Do We Really Want What Passes for Christmas?

Christians around the United States are faced with a mountain of evidence concerning dwindling faith.  This is not a new phenomenon, but the projection of a steady decline that has been in progress for decades.  Saints have been replaced with elves and cuddly creatures, religious symbols with commercial kitsch, and the Holy Event with secular revelry far removed from humble gratitude.  "Joy to the World" is reduced to "The World Is our Joy" and man-made comforts leave little room for the Savior of all.

Interestingly, some zealous believers are madly stuffing the cracks and fissures of the groaning dike with all they can find, when perhaps post-modernism floods and swells would require a different tactic.  The last century has seen the tide of commercialism overtaking the eddies of authentic piety, so that the barking dogs now belt out "Jingle Bells" well before grandma has begun to thaw the Thanksgiving turkey.  What has any of this to do with Emmanuel?

I am torn by the well-meaning crusades to "Put Christ back into Christmas" and inciting avalanches of consumers to insist that pet gifts be properly attributed to the Nativity.  There isn't an entrepreneur in the country who doesn't weigh the prospects of gift-giving in December in his annual totals, counting on the materialistic side of the holiday to launch him solidly into the new year.  Those who dare water down the "Reason for the season" will have angry Christians to deal with, threatening cold shoulders or out-right boycotts.  "Family trees" will not be tolerated, when evidently faith counts on the purchase of a "Christmas tree" complete with baubles and glitter to captivate the young ones.  And yet the store managers scratch their heads and wonder.

Does our faith really rest on this?  Does a properly named tree enhance the soul?  Will pet gifts extend the Kingdom if they are designated as being for Christmas instead of consigned to "holiday" bins?  Why must we mount this battle to assure the proper categories in the materialistic frenzy?  It would seem as though our campaigns are at cross purposes.  We want to diminish the distractions and help believers to focus on the Christ-Child.  We want to embrace the poverty of the crib with purified hearts — hearts that have spent the four weeks of Advent properly preparing.  We want all souls to understand authentic freedom and choose God, Who deigned to give Himself as Cherished Gift, fulfilling all needs, and answering all prayers.  We want the humility of Bethlehem to stand in marked contrast to the wild excess of hedonism and selfishness.  How do noisy campaigns objecting to "Happy Holidays" help accomplish any of this?

 If the West has moved past its Christian roots and found them unconvincing, the haughty insistence of past glory carries no weight.  That means that while Judeo-Christian wisdom was the bedrock of the country's foundation (praise God!), if the present generation no longer believes, we cannot force them to observe our feasts.  If a shopkeeper wants to sell to Wiccans, the market is his playground.  If African-Americans want to subscribe to a hodge-podge of customs born of good will, then it is their right.  If secular rabble-rousers want to "rock around the Christmas tree," then by all means give them room.  Such is the order of the day as the true faith increasingly slips into hiding.

Shouting down the materialist mob and demanding that they wish their customer "Merry Christmas" only adds to the cheapening of the greeting.  It's a badly tarnished phrase bearing little resonance to the holy exchanges to which we're called.  Each year, I find more and more to wonder over in Advent.  It's more and more difficult to long for a Savior I find sprinkled meaninglessly amongst reindeer, snowmen, and tinsel.  Should Advent be a yearly battle of the "culture wars" or a retreat into silence and oblation?

The five week Christmas-blitz leading up to the feast has already bull-dozed the wise preparation that Holy Mother Church has always asked for.  The Twelve Day feast limps along, usually petering out in the first week, and the joy that should last until Candlemass is long-since heaved to the winds with the New Year's hats and horns.

Let it go.  Stand in contradiction to the premature revelry and the misguided festivities.  Give the world over to the world.  Go into your rooms, shut the doors and pray — pray for fidelity, pray for oblation, pray for true peace.  Such an example to our children would be far more helpful than to demand that the world pay lip-service to a God it will not honor.  It didn't receive Him upon His birth, and now it mocks Him on His annual feast.  Branding the mockery as "Christmas" only heaps scorn on our Beloved.  Let it go.

