Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmastides real and fake

Interesting, plausible claims from Ann Coulter: Happy Kwanzaa! The holiday brought to you by the FBI. Only white liberals take Kwanzaa seriously. Maybe the outrageous black-militant group of the man who invented Kwanzaa (which no American blacks celebrate; they celebrate Christmas) were FBI-backed agent provocateurs. The Black Panthers neither hated whites nor sought armed revolution. Also: The seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another invention of the Worst Generation. Happy fake Hanukkah, white liberals.

On well-meant equal time promoting Hanukkah to include Jews: by nature it's not a public holiday; it's just prayers at home, very minor in Judaism. (Celebrating the same God as Christianity; the Maccabees' restoration of the Temple is in the Catholic Old Testament. The only reason Christians don't celebrate Hanukkah is early on we determined you don't have to be Jewish to be Christian; God's new covenant has replaced the old one with the Jews.) Comedienne Sarah Silverman has said she and many other American Jews don't mind "Merry Christmas." The big cultural penumbra* (winterfest and sentiment about the celebration itself, the reason for it being forgotten**) around the real, Christian holiday is all-inclusive (really Jul/Yule, a Germanic holiday that makes perfect sense naturally including geographically: fight off depression in the dead of winter, marking the solstice); Jews accept "Merry Christmas" in that spirit in which it's given, and many participate in the secular aspects of the celebration, just like most lapsed Christians. There's a place for "Happy holidays," to be polite (at work, for example), but it's Christmas. "Winter break"? How Soviet. Anti-religious.

By the way, thanks to Prince Albert, by way of the mother country 150 years ago, American Christmas is very German: the tree, for example (originally part of the cultus of Odin?), once unknown in England (not done in colonial America) but a Central and Eastern European custom (the Poles and Ukrainians got it from their German neighbors). I think the first Polish Pope started that at the Vatican nearly 35 years ago.

Easter has no parties or gifts so lapsed Christians don't care about it. Christmas wins by forfeit: the feast of the Incarnation (mind-blowing: God became one of us), the Western Catholic holiday par excellence. Fits nicely with the Germanic theme of homecoming, gathering for warmth on the shortest days of the year: the Protestants want to come home, forgetting they don't like us, putting up statues of Jesus and Mary, lighting candles, and singing in Latin. When I was driving around on St. Stephen's Day this year, my 1958 AM car radio picked up an evangelical station playing... polyphony in that language.
Why do TV stations have spots between commercials wishing everyone a Happy Kwanzaa each day, but Christmas wishes have stopped as of the 26th?
Because most people are ignorant about what Christmas really is. They think it's only one day. Or, in America, secular Christmas starts at Thanksgiving (now the runup starts with Halloween) and ends Christmas Day or maybe New Year's Day, a month of shopping and drinking parties culminating in presents and big dinners, not the 12 days of such starting the night of Dec. 24 it was for traditional Christians. It's replaced Advent (but to be fair, some cultures have a festival and gifts for St. Nicholas' Day Dec. 6). At least having Christmas and New Year's just over a week apart has accidentally preserved the idea of the 12 days of Christmas (nobody knows what the song means anymore) or at least the church's idea of the feast having an octave.

A man from Italy once explained to me that traditionally Christmas was a rather low-key, only religious holiday (holiday = holy + day). You had the traditional vigil Feast of the Seven Fishes (abstinence from meat the day before the feast), went to Midnight Mass, and that was about it. But of course Christmas really ended with the feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night); that's when gifts were exchanged. Traditionally in Spanish countries, Epiphany (Three Kings) was the gift day too. Now in Italy, American Christmas has been encroaching.

One of my first liturgical lessons as a kid in the Episcopal Church: "Why are we singing Christmas carols in church after Christmas? That's stupid!"

As for Kwanzaa, blacks are only about 12% of the American population so many well-meaning whites in the media are ignorant.

To be fair, taking away Kwanzaa's Commie lessons, geographically wrong African affectation (the West African ancestors of American blacks didn't speak Swahili), and attempt to rip off Christmas, a week to celebrate the real history and culture of American blacks, from deep Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal Christian faith to huge contributions to popular music (have a day for each), is a good idea in theory. (There is Black History Month, but anyway.) Maybe the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Promote self-determination as in neighborhoods, minus Kwanzaa's Bolshevism. The trouble is you can't just create customs; it would likely be as fake and unpopular as Kwanzaa, no matter how well meant.

*The Japanese picked up secular Christmas from the American military occupation after World War II; most of them aren't Christian so they don't know or care what it originally meant.

**The difference between Christmas carols (which are Christian hymns; the only time of year we hear them in public!) and Christmas music?

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