1. Somebody around BIG THINK should say something about Christmas. I know that’s a divider–not a uniter–topic. Not everyone is a Christian.
2. Some Christians–like our founding Puritans–believed Christmas–especially it’s timing–is basically pagan, and they’re not totally wrong. Many American Protestants remained, at best, ambivalent about the conspicuous celebration of Christmas until the dawn of the 20th century. They figured out, among other things, that an end-of-year shopping surge had or could become indispensable for American prosperity.
3. Not only that: Not everyone who calls him- or herself a Christian these days believes that God really became man to die for our sins. They tend to say Christmas is about generic views of hope and joy and peace, while discouraging real thought about what or whom to hope for.
4. So we’ve had, for a while, the Holiday Season, during which we say “Happy Holidays.” We unite on Thanksgiving and New Years, and then agree to disagree on what holidays there are (and what their point is) in between. “Happy Holidays” is really a depressing thing to say, as if we didn’t love and respect each other enough to specify exactly what’s worth celebrating and why. “Happy Holidays” turns the jolly season into a series of meaningless diversions. Two very impressive Jewish public intellectuals ended their emails to me this morning with “Merry Christmas,” and I return the favor by specifying their holy days and my hope for their happiness on them as appropriate.
5. If we were really Christians, we’d start to figure out that we should do more, if not all, of our carol singing, partying, giving, and such between Christmas and Epiphany. The celebration should be the Twelve Days of Christmas. We shouldn’t “Go tell it on the Mountain” until Jesus Christ is actually born. Songs about sleighs, winter wonderlands, Santa, Christmas being white, Christmas being blue, and so forth are, of course, welcome any time during the season.
6. My reform would make the Christmas season a lot less long, while not completely scuttling the amorphous Holiday Season. Not only that, restoring the custom of a present for each of Christmas’s 12 days would surely stimulate the economy in these tough times.
7. My title, of course, is from the classic uniter–not a divider–Christmas movie “A Christmas Story,” which is a wholly secular tale about an utterly unreligious but quite unelitist family in a seemingly unreligious, proto-rust belt town. As the president would explain to us, when such ordinary folks don’t focus on God, they turn their attention to guns. That’s why Ralphie is so obsessed he’s willing to risk shooting his eye out to get the Red Ryder rifle. “Every kid, at the back of his mind, vaguely but insistently believes that he will be struck blind before his 21st birthday. And then they’ll [parents, teachers, and other authority figures] be sorry.”