Friday, December 02, 2005
My Two Bits on the "War on Christmas," Or, Bring Me The Head of Oliver Cromwell 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Oliver Cromwell's headBy the way, those of you who assert that the Christmas tree is a purely Christian symbol, and are offended by suggestions it originated in a pagan context, know that history points to the fact that evergreen Christmas Trees seem to have been a pagan Germanic/Druid innovation. December and January have historically been cold, scary, and boring,* and people have been stuck indoors trying to keep their nourishment, spirits, and indoor temperatures high, while avoiding annoyances like chilblains, the Black Plague and Oliver Cromwell's goose-stepping goose-snatchers.

Just be thankful you're not living in England during his reign - not that some people we know wouldn't enjoy making America a 'Cromwellian Paradise,' except with Wal-Marts. There's been a lot of kerfuffle lately about the "War on Christmas" - well, let me tell you about a real "War on Christmas":
Cromwell banned Christmas as people would have known it then. By the [17th Century], 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.

...Cromwell was buried in Westminster Abbey. [Later] his body was put on trial, found guilty [of regicide] and symbolically hanged from a gallows at Tyburn (near Hyde Park, London). What was left of his body remains a mystery. Some say the body was thrown on to a rubbish tip while others say it was buried beneath the gallows at Tyburn. His head was put on display in London for many years to come.
Okay, so department stores are greeting customers with a generic "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas," are there's a flurry of disputes over whether state buildings can feature Christmas-themed displays with Christian imagery, and so on. My two cents? If someone wishes me "Seasons Greetings" (besides management-mandated canned greetings, thank you), I'll take it as the person offering me their good holiday wishes without a desire to make an assumption about my religious beliefs. Personally, if the person I'm greeting is only a casual acquaintance, rather than a closer friend whose personal preference I know, it strikes me as politic and socially tactful to offer a more general greeting.

When I hear about people being personally offended, boycotting and protesting department store chains, and filing lawsuits because the greeting they were offered wasn't custom-tailored to their specific religious preference, all I want to say is - get a life. I would venture that these "Advocates for Christmas" are going against the very meaning of the holiday's promises of Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men. At worst, these Christmas Crusaders would like non-Christmas seasonal expression to be kept silent and private; at best, they simply need to feel their faith is publicly acknowledged. Why don't they try this: when offered a bland unsatisfactory "Season's Greetings," wish the greeter a "Merry Christmas" back. This way, they can have the chance to reciprocate the greeting, and make the point of letting their religious preference be known, without resorting to being litigious or passive-aggressive. I'd rather be wished "Happy Hanukkah," or "Season's Greetings" than be offered a Christmas greeting in a mean or proselytizing spirit.

Don't end up with your head on a stick, like Oliver Cromwell. Let it go, have a Happy Holiday whatever the Heck you're celebrating.

UPDATE: World O' Crap now has the "Carnival of the War on Christmas." [via feministe]

* If you're going to mention the Tropics, or the Southern Hemisphere, just never mind.