How come I can’t get a newspaper to print me when I write about stuff I don’t know or research?

xydexx included a link to an article where the author is complaining about the “loss of Christ in Christmas.” And it even closes with the wonderful hook quote:

“If you don’t believe in Christ, then make yourself a new holiday and let us have ours. You can call yours, Happy Materialism Day. Don’t take Christ out of my Christmas.”

Now while I generally deplore the high level of materialism that Christmas has become rife with, I also tend to be irked at people who whine this kind of stuff. It illustrates a complete lack of knowledge about how Christmas came around and what it has been.

As much as I hate to rain on their parade, but what they refer too didn’t ever really exist. It often seems like some mythical former time (only a few years ago) when everything was a solemn and happy celebration of Mary popping a kid-deity without having ever uncrossed her legs. And that celebration just happened to include some light gift-giving and a tree or something.

History is far more interesting than that. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. But I guess it’s a step on the way of becoming a crotchety old man. I wrote a letter in response to the article:


From your article on “Growing secularism at Christmas time worries some” you have the following passage about the usage of “Xmas.””

> “We knew it was about Christmas time when people started putting up
> lights. Today they are putting stuff out in the stores in July. And
> we never dreamed of every saying or writing ‘Xmas.’ That was a big
> thing then, and nobody liked it.”

> When Christmas was shortened to “Xmas” several decades ago, many
> think Christ was removed.

If “decades ago” qualifies as hundreds of years maybe. Below is a note from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:

> Usage Note: Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious
> writing, where the X represents a Greek chi, the first letter of,
> [greek notation of “Christ”] “Christ.” In this use it is parallel to
> other forms like Xtian, “Christian.” But people unaware of the Greek
> origin of this X often mistakenly interpret Xmas as an informal
> shortening pronounced (eks-mas). Many therefore frown upon the term
> Xmas because it seems to them a commercial convenience that omits
> Christ from Christmas.

In your article, the time-frame referred for the loss of the Christmas holiday to secular interest is often referred to in the term of “decades.” That really indicates a complete lack of history in the basis for your article.

The Christmas holiday has long been the scene of a struggle between secular and religious interests.

Probably one of the greatest examples was that in the centuries while our country was still being colonized, the puritanical movement that overthrew the king of England struggled with the same problem.

Basically, Oliver Cromwell tried to ban the holiday outright while controlling England because it had become so purely secular and corrupt in the eyes of the religious leadership. Here is a quote off of a bio of the man:

> Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the
> C17th, Christmas had become a holiday of celebration and enjoyment –
> especially after the problems caused by the civil war. Cromwell
> wanted it returned to a religious celebration where people thought
> about the birth of Jesus rather than ate and drank too much. In
> London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by
> force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration.
> The smell of a goose being cooked could bring trouble. Traditional
> Christmas decorations like holly were banned.

You must remember that the puritans sought to “purify” their religion by removing all secular influences. Pagan festivals and traditions, such as May day, were outright banned. Christmas and Easter celebrations were also disapproved of on the grounds that these holidays were invented by man and nor prescribed in the Bible, and as such, could not be Holy.

Indeed, many of the early settlers of our country, either celebrated the holiday completely in secular tradition, or shunned it as abhorrent. From 1659 to 1681 the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

You also refer to the born-again signers of the constitution, and yet, they themselves likely did not make any Christmas celebration whatsoever. After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favour and this included Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in the US until June 26, 1870.

If you want to discuss argue about the loss of Christ in Christmas, then do so and do so with a knowledge of the long struggle that has centered around this holiday.

Don’t just throw together a few quotes from fiends, slap in some filler and close with a biter like “don’t take Christ out of my Christmas.” It’s a disgrace to your profession and your faith both.


I wish I could have found the quote about folks being willing to restore a king to the throne of England if it meant the got Christmas back. That would have been fun to include.

I think the thing that triggered me writing the letter was the complaint that “Xmas” was something that happened “several decades ago” and represented the “loss of Christ in Christmas.” I have a lot of respect for the history of language and the fact that it represented the exact opposite of that just caused me to wince.

On those same lines, here’s a bit of trivia: Why do people who can’t sign their name write simply an “X?” It’s the same reason the X in Xmas represents Christ. It’s his symbol. And no one would ever countersign or witness the Lord’s name and lie about it, now would they?

Interestingly enough, I’ve heard that countersigning the Lords symbol and lying about it puts you in the 4th ring of hell. I’ve also heard that that ring looks a lot like the DC beltway near the I-270 merge, but I don’t think thats from canonized church literature.

