The Christofascist War on Christmas

The holiday season is upon us once more, a time of fellowship, peace and love…Oh, and the snarling Christofascstis are coming to the feast and they’re bringing lies, hatred, and intolerance while they’re looking for the usual bogeymen, those nasty liberals and progressives who want to throw them and their holiday to the lions.

Instead of carols they begin their long litany of abuses against them, wars on Christianity, wars on Christmas. It’s an old meme; a tiresome, sing-song lament that will likely never go away. They claim they are fighting for freedom of religion but they are really only fighting for the freedom of their religion to trump all other religions, and as any sane person knows, there is a world of difference between to two.

It has been widely recognized though not universally accepted that December 25 (in fact that whole stretch of days between the Winter Solstice and New Years Day) is Pagan in origin. The Christofascists don’t like that. In fact, they hate it. And it doesn’t matter how long the list of facts or citations or scholars you present: it just ain’t so, they say. It’s their holiday, and we (liberals, feminists, secularists, atheists, pagans, gays and lesbians, blacks) are stealing it.

Listen to that Catholic resident anti-Semite, ranter-in-chief and President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue:

  • “There is something sick about Friendship Trees, Winter Solstice Concerts, Holiday Parades and Holly Day Festivals. The neutering of Christmas extends to the banishment of Nativity Scenes from the public square, the expulsion of baby Jesus from crèches not otherwise forbidden, the banning of red and green at school functions, the censoring of “Silent Night” at municipal concerts, etc…. By celebrating Christmas we are celebrating diversity. Don’t let the cultural fascists get their way this year.”
  • Cultural fascists invoke ‘diversity’ every December as cover for neutering Christmas—they never choose some other month to practice their multicultural religion. And by the way, who are these people from other religions who hate Christmas? I never met one. It would be more accurate to say that it’s precisely the persons who make this charge who hate Christmas.”

But Christmas is not a celebration of diversity. Certainly a Catholic ought to know better than to say something this blatantly stupid. Christmas, for Christians, is a celebration of the birth of the son of their particular god (at the time the god of a tiny little sliver of humanity). That’s not diversity. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

And what’s this business about hating Christmas? I don’t hate Christmas. I’m a Heathen. We call it Jól (Yule) and it runs from the Winter Solstice to New Years – yep, twelve days, just like in the good old Heathen days of yore. Is there a problem with me having my holy days at the same time of year, Mr. Donohue? My folks were there first, you know. I mean, we have a prior claim on the time period in question. And we’re not alone. Any Pagan you care to name out of the Mediterranean and Europe has that same prior claim to the time period in question. By celebrating our holy days we are not hating yours.

We get it from the Tea Partiers too. This holiday season (yes, Bill, I said it – HOLIDAY SEASON) we have Jim Inhofe refusing to participate in Tulsa’s Holiday Parade of Lights until organizers put “Christ” back in the event’s title. Last year’s nugget was this:

“Bottom line is Christmas is about Christmas,” said Erin Ryan, president of the Redding Tea Party Patriots. “That’s why we have it. It’s not about winter solstice or Kwanzaa. It’s like, ‘wow you guys, it’s called Christmas for a reason.’ “[1]

Bonnie Ricks, of the Christian Post, offered these thoughts:

As we near the time of Christmas, we see the decorations going up. the people madly shopping for gifts. the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Now is the time to stop and reflect just why we really celebrate this time. As Christians, we are the only ones who know the real meaning of Christmas and why it is a time of celebration and what that celebration means to all who will believe. If there were no Jesus, there would be no Christmas.[2]

And we can’t leave out Bill O’Reilly. As Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post wrote last year,

Bill O’Reilly has been, on a yearly basis, one of the most fervent and shrill public figures, wailing about the supposed War On Christmas, because he is precisely dumb enough to believe that Christianity, which has enjoyed an unprecedented run of absolute, total success in the United States – such that every single person who’s run the country has been a Christian (and such that it’s the only religious holiday in the world that’s allowed to put their decorations up TWO MONTHS IN ADVANCE) – is actually fundamentally threatened each time a shop clerk opts to say “Happy Holidays.” O’Reilly likes to cast himself as some sort of speaker of truth to power, but it’s really all about his pinheaded sense of victimhood.[3]

And that’s the problem with Christofascist logic – you folks claim, along with sole ownership of the divine, sole ownership of a calendar date – a date which moreover was not originally attached to your god at all. It was attached to Sol, Mithras, Attis and others. It was not attached to Jesus until 350 C.E., when Pope Julius I ordered Christmas to be celebrated on December 25. Christmas arrived on December 25th in Constantinople in 380 and it’s not until 386 that we find John Chrysostom, in Antioch, ordering Christmas to be celebrated by the Christian community there on December 25.

