Monday, December 27, 2010

Two war-on-Christmas thoughts from Jeff Culbreath
  • Schmeck the halls. Dechristianising and commercialising the day actually date back to the mid-century golden age, 1942. BTW I knew something’d gone wrong when radio stations and TV ads started playing ‘My Favourite Things’ at Christmastime (what churchmen call and try to keep as Advent). Also: more often, observant Jews don’t try to secularise Christian holidays; they think it’s none of their business.
  • On that note, what’s wrong with ‘Miracle on 34th Street’? Santa’s good folklore/mythology (and he even looks much like an Orthodox priest or monk) so I understand the ‘Lighten up!’ reaction to this, and of course something doesn’t have to be overtly religious (‘Our Lord’s name was not mentioned even once’) to be any good (John Boyden: a priest or a church in a story doesn’t necessarily make the story Catholic but rather the values; one of my faves, the modern ‘The Family Man’, uses ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’’s angel but is not churchy at all) but Jeff has a point:
    It’s really a pernicious film overall, despite its charming moments. I think we may historically determine that the film was very much a cause rather than an effect of the secularization of Christmas. Had a good discussion with the children. As with most older films I value the higher level of civilization the film represents compared to the present malaise. But this film is otherwise very sinister in its calculated displacement of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s name was not mentioned even once. God was not mentioned even once. Saint Nicholas was not mentioned even once. For someone who didn’t know a thing about Christmas, this film would not only be unhelpful, but positively deceiving. The message for children is one of materialism and greed; for parents, the legitimization of deceit; for everyone, truth is at the service of sentimentality. It was entertaining, of course, as effective propaganda must always be – we all enjoyed quite a few laughs – but “Miracle on 34th Street” drives a nail in the coffin of Christmas in America.
    Counterpoint: the unconditional love in the Santa myth – the ultimate goal is to ‘be’ Santa – is implicitly Christian folklore. Also, ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been criticised for many of the same reasons (not overtly Christian).

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