“..For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace and goodwill towards men.’
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
– Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” 1965
The secular answer is that it’s a federal holiday, having been established as such (along with New Year’s Day and Independence Day) by an act of Congress in 1870 “to correspond with similar laws of … every State of the Union.” Ironically, the holiday that seems every year to cause such politically-correct angst amongst our friends on the left was originally enacted in part as an act of post-Civil-War unification. While it wasn’t always so, by the mid 1800’s celebrating Christmas was pretty much universal throughout the country. And since the First Amendment is exactly the same now as it was then, how can anyone seriously think that celebrating Christmas, even on public property, could be a problem?
Let’s be clear. As much as the secular, commercial view of Christmas as a Santa Claus-fueled gift-giving frenzy has become the norm, there is still an underlying reason for the season, even if not everyone remembers or is willing to admit it. As Linus so beautifully pointed out, on Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yes, the celebration of this Holy day has taken on additional secular attributes over the years and as a national holiday it can, and should be, celebrated by believers and nonbelievers alike. There is nothing wrong with that. But Jesus’ birth is still the central point of the day.
When my children were little, like most of you we went along with the whole Santa Claus story, leaving cookies and milk out for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer. We even left “Santa’s hat” in the fireplace one year and had a friend call to ask our children to hold onto it so he could pick it up the following year. But our children always understood what we were really celebrating, right down to the baby Jesus appearing in the Nativity scene on Christmas morning. When they got older and we finally told them the truth about Santa Claus, they took it really well. In fact, my daughter said that she felt sorry for people who don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas because, once they find out about Santa Claus, they have nothing left. As a Catholic, I pray that everyone will eventually come to learn the Truth.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I’d like to remind everyone of the message at the end of that passage that Linus quotes: “on Earth, peace and goodwill towards men.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all, regardless of religious, political, or any other affiliation, embrace those words?
Merry Christmas to ALL!