass and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Yes, it all happened after Christmas day. Today, celebrations of Christmas occur before or on the actual day; afterward, the season is over except for the New Year celebrations which are devoid of any Christian meaning or tradition.
Once the religious elements were stripped from November and December generally, thus taking away practically the entire liturgical calendar, killing the religious elements of Christmas day was the logical conclusion. Protestants helped here as well by eliminating mass on this date. So, the next time a Christian insists that we put the Christ back in Christmas, tell them that they should also:
- Put the Mass back in Christmas
- Restore Michaelmas
- Restore Candlemas
- Restore Childermas
- Restore the Feast of the Epiphany
- Restore the Advent season
- Restore gift-giving to the real Christmas season, which occurs after Christmas day
- Don't put up a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve if at all
- Use Christmas as a day of contemplating Christ, not for engaging in commerce
And this is just for starters. If they refuse to do such things, then they really have no business insisting that America should retain "Christ" in Christmas. Laugh, because their position is just so laughable that there is no way to take them or their complaints seriously.