Despite the dates given above, many arguments have been raised by Christofascists with regards to proprietary ownership of Christmas, including the absurd charge that the Pagans stole Christmas from the Christians (!) but of course, as so often happens, conservatives (religious like political) tend to be bad with history, whether recorded, filmed, or, as in this case, written down, in this case the testimony of Dionysius Bar-Salibi, twelfth century bishop of Amida, who wrote:

The reason, then, why the fathers of the church moved the January 6th celebration [of Epiphany] to December 25th was this, they say: it was the custom of the pagans to celebrate on this same December 25th the birthday of he Sun, and they lit lights then to exalt the day, and invited and admitted the Christian to these rites. When, therefore, the teachers of the church saw that Christians inclined to this custom, figuring out a strategy, they set the celebration of the true Sunrise on this day, and ordered Epiphany to be celebrated on January 6th; and this usage they maintain to the present day along with the lighting of the lights.[4]

And we don’t have to rely on a 12th century bishop for this fact. We can go back further, to Epiphanius (ca 310-403), who tells us so (Pan. LI.22.3-7 and 29.4-7). And around 428 CE John Cassianus (Collationes X.2) reported that Epiphany in Egypt is ‘by ancient tradition’ believed to be the time for both the baptism and the birth of Jesus.” As it happens, January 6th is still Christmas Day in the Orthodox Church.

I don’t know where this leaves the alleged war on Christmas, but it doesn’t leave it on firm ground. Right now it’s a seasonal politico-religious hand-grenade ready to be tossed the way of liberals and progressives who dare stand up for the diversity of religious belief. Get ready to toss it back, and arm yourselves with the facts.

The real war on Christmas is being waged by the Christofascists themselves, by turning a season of love and joy into a time of lies and recrimination, replacing peace with contention and stoking at atmosphere of hate. If you want your holy day, celebrate your holy day. We will all be doing the same, and there is no reason on  Earth we can’t be all doing it at the same time, without rancor. So leave the sticks and stones at home and turn your thoughts, and your words, to what’s important to you.

Notes:

[1] Amanda Winters, “Redding woman’s Christmas carol initiative picks up allies,” December 8, 2009, Americans United for Separation of Church and State http://www.redding.com/news/2009/dec/08/redding-womans-christmas-carol-initiative-picks/

[2] The Christian Post, December 3, 2008, http://christianpost.com/article/20081203/the-reason-for-the-season.htm

[3] “O’Reilly’s War on Christmas Goes Retail,” November 6, 2008. The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/06/oreillys-war-on-christmas_n_141896.html And as Linkins points out, this is a real insult to people who actually are experiencing persecution because of their religion (Hint: that would include us Pagans).

[4] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (Yale University Press, 1997), 155, quoting from the Latin of G.S. Assemani, Bibliotheca orientalis Clementino-Vaticanae 2 (Rome 1721), 164.

25 Replies to “The Christofascist War on Christmas”

  1. “It’s called Christmas for a reason!” These and other stellar arguments coming from a certain quarter make me wish we could revoke certain people’s pay until they read something that will qualify them to speak as an expert on anything related to their job.

    Happy Holidays, Hraf:-)

  2. I almost tagged on a “Happy Holidays” at the end there, Sarah. Happy Holidays to you too and I’d be proud to march in any holiday parade, especially any Inhofe was afraid of.

  3. I second that! :-D It must be pretty hard work to be one of their ranks – feeling threatened by Christmas trees, fearing that almighty conspiracy of shop clerks, dreading the day your culture will be forecully subjugated by gift wrapping and infernal garden decorations… these people don’t exactly stand out as glittering pinnacles of mental health. Still, I’d love to know what goes on at their office Christmas parties. It is, after all, the time of year when you can really let it all hang out, haha!

