So I was watching a few holiday-themed videos from some of my regular stops on YouTube the other day and I couldn’t help but see some loudmouthed holier-than-thou troll blabbering on about how Christmas is un-Christian and worships Nimrod and is a pagan occult holiday with a red man bringing coal to children and so on and so forth. Now, I’ve been a Christian all my life, have read the Bible cover to cover, and have heard arguments like this six ways from Sunday School in varying shades of derangement, and really, this is the kind of thing people like to make a fuss about when they get off on telling people they’re wrong (folks who insisted the millennium started on January 1, 2001, I’m looking at you). Which is one of the most insufferable kinds of curmudgeonly jerks there is, and incidentally, this determinedly contrary mindset is where liberalism comes from.
Anyway, if these people had a point, then it might be worth considering in the whole “keep Christ in Christmas” versus “we wish you a Merry Fridge Day so come in and buy paint” battle. They don’t. It is true that elements of the holiday originate in pagan customs such as the Winter Solstice celebration, the decoration of an evergreen tree, the omniscient guy with the white beard doling out reward or judgment (resembling more of Thor or Odin than the Judeo-Christian God), singing songs about a king, and so on. But these are only elements of Christmas just the same as a turkey with stuffing is only an element of Thanksgiving–the underlying meaning and purpose of the holiday are the same with or without the traditional festivities and trappings (even if you only consider Thanksgiving a time to eat a lot of food, you can and many people do substitute ham in for the turkey and proceed to gorge accordingly).
Christianity as founded had two holidays, one the Jewish feast of Passover (which ended up evolving into our modern Easter celebration to commemorate the resurrection) and Pentecost (a holiday many people have not even heard of which commemorates the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into the nascent Christian church). Celebration of the birth of Christ didn’t originate with the church but you know what, who cares? The history of Christmas and how it came to be is out on the internet and too long to really get into here, but the point of it is that Christianity is a religion founded on the theme of “everybody gets to participate.” You didn’t have to be born Jewish, you didn’t have to be born Arab, you didn’t have to be born Indian or Chinese or any other nationality to be included, everybody who just believed in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice got to come along for the ride. It’s natural and even logical for such a religion, seeking to be accepted and understood and even adopted by a multitude of cultures, to both adopt a holiday that was both unique to itself and comprehensible as a birthday celebration (especially considering the focus on Christ’s birth in the gospels), and then to adapt elements of other celebrations to itself. Christmas has assimilated all of these things into one seamless theme, bringing them under the same umbrella as angels and shepherds and birth in a stable from a virgin girl.
The real proof that Christmas has absorbed and taken over all of these elements is if you tell an average person where things like the Christmas tree and Santa Claus and such come from, their reaction is normally one of surprise or fascination, whereas if you asked an average person what any given and even obscure element of Christmas was connected to, they immediately tell you “that’s Christmas.” And the kicker is that if you ask an average person what Christmas is all about, even nonreligious folks or outright atheists will tell you it’s a celebration of the birth of Christ, or at least that’s where it started. Some will be more disdainful of that than others of course, while others will quickly follow up with “well now it’s just a disgusting promotion of capitalism and consumerism,” at which point it’s perfectly acceptable to get your friend to distract them while you shove a handful of snow down the back of their “I’m With Her” shirt. But even their innate knowledge demonstrates conclusively that seriously, nobody is out celebrating Woden or Winter Solstice or any of these old bygone rituals with these things that Christians said “hey, that’s a pretty cool idea, we’re going to do that now” and then proceeded to outlive the cults and pseudoreligions that came up with the practices in the first place.
As I said before, Christmas has been winning the war on Christmas for over two thousand years now. Empires and churches and kings arrayed against it couldn’t stop it, and neither will shrieking social justice snowflakes or internet trolls.