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  • Guest

    I agree; squawking and blatting about the need for Christianity in Christmas like Professionally Aggrieved Grievance Professionals is perhaps one of the very worst forms of Christian witness I can imagine.

  • Guest


    I agree with much of what Genevieve says BUT, I believe that many of us are just trying to keep the powers that be from erasing us. And they ARE trying to erase the name of Christ out of Christmas.


    The least they can do – they very least, is to acknowledge why they buy and sell. Our prayers are obviously always needed.


    I will certainly never shop at any store that replaces words that have been around for decades and many will join me.


    Merry, Happy, Holy Christmas


    AndyP/Doria2       Yonkers,  NY





  • Guest

    A solid foundation in the faith supplies everything we need to put up with the more secular, worldly activities that surround the Christmas celebration.

    Certainly, we can decry the commercialization and the all too common focus of giving and getting things. But to what end? There have always been factions in the church ruminating about less than Christian customs diluting the faith.

    So far, I don't think they have. The problems we face have little to do with early decorating and ho ho ho songs. And if people want to spend their money on presents and give them away, well why not? Its their money. Its their time, and while we may have originated the holiday, we don't have a lock on it.

    Rather than getting upset when someone wishes me a happy holiday, I simply accept the expression in the spirit it was given. It beats "bug off" by a long shot. I simply smile and wish them a merry Christmas right back, and I mean it. As often as not, they smile and wish me a merry Christmas too! Sometimes they follow up with a comment about people not saying that anymore, and that its too bad. I'll smile and tell them that I say it and I mean it.

    Another convert. 

    We tell people that they shouldn't judge the church by a few, well, maybe more than a few pedophiles in backward collars. We should do the same by not judging others because, for whatever reason, they choose to say happy holidays.

    Keep the faith. Go to church. Observe Advent. Celebrate Christmas into January or heck, all the way to Easter if you want. But being overly bothered by what are surely distractions from what its all about is just a different, back-ally way of getting caught up in the secular things that bother us in the first place.

    By being a good Christmas example to the rest of the sheep, and with a little hope and faith, we can bring a lot of people back from the noise and the hubbub without ever even knowing it.

    I really believe that. I guess I can't prove it, but isn't that the definition of faith? I believe it without always seeing it.

    Merry Christmas! 



  • Guest

    However that is not the battle, the battle is that cashiers are fired and threatened with firing if they are to mention Merry Christmas. It is about killing Christmas in the marketplace. I have a right to say Merry Christmas just as a witch has the right to say happy Winter Soltice but no one is forbidding the witch but they are warning and threatening the Christian.

    I do not play the hype game at my house. My four children get only a few gifts not hundreds of dollars worth of gifts and I don't start buying them in July to be "organized" but when we go out to buy for the giving trees in our parish every year I want them to have a sense  of Christmas as a season set a part even if the secular world gets the meaning all wrong. I don't live at the mall either and my children only visit stores to go shopping at Christams time or to spend their birthday money so for them it makes Christmas huge in their eyes. They want to know how God got all the stores to go along with Christmas, a Christian holiday obliterated from their public schools in my county. We want that name used and said because  it may be the only prayer a person may say. Remember it is Christ's name and His memorial all in one word. All the other people have their words out there let's make sure we don't lose our word because one day people with have to grapple with the reason for why it is still called Christmas. Besides my Jewish friends love Christmas and the joy it brings and even if it is all for the wrong reasons it brings people together and I can't believe that is a bad thing. Wiccan witch, Jewish Rabbi, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, animal lovers and many other people meet for the first time in those horrible lines and maybe we have nothing to disagree about for the first time. We all agree that it is taking too long and we all agree it that we would only do this for a special person and reason. Don't sell God short He uses what we give him good or bad.