  4. Isn’t that sort of piggish self-absorption the exact sort of decandence they wail against?

    Demanding that the world revolve around you is the height of arrogance. And stupidity.

  5. I think a few people here know my feelings on religion, but I will say that I am 100% for the full expression of Christmas. When I see people I know I say Merry Christmas. I am totally against people having to say happy holiday. When I lived in Michigan most of my life I truly enjoy the Christmas season. Not so much for the reason that just for the airs that were put on with it. the lights, the snow will the people in the store is acting like total jerk outs.
    I don’t know who started this happy holiday stuff and I don’t care. No member of any religion should be threatened or unsettled during a Christian holiday. I say that simply because any religion in America should be free to express itself the same as Christianity should. I don’t know what holidays the Moslems have, and quite frankly I don’t care about their holidays anymore than I do Christianity’s holidays. But whatever they have they should be totally free to express it. If Christianity is expressed in our schools than any other religion’s holidays should also be at rest in our schools. In our streets, in our stores and anyplace in the United States all religion should be totally free to express themselves. The only enemy of that occurring will come from the opposing religions themselves. If Christians have anything derogatory to say about the Moslems, then the Muslims should have the right to say derogatory things about the Christians.
    I think this is a BS situation created by Christians to try and hog all the attention for themselves. I think that each religion needs to get over itself, allow its own followers to express their own holidays and mind their own freaking business
    good article Hraf.

  6. Thank you, Shiva. You know, I don’t care if people say “Merry Christmas” to me – I’m not offended in the least because they mean it in a positive way. It’s well wishes and well wishes should be welcome. I usually say “Happy Yule” (most people don’t know what Jól is) but I have no problem talking about “Christmas” if I’m talking to a Christian. You speak the language people understand. It’s not about clubbing them over the head with your own beliefs.

  7. i dunno about religious nuts ruining christmas but i see alot of atheists attacking christmas now. people who believe in nothing telling others what to believe, ironic. makes me sad people are that ignorant. people just need to let people celebrate w.e they want and not make a big deal about it. what ever happened to tolerance?

  8. I hope many people read this and realise the close mindedness of the so-called Moral Minority.

    Every year here in the UK the press try to make a big thing about Christmas being banned in certain areas so as not to upset the Muslims/Jews/Pagans but every year it is shown to be absurd and in some cases downright lies

    I agree with the article, Christmas should be a Christian celebration, go for it I say, but leave me to celebrate my Sun and those who wish to celebrate Kwanzaa and any others to celebrate in thier own ways.

    Be Well and Be Happy

  9. Nice article. This is the first op-ed I’ve read on the internet in a while that actually has citations to books.

    Astronomer Dave Reneke discovered that Jesus was born near June 17, assuming the star appeared over the holy land before his birth.
    Link to dailymail.co.uk article

  10. I think you’re missing (part) of the point – it’s not so much that Christians think Christmas is the only holiday on December 25th, it’s the idea that you can’t say “merry Christmas” to anyone because it might offend them. It’s the attempt to be overly politically correct that gets their ire. Some clerk at a store should be allowed to say “merry christmas” without the someone getting offended. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas you should be able to say “happy winter solstice” without anyone getting offended.

  11. I wish they would cancel Christmas. It is not about peace and love anymore, it is about “spend baby spend”. I spent 12yrs in Catholic school and went to a Baptist University for my BS and MBA, so I am not some atheist scrooge. I just hat the all the Christmas crap and all the commercialism. The Jews have it right, keep it simple. If the Christofascstis want to take Christmas, let them.
    Who ever invented Santa Clause? I hope he rots in hell.

  12. FTA – “It has been widely recognized though not universally accepted that December 25 (in fact that whole stretch of days between the Winter Solstice and New Years Day) is Pagan in origin. The Christofascists don’t like that. In fact, they hate it. And it doesn’t matter how long the list of facts or citations or scholars you present: it just ain’t so, they say. It’s their holiday, and we (liberals, feminists, secularists, atheists, pagans, gays and lesbians, blacks) are stealing it.”

    Hard hitting and 100% correct. As an atheist, I prefer to have the pinnacle of my winter celebration on Winter Solstice, although the whole history of these holidays ultimately derives from a pagan base.