Oh well, off to old-man-grumbly-work now 🙂

16 Responses to “How come I can’t get a newspaper to print me when I write about stuff I don’t know or research?”

  1. sirfox says:

    from one prematurely grumbly old bastard to another, i salute you.
    *applause*

  2. cooner says:

    Did the original writer really call the signers of the Constitution ‘born-again’ …? Because many of them were apparently Deists …

  3. Phil says:

    “Of the 54 signers of the U.S. Constitution, 52 were born-again Christians”

  4. cooner says:

    Rrriiiiiight …

  5. athelind says:

    I second that “Rrriiiiiight”, Cooner.

  6. Phil says:

    Now now now. They would never co-opt all of the protestants and deists into born again Christian just so they could associate the modern connotation of their beliefs with the completely unrelated enlightenment urges of our founding fathers, would they?

  7. cooner says:

    Okay, on a bit of very topical research, “born-again” does not necessarily mean the members of one small, right-wing, evangelical arm of Christianity; it can potentially mean any true Christian: they are “born again” when they are baptized, or take their first communion, or accept Jesus as their savior, or any of various other moments which may or may not be particularly revelatory.

    That said, I still find 52/54 a rather optimistic estimate, considering how many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, swept up in the whole enlightened, revolutionary intellectualism of the day. If 52 isn’t just a number they pulled out of their hat, I’d guess they’re deciding to include anyone who ever mentioned God, the Supreme Being, or Divine Providence in their writings (even though any of those could be Christian, Deist, or anything else).

    And/or, as Bennie pointed out to me, they could just be discounting Jefferson and Madison, the two most obvious anti-Church Founders, and assuming everyone else was Christian.

  8. stormydragon says:

    On a related note, my personal pet peeve is the people who talk about the “Judeo-Christian roots” of our legal system. Our modern jury trial system comes from Norse (i.e. pagan) traditions and was an explicit rejection of the inquisitorial system of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

    There’s a reason the book in the Bible is named “Judges”, not “Juries”. ;>

  9. Phil says:

    That is VERY interesting. I need to pocket that thought in the back of my mind. That would be true of all of the US states (which are based on English common law) except for Louisiana, which is based on French common law, IE, the Napoleonic codes.

    Another little quick is folks who often quote the Biblical “eye for an eye” when wanting revenge or retribution. In biblical times you lost your life for an eye. The calling for “an eye for an eye” is not to incite revenge, it is mitigory.

  10. cooner says:

    But don’t you KNOW that our whole legal system is based on the Ten Commandments?

    It’s all there … “Have no other gods before God” … “Make no graven images” … “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” … “Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy” … “Honor thy father and mother” … It’s all right there, in the Constitution. 😉

    Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie … yeah, none of those appear in any social moral system other than Judeo-Christianity …

  11. sirfox says:

    carlin simplified and summed those up, and tacked on a good one of his own.

    1: Thou shalt always be honest and true to the provider of thy nookie.
    2: Thou shalt try *REALLY* hard not to kill anybody, unless they pray to a different invisible man in the sky that you do.

    and

    3: Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.

  12. rattuskid says:

    Funny part is, that saying isn’t even Biblical.

    “Eye for an eye” comes from Hammirabi Codes, which was from ancient pagan mesopotamia.

  13. yasha_taur says:

    > As much as I hate to rain on their parade, but what they refer too didn’t ever really exist. It often seems like some mythical former time (only a few years ago) …..<

    I have the same feeling about many of the things that the NeoCons and Conservative Christians are trying to achieve. They keep ranting about ‘returning’ to something that never existed, at least as they portray it.

  14. mongologue says:

    Oh, “An Eye for an Eye” is a biblical saying, though it does have roots in the Hammurabic law. It is found bilically in Exodus 21:v23-25: ” If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound.”

    Now, mind, that’s Old Testament. Part of the Sermon of the mount has this challenge: Matthew 5:v38-42: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

    So I’m not much encouraged when people quote that line myself in that context either, Bennie, especially being the biblically knowledgable bible-thumping evangelical sorta-Baptist sorta-Lutheran I am. It’s like “Hey! SERMON ON THE MOUNT here!”

    –Chiaroscuro

  15. rattuskid says:

    Plagarism is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess the old testament just really admires the pagan king who predated them, because I can’t find a footnote.

    Eh, just kidding.

  16. unclekage says:

    If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.

    You mean they had frivolous lawsuits back then, too?

    “I find that the defendent was negligent in allowing his goat to shit on the plaintiff’s sandals. Judgement in favor of the defendent in the amount of one tunic compensatory, plus an additional cloak in punitive damages.”

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