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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Goodbye Christmas?

Charles Krauthammer: Goodbye Christmas?.

WASHINGTON -- It is Christmas time, and what would Christmas be without the usual platoon of annoying pettifoggers rising annually to strip Christmas of any Christian content. With some success:

School districts in New Jersey and Florida ban Christmas carols. The mayor of Somerville, Mass., apologizes for ``mistakenly'' referring to the town's ``holiday party'' as a ``Christmas party.'' The Broward and Fashion malls in South Florida put up a Hanukkah menorah but no nativity scene. The manager of one of the malls explains: Hanukkah commemorates a battle and not a religious event, although he hastens to add ``I really don't know a lot about it.'' He does not. Hanukkah commemorates a miracle, and there is no event more ``religious'' than a miracle.

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of ... what? The winter solstice?

I personally like Christmas because, as a day that for me is otherwise ordinary, I get to do nice things, such as covering for as many gentile colleagues as I could when I was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I will admit that my generosity had its rewards: I collected enough chits on Christmas Day to get reciprocal coverage not just for Yom Kippur, but for both days of Rosh Hashana and my other major holiday, Opening Day at Fenway.

Mind you, I've got nothing against Hanukkah, although I am constantly amused -- and gratified -- by how American culture has gone out of its way to inflate the importance of Hanukkah, easily the least important of Judaism's seven holidays, into a giant event replete with cards, presents and public commemorations as a creative way to give Jews their Christmas equivalent.

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