  13. For most I would say this article is very informative. I had previously known all the facts you had stated about Christians moving Christmas to the 25th of December, mostly to convert people of other religions already celebrating at that time of year. And actually, you left out that there is evidence in the bible itself (although the specific day or even time of year is never stated) that Jesus was most likely born in the summer. I also know and admit these things even though I am a Christian myself. However, whether it is your intention or not, your article makes blanket statements that would most likely offend most Christians. This is because you touch on true concerns of “regular” Christians (like the limiting of public support of a private individual for their religion) and spread that to, as you call them, Christofascists, who are openly and offensively critical of those who don’t have the same faith. By doing so you are creating this big, stereotypical group. And to be grouped with such individuals because we may share some core beliefs is, in my opinion, offensive because my attitudes and actions are completely different. Perhaps I am just being over-sensitive, but when reading your article it seems as if you are as aggressive and offensive as I find the ignorance of Bill O’Reilly and the like. In this respect your simply adding more fuel to the fire of intolerance and hate rather than extinguishing the fire with truth and understanding.

  14. @The Dude,

    I appreciate your feedback. I don’t think I’ve created some “big group” that encompasses all Christians. I’ve mentioned very specific instances by some very well known “fundamentalist”-type Christians and labeled them “Christofascists.” I nowhere group all Christians in this category, or deny or criticize the Christian right to celebrate Christmas on December 25. My extended family is Christian and I doubt very much (from conversations with them) that any of them would understand my words in the sense you did. I can only apologize if I was not clear enough.

  15. So Bill Donohue calls guys like you fascist, you call guys like Bill Donohue fascist. Is there any difference? Does it really matter what anyone prefers to call December 25?

  16. Great post, Hraf. Thanks.

    The roots of the antagonism which fundamental Christians (“Christofascists”) have about the perceived usurpation of Christmas lie specifically with the nature of fundamentalism itself. All fundamentalists believe that they are privy to the “One and Only True Way” to religious truth. In addition, they believe that its their religious duty to bring others to the “One and Only True Way.” These beliefs result in the following behaviors and attitudes:

    — an unwillingness to tolerate any other beliefs
    — an aggressive sense of superiority and ownership of religious truth
    — a perception that judgmentalism (which labels non-believers as “lost sinners bound for hell”) is valid and justified
    — a perceived mandate to direct aforementioned sinners to their “One and Only True Way”
    — an undeclared fear or anxiety that others who disagree with their beliefs somehow threatens their own beliefs

    It’s no surprise then that many fundamental Christians have problems “sharing” December 25 and the associated season.

    As for Billo, he’s just cynically using the whole Christmas issue to drum up controversy for his show and his ratings.

  17. “The holiday season is upon us once more, a time of fellowship, peace and love…Oh, and the snarling Christofascstis are coming to the feast and they’re bringing lies, hatred, and intolerance while they’re looking for the usual bogeymen, those nasty liberals and progressives who want to throw them and their holiday to the lions.”

    Really?

    I find it interesting that you would call those you are seeing THEIR holiday (if you don’t believe in anything around Christmas -including its namesake- then perhaps you should NOT CELEBRATE IT) ripped apart, that you would call THEM the fascists.

    I mean if Muslims wanted to put up their own display in public places it would be allowed, because those poor Muslims are just celebrating their religion right? (sarcasm). Really the issue is you hate Christianity and all those in it and so you blog about it to make yourself seem superior to them. So by deduction your a hurting angry person that hates everything and everyone they don’t understand.

    Grow some balls, be a man, and accept differences in people (i find it ironically funny that you would call Christians the haters and the intolerant when you are obviously intolerant and hate Christianity as this is one of about a dozen anti-Christian blog posts I’ve seen from you).

    Hypocrite….

    -A Christian

  18. I feel the need to respond to this in order to clear up a couple of things:

    1) I am not anti-Christian;
    2) The term “Christofascist” refers to “extremist Christians” and is not a term meant to encompass all Christians.

    Now for a few specifics:

    Joel said “I find it interesting that you would call those you are seeing THEIR holiday”

    I was presenting their point of view. That should be clear from the context.

    Joel said, “if you don’t believe in anything around Christmas -including its namesake- then perhaps you should NOT CELEBRATE IT”

    You miss the point entirely, Joel. I believe in many things around “Christmas” though they’re probably not the things you believe. I celebrate December 25, indeed the whole period from the Winter’s Solstice to New Years, because it is holy to me as it was to my ancestors.

