Who Ruined Christmas?

Christmas gifts
Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a slight majority of people living in the U.S., Christmas is a religious holiday. And yet, those who celebrate Christmas here are more likely to participate in secular traditions than religious ones. So while a majority report believing that Christmas is a religious holiday, the manner in which they choose to celebrate the holiday suggests that the secular aspects of the holiday may be even more important.

Assuming that you are a "bible-believing Christian" who thinks that Jesus - and not axial tilt - is the reason for the season, who is to blame for the extent to which Christmas has been secularized? It had to be those evil secularists and their "war on Christmas" who eventually succeeded in turning Christmas into something far different from a celebration of Jesus, right? I mean, they are the ones who complain when you erect nativity scenes in government buildings. It must be their fault. They are the ones seeking to ban "merry Christmas" and prevent you from putting that plastic Jesus on your yard. Many people have accepted this narrative without realizing that those who push it are raking in the money for doing so. It is little more than lucrative propaganda.

Perhaps this false narrative about secularists sounds more appealing than one which may be far closer to the truth, the one pointing out how Christians have been complicit in the secularization of their own holiday. One of the primary ways Christians have participated in the secularization of Christmas is through their willingness to embrace consumerism run amok. As Austin Cline noted,

Christmas in modern America has far more to do with materialism and consumerism than anything else -- and it's a situation which has been a noticed and discussed problem long before Christian Nationalists created their trumped-up War on Christmas complaints.

He's right. Complaints about the secularization of Christmas predate Fox "News" by decades. Honest Christians have long recognized that Santa has largely replaced Jesus and rampant spending has replaced prayerful reflection.

Austin suggests that Christians could easily reject the secular holiday Christmas has become and return to a truly religious holiday.

Because the "meaning" of Christmas depends upon what people actually do with it, the only way for Christians to realistically reclaim a "religious meaning" for Christmas is to eliminate the secular, pagan, and consumer activities in favor of religious activities. Give to the poor instead of to Wal-Mart. Go to church instead of the mall. Pray instead of gathering around a lit-up tree.

I have to agree with him that this seems quite unlikely. And the reason for that, by and large, appears to be that many Christians prefer the secular version of the holiday.