I just read this absolutely fascinating article over on CNN, with the misleading clickbaited title of “Did Lincoln Start the War on Christmas?” The actual article does talk about Lincoln, it’s true–but it talks about a whole lot more than that. Mentions things like how the post office used to deliver mail on Sundays, or how Christmas was only recognized as a national holiday in the late 1800s. Things I had no clue about and had never heard mentioned before. (Granted, there are a lot of things I don’t know anything about . . . )
But it got me thinking, like the internet has been known to do. So much of what we believe is permanent and immutable is really fluid and fleeting. Culture changes far more quickly than tectonic plates. I liked this quote in particular:
When they champion “Christmas as it was,” they do not mean “Christmas as it was for George Washington or Abraham Lincoln” and much less “Christmas as it was for Martin Luther or Jonathan Edwards.” They mean, “Christmas as it was when I was young.”
Because that’s certainly true for me. I want my children to have the sort of Christmas I had. But the funny thing is that I don’t think even that statement is correct. A better statement would be “I want my children to have the sort of Christmas I remember having.” And once you’re talking about memories, things get really complex. They’re influenced by other things, like time and pop culture, and the further away we get from the time in question, the blurrier those crisp memories become.
No one wants a “war” declared on anyone’s belief system, but then again, I wonder what a “war” consists of. An assault on traditional beliefs, in this case? But how do you define “traditional”? As the article pointed out, federal observance of the holiday has been a fleeting thing. You could just as easily argue that people who don’t want a federally recognized and embraced Christmas have been fighting their own war for 80 years.
I believe we have become too prickly as a people. Too quick to take offense where none was intended, or to go out in search of offenses when none are readily apparent. And whenever we’re told that we’re being too prickly, we’re too quick to go with the toddler defense of “he started it.”
I had a conversation with someone the other day about what is okay to say to other people around this time of year. Some people get upset if you wish them a Merry Christmas, because they’re not Christian. Other people get upset if you wish them a happy holidays, because they *are* Christian, and they demand the full Christmas treatment. I’m of the opinion that I’m just happy when people wish me a happy or merry anything. They’re not required to wish me good will at all, after all.
My advice? Don’t think of the world in an “us vs. them” frame of mind. No one’s declaring a war on anything (or if they are, they’re taking themselves far too seriously). There are plenty of things other people believe that I don’t, and plenty of other things I believe that other people don’t. And that’s okay. I live my life in my own little corner of Maine, and I don’t let news pundits or online columnists or pop culture trends really upset me much. I think I’m happier for it, and I highly recommend that frame of mind.
In the meantime, I hope you and yours all have a very happy day, for whatever the reason. May it be just as good as you remembered it would be.