    Joel said, “I mean if Muslims wanted to put up their own display in public places it would be allowed, because those poor Muslims are just celebrating their religion right?”

    Wrong. Nobody should be allowed to have religious displays in public buildings or on public grounds unless ALL religions (or non-religions – atheists) can also.

    Joel said, “Grow some balls, be a man, and accept differences in people”

    Again you miss the point entirely. The point of my article is to make clear that those differences exist and that the holiday popularly known as Christmas cannot be “owned” by one religion because historically, that period of the year has always been a holy one, for many religions and many peoples. I am arguing against what you say I am arguing for, and I can only assume that you are letting your own ideology/religion cloud your understanding of this article.

    Anyone who knows me or anything I’ve written would know not to say such a silly thing. But thank you for offering your free psychoanalysis. I will file it appropriately.

  19. Yet you refuse to acknowledge that others who may celebrate at that time are not Christians. For them, your “Christmas” is time off of work, or a pagan sun worship ceremony, or a celebration of winter solstice, Hannukah, or any of a multitude of other observances.

    For someone to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” is actually to recognize the fact that some of the people they encounter might not celebrate the birth of Christ. That means that secular organizations such as retail stores and media outlets tend to use the “Holiday” designation as a catch-all covering any and all types of observances held in December and early January.

    Responding the way you have simply reinforces my impression that many Christians give lip-service only to the tenets of their faith.

  20. Hraf, I tried to comment as soon as it was posted but couldn’t find the place. This is an awesome article and you should not have to make explanations to anyone. If someone cannot get the meaning, it’s their problem. I completely concur with your piece, and it couldn’t be more clear. I think there are some readers who look for a reason to be offended or disagree. Your writing is always clear and prescient. Great writing, as usual and this subject is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for writing it!

  21. Well, the origin was twofold:

    If you are a retailer, why take a chance at offending your Jewish customers by saying “Merry Christmas” to them? Granted, few, if any, Jews I know would take offense, but for retailer, why risk it? Just say Happy Holidays (plural!) and you cover all bases in just two simple words.

    Additionally, since the time between Christmas and New Year is so short, the odds of seeing any particular person between them may be small; you could say “Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” or you could just shorten that to “Happy Holidays!” and cover both.

    Neither of them is a “war” on Christmas; the former, granted, is about recognizing our societal diversity and I guess to BillO, that’s war…

  22. I grew up an atheist and was found by God in 1994. I have no way to convince anyone of a faith based concept like Christianity. I grew up resenting Christians as I was NEVER given the message properly.

    For those in the media and the press who enjoy stirring the pot (for those ratings) from either side, I just smile and know that ones walk is a personal one and those that search will find. :)

    Religion, Catholicism, Baptists, and any other human contrived group never met Christianity unless their soul, their very being, was spoken to by God Himself.

    Man’s way is religion.
    God’s message is Christianity.
    HUGE difference. EPIC difference. THE difference.

    As for Christmas, it reminds me of the term marriage and those who would like to bend it to their MEANING. Call it something else (Yule, etc..), & leave me be as well.

    Appreciate the freedom we all have to express our differences due to our founding father’s foresight (albeit quickly eroding). All of whom were Protestant deists, save for two Catholics (I think).

    We have ALL persecuted, and been persecuted.

    Fight the war between your ears & in your heart and the war in front of you will desist… …too bad that does not garner ratings….

  23. I find it quite odd to refer to Christians as Fascists. The Fascists in Germany tried to destroy Christmas. Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS, pushed for a return to the Germanic pagan roots, based on Odin, Wotan, and other Gods, although they remained a fringe movement, and failed. Himmler had a lot of fans in Norway, btw. There are still small groups in Europe who like to decorate themselves with Nordic runes, usually they are Neonazis. So, I am aware that a lot of Pagans just like to dress silly, but is still creepy for everybody who knows a thing or two about WWII history.

    http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/915/how_the_nazis_stole_christmas.html

    The GDR and the Soviet Union tried likewise and failed as well.

    It is also beyond me why an American pagan would pray to European Gods of nature. Why don’t you pray to the God’s of the Cherokee and the Mohawk?

    http://blog.berlinica.com/

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