  • Guest

    This well meaning and eloquent essay certainly makes the case for the wholesale (no pun intended) reform of Christmas, not to mention just about every other Christian observance, but would have us shuttered up in our homes instead of rolling up our sleeves and being salt and light to the world.  Yes, indeed, we can and must pray for the salvation of the world as an example to our children, but whether or not we have been blessed with children, and whether or not they are still at home of off on their own, men and women of good will must demonstrate to them in word and deed that we must meet the sinner on his turf, just as our dear Lord did in today's Gospel, and just as his disciples have done so throughout the course of history.   Yes, reform the Christmas traditions in our homes and communities, but don't hide the Faith under a bushel basket, or behind closed doors when there is so much of the Lord's work to be done.  Noble Eleazar in today's first reading wasn't put off by mockery, and certainly our Lord was not, and we must not if our goal is to spread the Good News far and wide.


    Happy (and blessed) Thanksgiving,

    God bless you and yours, TJO (2 Cor 5:14)

  • Guest

    "If the West has moved past its Christian roots and found them unconvincing, the haughty insistence of past glory carries no weight."

    I'm sorry, but I have to disagree.  The "Christmas War", as it were, is more than Western culture moving on past its Christian roots.  We're now moving towards persecution towards Christianity.  Anything that smacks of Judeo-Christian religion is not tolerated by the "tolerable elite".  I understand that Christ told us we would be persecuted in His name.  And I will accept that persection if it be His will.  However, to not let the persecutors know what they are doing; and perhaps change them in the process seems to me to be the wrong thing to do.

    Didn't we just have an Old Testament reading at Sunday Mass a few weeks ago where a Jewish family was being put to death because they would not eat pork?  Rather than offend God, they chose death.  However, it seemed to me that they went rather loudly, telling their murderers that "They would never see the Resurrection" because of their deeds. 

    There is a time to accept persecution; but there is also a time to teach, remind; and perhaps re-awaken lost faith.  To me, it seems like this is the time.

  • Guest

    I don't post much, but I enjoy reading some really insightful stuff in these comments. When I do post, I usually leave it at that.

    But one comment that gives me pause is the firing of cashiers for saying Merry Christmas…I'm sure it has happened, but are there any hard statistics or documented examples showing this to be a wide-spread phenomena? How common is it really? 


    I'm in management, and I suppose since I said before that I say merry Christmas all the time, it may indeed be easier for my employees to do the same. (I run a credit union, so we work for the general public…)


    My companies "official line" is happy holidays", but there has never been one case in twenty-four years of me working there that an employee has been fired, threatened or even cautioned about the traditional greeting.

    I could be wrong. Been so many times and it wouldn't be the last, but considering how dangerous, legally, it is to fire employees for real cause these days, I wonder how all those wrongful discharge suits over "Merry Christmas" are missing the news.

    Oh well, I hope everyone has a happy holiday, and a bright and cheery MERRY CHRISTMAS to them! 



  • Guest

    Yahoooo! Thank you, Genevieve! Much needed and so well put. "Let it go." Be a real witness of faith. Use words when you have to. Yes, speak up if prompted. But mostly, let others wonder "why does he/she stand aside and the rest of us rush." Let them wonder why you don't really care whether the pet gifts in all the stores are "nativity oriented" or not. And they WILL wonder! Now that I have small children, I finally got so fed up with Christmas last year that I took a completely different approach than just trying to muddle my way through and explaining away why Santa is in the grocery store AND the car commercials… I did the same with Easter. Both became truly grace-filled times for my family. I'll go a bit further this Advent. I'll remove familiar decoration from my home. Take down my artwork etc. It will feel noticably starker and more bare. I won't touch the "Buy Now" button until after Guadette Sunday. I know, how will things ship in time for Christmas? Trust me, it worked last year. And I live in a fairly remote place where there is no "shopping" so to speak. We do celebrate St. Nick on the 6th as a fortaste and a bit of fun for the children. And we will celebrate Christmas in a big sensory way with color and smells and beauty…. chocolate, brandy….but we'll wait. The kids loved it last year. Two other mom-friends wondered what we were doing and I told them about Advent. They had no idea! And in their own ways implemented the "dark before the dawn" in their own "Holiday" preperations. Thank you Holy Catholic Church, who in your great wisdom purifies us through the Holy season of Advent so that we may know more fully what is mankind's greatest treasure, Jesus. 


