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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

Advent - 15 days to Christmas

Monday, December 13 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Putting Dickens
back in Christmas

It's the season to get overwrought again about the further erosion of the true meaning of Christmas, the birthday of the Christchild, our Lord and Savior. Every year it seems to get worse. This year even Target stores are boycotting the Salvation Army, disallowing them to collect Christmas alms in front of their stores, a move that is expected to cost about $9 million to charitable causes based on previous years' collections in front of Targets. And a California-based group is calling for consumers to shop only department stores that specifically say "Merry Christmas" in their store displays.

I'm of two minds about that. On the one hand, making it "Happy Holidays" contributes to further secularization of the season and I am a fully-pledged fighter against secularization. On the other hand, I don't remember specifically whether Shadden's, Levinson's, Glosser Brothers, or even WASP-run Penn Traffic deparment stores specifically put up the words "Merry Christmas" among their holiday trappings, back in the halcyon days of yore, but I doubt that anyone from our time would have insisted that the words in printed form be there. People were generally more outgoing and friendly in those days, and I have no doubt that the words were on the lips of clerks and even management throughout the season. But we've all become accustomed to cool receptions and the attitude that the store "associates" of this decade are doing us a favor by letting us shop in their establishments. And that seems to serve the consuming public right; we're most likely getting what we've asked for

On the other hand (how many hands is that, now?) I'm glad someone's manning the barricades to ask stores to specifically say—or write—Merry Christmas on their decorations, somewhere, at least, between Happy Hannukah and Kwanzaa Blessings. Even if it wasn't done in the "old days," in the Old Days most of us were blissfully ignorant of the existence of Hannukah and Kwanzaa, well, didn't even exist. The least they can do is show us a "Merry Christmas" lapel badge if they want us buying Christmas gifts or trappings on their premises. Who ever said multiculturalism has to be a one way street?.

One of the most interesting items I've seen on this secularizing trend is one by a Hungarian Jewish/Anglican writer from Australia, Imre Salusinszky, writing in The Australian. I'm not sure if Imre is a man's or woman's name, but I'm going with "she." She writes:

I won't be the first to point out, however, that the way we celebrate Christmas today has less to do with Christianity or paganism than with the strange and troubled imagination of a single man—Charles Dickens. It was Dickens who more than anyone established Christmas as being about family—specifically it was about the happy family he was denied as a child and then failed to create around himself as an adult. Last year at this time I read A Christmas Carol aloud to my children...and was struck by the almost total absence of any mention of Christianity. In fact, the foundation of our modern Christmas in this strange and tragic story is one of the oddities of modern culture.

Scrooge and Tiny TimIt's true that Dickens' time was not a golden age for Christianity, and it may be remarkable that his stories about Christmas resonated so much with the public of the early post-Enlightenment Age. On the other hand, it seems that everyone wants to celebrate Christmas (something that Christians of my kind of enthusiasm have a hard time "getting"), and Dickens provided that kind of "Christians" a script for playing out that seasonal role. I'd like to pursue this topic in more depth these next two weeks coming up to Christmas.

What do you think...about any of the ideas introduced thus far? Is Christmas really more secularized now? Do you care? Is commercialization the same as secularization? Were Dickens' themes Christian? What other relatively modern figures or trends have influenced Christmas observances?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

A complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonals for 2004

Christmas chuckles

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukka' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukka!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'

Dave Barry  

Advent thought for today

"At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. ... We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices."

Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)  

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