  • Guest

    I worked in retail management for about 5 years.  The only way I kept from hating Christmas altogether was to compartmentalize Secular Christmas from Religious Christmas.  Even though I'm out of retail, I still consider them to be two separate holidays, and act accordingly. 

    For example, I don't put up any Christmasy decorations inside or outside until a day or two prior, and keep them up until Epiphany.  An unexpected bonus is that I usually get a tree for free!

  • Guest

    wonderful essay and wonderful comments- I love you guys : )

    Advent, like courtship and other times of waiting and growing deeper in understanding is more important than ever

    instant and everyday gratification isn't as much fun as we thought it would be!

    we couldn't celebrate from October to Dec 25 years ago because no one could afford that– now we can and we realize how nice it was to save something "for special"  


  • Guest

    God loves you .

    This Advent, indeed, starting right now, add an eleventh Hail Mary to every decade of every Rosary. Call it your ‘golden ornamental Hail Mary’, and ask Mary to use it to decorate heaven’s creche, and inspire hearts and souls to find the Christ child in their celebrations.

    Maybe, your golden Hail Marys can be your ‘instant gratification’ for knowing how much God enjoys your special attention in His special Advent season.

    And, I urge added family prayers, daily, around a suitable Advent wreath. It is a good time to remember, too, that you (and I and all) are already ‘buried’ in gifts from God. Family prayer time could be a good time to reflect, to engage each other’s gifts.

    May Christ’s Mass a month and some days from today (“only 29 praying days until Christmas!”) find you in joy and peace, for my early seasonal prayer for you.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    I do what smoskalski does. That's why it's too early for me to even comment on this. Ohhh… O.K. quickly, "Let it go" works for me. Think turkey.

  • Guest

    "It didn't receive Him upon His birth, and now it mocks Him on His annual feast.  Branding the mockery as "Christmas" only heaps scorn on our Beloved.  Let it go."



  • Guest

    Thanks so much Pristinus, for the "eleventh" Hail Mary!  Perfect—absolutely perfect. 

     Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    I teach 8th grade faith formation.  We just finished the chapter on the liturgical calendar.  I use the word "gift" when referring to the liturgical seasons the Church gives us.

    Last week, which was my last class with my kids before the baby, I emphasized the traditional penitential nature of Advent, ergo the purple vestments.  I asked them to remember why we needed a savior to be born at Christmas:  we're sinners.  Advent is the time to reflect on the fact that we're redeemed by Christ.  I gave them some suggestions for small mortifications like leaving some food on their plate at dinner. I suggested they say extra prayers and, of course, go to confession during Advent.

    I reminded them that Advent prepares us to truly rejoice and celebrate our salvation  for several weeks during the Christmas season.

    I completely agree with smoskalski .  I compartmentalize secular versus Religious Christmas.  My heart does ache for the blaspheme that secular Christmas is.

    Well, I'd better prepare my Advent wreath….you never know the hour……..  

    Great Article!  Thank you! 

  • Guest

    Trust me, cashiers being fired for not saying "happy holidays" is very real. I know because I was one of them. I worked for a large restaurant/gift shop chain well known for the rocking chairs on the front porch. We were told last year to say "happy holidays" when answering the phone. No discussion, no questions, just say it or be fired. To make a long story short, I resisted and lost my job. The reason you don't see these stories in the news is because they're not interested, they couldn't care less. (I tried.) It used to be that Christians were fed to the lions for standing up for their faith, now they feed us to the lawyers. I think Christians need to be countercultural. I'd rather have people wondering what is so important to me that I would lose my job over it, than just blending in with the crowd so I won't look bad.   

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    You’re welcome, on a journey.

    Try this one, too.

    After each ‘Eternal Father . . .’ of the Divine Mercy chaplet, before the next ‘For the sake of Your sorrowful passion . . .’
    insert an Our Father and a Hail Mary –
    gratis for one’s intentions beyond seeking mercy.

    I use these additions to thank the Lord and Mary for the Rosary being available in other ways. But, any can pray it to offer intention that Christ is in our Advent toward having Christ at Christmas.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In the Suffering of Christ, and in His hope of His Resurrection,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …