How America honors the birth of God Incarnate and all that he stood for

America is the most populous Christian nation on earth, so it might well be asked by those of you in heathen lands how we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, who was renowned for his unremitting opposition to greed, wealth, and consumerism; and his insistence on generosity, not to those who are able to be generous in return, but precisely to those who are unable to be generous in return.

First, we show our respect for the penitential season leading up to Christmas by only gaining eight to twelve pounds, which isn’t bad considering how much we weighed going into it.

On November 26 (the day after a major pig-out celebration known as Thanksgiving), we open our stores at 2:00 a.m. so the benefactors of the poor can get an early start on their Christmas gift buying at “Mark Down Prices.” Eager to take advantage of the “Early Bird Specials,” American Christians literally bring sleeping bags and stand—or rather lie—in line hours in advance. You can best understand this seemingly degrading ritual by comparing it to another revered religious practice known as self-flagellation.

The dedication of our citizenry to helping the poor is so intense in the weeks leading up to Jesus’ birthday, that there is a veritable shopping frenzy that continues until the night of Christmas Eve, when most stores close so their employees can go to church in order to be in the right frame of mind for distributing all of those colorfully wrapped packages to the poor on Christmas morning. “Ah,” you ask, “America is a rich country, is it not, so who are these poor people of whom you speak?” Well, sad to say, but America has many who lay claim to Christian Christmas generosity. They consist primarily of one’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, friends, employer, and, of course, oneself.

When the holiday finally arrives, some impoverished children are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of presents left by Santa, Mommy, Daddy, two grandmas, two grandpas, and assorted aunts and uncles, that they cry in frustration at opening them all. Truly, material excess requires some getting used to. Once all the poor people have gratefully received their holiday bounty, American Christians are so moved by the joy they brought into all those impoverished lives with the latest in Communist manufactured electronic gadgetry, that they just naturally want to go out bright and early on December 26, and give it another go. To help with this, the stores—which are understandably eager to support such a noble crusade—open in the wee hours yet again. This means that store employees have to miss out on time with their families in order to go to work in the middle of the night following two major holidays in a row, but they are only too happy to do it.

“Do American Christians observe Christmas in other ways?”

Oh, yes! Although buying gifts for indigent family, friends, and oneself most assuredly accounts for nearly all of the money spent, many churches do observe Christmas in other ways. For example, in most churches a colorfully robed choir sings happy holiday hymns amidst scores of potted poinsettias. A church near my house features a “living nativity” in which teenage girls and boys dress-up like angels, wise men, and shepherds, and take turns standing mutely around a manger that contains a fluorescently lit doll. Other churches “adopt” an entire poor family and drop gifts off at their house or apartment. Still others cook a turkey dinner for the indigent. And while most churches don’t meet on Christmas Day (making it one of the few birthday parties during which the guest of honor isn’t actually honored by his assembled friends), nearly all congregations listen to an Advent sermon in which they are reminded that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” (at least since the church converted or murdered all those solstice celebrating heathens). They are also told that they really need to give up at least a little of their accustomed holiday avarice, if not this year, then next year for sure. After all, if America’s way of honoring Christ’s birth doesn’t represent the true nature and depth of its religious piety, what does?


Snowbrush said...

I wrote this to my blogger friend, Michelle at All Consuming, after I posted this entry, and I thought I would put it here to show that I do see some good in Christmas.

My Dear, I had a night from hell, so I didn't get up until early afternoon, or I would have written sooner. I was delighted by the beauty of your gift and the sweet sentiments you wrote. The walls in my room are pink, so your painting fits wonderfully, and I had no trouble in finding a place for it (finding a place for things is often an issue after all these decades of accumulation).

My only other gift was from Peggy's younger sister who is as generous as she is poor. She baked many treats for us--which cost her no little to mail--and she sent us each $30. Since I seriously doubt that she makes more than $6 or $8 an hour parking cars, her gift was generous indeed. I wrote somewhat today about the, to me, grossly over the top manner in which Americans celebrate Christmas, yet it's not all bad. Of course, I didn't say this in my piece, but that was because it would be strange to trash something for seven paragraphs, and then throw in a laudatory sentence or two at the bottom.

I don't doubt that I wrote will cost me readers and bring a lot of anger down upon my head, yet I can't stop expressing that which is both true for me, and which seems to need saying so badly.

Love, love, love,

Natalie said...

Snow, I am in complete agreement with you. It doesn't make sense to me at all.
All this morning (Boxing Day here) I have been wondering how I can explain to the children about my feelings.
Last week, as I was buying all the above mentioned consumables for the children, a niggle was niggling loud and strong in my gut. It was saying "this is not right". If you hadn't have written this post, I would have - but I cannot express myself nearly as well as you do.

Thank you for your courage and your morality. ♥

Anonymous said...

You already have MY love, dear brother. So, if anyone takes offense, I suggest that those readers might also enjoy some self-flagellation.

Joe and I spent the week alone with our dog. One thing you forgot to mention in the celebration of christmas is the fact that, at no other time of the year, is there so much depression and suicides. Kinda brings a tear to the eye, knowing how endearing the season can be, to cause so much sadness.

There are a LOT of people who sign up for every handout available, as another chance to get freebies. Do they sell them? Probably. Do they add them to the already full larder? yep.

But, for the TRULY needy, I'm reminded of the "once a year" home delivery of a turkey dinner. The giver leaves, feeling so much better, the ones left with the turkey have one meal...then what.

Snowbrush said...

Gads, two people in agreement!!! I must be losing my edge, mellowing out, and getting all warm and mushy in my senior years. I'm really going to have to work on that, or Disney and Hallmark will want to make feel good movies of my life. You know, I start out as a bitter and hateful atheist, and by the en of the movie,, I'm buying a diamond studded WWJD bracelet for Bill Gates.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Our family universally eschewed Kommercial Kristmas this year and have spent nary a cent on anything other than food. The first thing we noticed was how much stress it lifted from the holiday!

Any moment the door will open and the out-of-town kids with the grand kids will burst into the house. Dinner is on the stove and we expect the house to be overflowing with tidings of good cheer and none of it centered around Jesus, Santa or any other make believe deity.

By the way, did you know that Richard Carrier posits several "proofs" that Santa is REAL? Enjoy.

Natalie said...

As if! You are not superstar status yet. I cannot speak for Dana, but maybe you could become a mascot for the Weirdo brigade. You know social misfits who actually care and think about stuff.Like New Agers! Bahaahhhaaa!

Kay Dennison said...

I decided long ago that opinions are like belly buttons -- everyone is has ans is entitled to one -- everyone has the right to agree or disagree with another's opinion. I personally prefer that it be done respectfully but I suppose that depends on a person's frame of mind.

I had a non-Christmas. I didn't go to church -- doctor's orders and couldn't do my volunteer work either -- and it's on hold until doc says okay. And no, I don't only do volunteer work at Christmas -- I give time to causes I consider worthy throughout the year. Sue me.

I only bought rather small gifts for the grands and my neighbor's kids.

No fancy fattening dinner. Just me and some quiche from the deli and egg nog.

Hope you had a great day!!!

Snowbrush said...

Kay, while it's true that we all have a right to our opinions, this in no way implies that all opinions are equally intelligent. Given this, I don't get the belly-button analogy. There are no right or wrong belly-buttons. Your belly-button--unlike your thoughts--has no power to make the world better or worse. Furthermore, your belly-button isn't something that you bear responsibility for.

As for expressing differences respectfully, I would like to hear more of your thoughts. To give an example of a situation in which this might be difficult if not impossible, let's say you were able to sit down with the man who was recently arrested for murdering hundreds of women, and talk to him about his views about women. What would you respect? Surely not his beliefs. Him then? Remember, we're talking about a man who, over decades, methodically and systematically tortured and killed people. This is an extreme example, but it does illustrate my point that respect might not always be appropriate. In talking about Christianity, I actually do show--or try very hard to show--respect for individual people with whom I am in dialogue. However, I don't respect Christianity itself anymore than I respect any other system of thought that I consider irrational and repressive.

I am sometimes told when I post about religion that I am wrong--or even that something is wrong with me--that I would take the time to criticize it. Rarely--in fact, almost never--has anyone attempted to respond to the actual criticisms I raise. Rather, their belief is that I should show respect for religion (or, at least, for their religion). Other ideas might be open to rational inquiry, but religious thoughts and values should be respected for no other reason than that they are religious thoughts and values. I would argue that ALL beliefs should be open to rational inspection, especially those that have brought, and still bring, so much harm into the world.

The Blog Fodder said...

To paraphrase Gandhi, whom you have quoted before Christ, yes, Christians, no.

Snowbrush said...

Blog Fodder said: "Christ, yes, Christians, no."

I'm not big on Christ, Fodder, but I've gone into my thoughts about that at some length previously, so I won't rehash it now except to say that my purpose here was not to praise Jesus but to point out that most of the ways in which Christians celebrate his birth stand in gross contradiction to his teachings. It's really quite remarkable to me how little Christians seem aware of such things, and how unwilling they are to ponder them when they're pointed out. It will no doubt sound strange to many, but I actually think I am in a better position to understand Christ's teachings--at least as they are presented in the New Testament--than are nearly all Christians, precisely because I don't consider Christ's teachings worthwhile for the most part. Because I have no intention of following them, I am better able to look at them for what they are. Whereas for those who claim to follow them, I see such people as, on the one hand, wanting to believe that Jesus is their savior, but, on the other, wanting to ignore or rationalize away those parts of his message that would require them to do things that they really don't want to do--like give up gluttony and acquisitiveness, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Whether for good or bad, Christ's message was radical, yet the way Christians live is just short of 100% status quo. Indeed, the only difference between Christians and non-Christians is that the former go to church more or less regularly, and regard themselves as more moral.

Marion said...

Well said, Snow. Would that the Christmas spirit would show itself all year and not just one day of the year. I gave much less this year as I give to the local food bank monthly instead of spending wildly at Christmas. Our family is big on homemade gifts. My daughter did a huge painting for me which I'll treasure always.

I did read your response to me at your last post and plan to check out the Neurontin on my next office visit. I appreciate your kind concern. Blessings!!

Snowbrush said...

Marion said: "Well said, Snow. Would that the Christmas spirit would show itself all year and not just one day of the year."

If you read my post carefully, Marion, and thought that this was the point that I meant to communicate, I somehow failed to express myself adequately.

Kristen said...

Clap + Clap + Clap
Very good!!! Love it. Thank you for sharing this. I agree. Same with lent.. with all Jesus went through, people announce, "I gave up candy!!!" Big Whoop! They sound ridiculous.

ellen abbott said...

re Marion...I don't see the christmas spirit showing itself on that one day. If it did, all those clothes and toys and food would be given to and enjoyed by not members of ones own family but would be taken down to the nearest homeless shelters, to the streets where the homeless and hungry live and distributed there. That would be an expression of the christmas spirit.

and to Snow, well, I've said it before, I couldn't agree with you more in your post and your comments as well.

And here's another expression of the christmas another blog I read, the writer was telling about the experience of a friend who bought a $100 gift card at Walmart to giver her tenant and she accidentally went off without it. When discovered, she went back to the store with her receipt, they put a stop on the card but $49 had already been spent on it so they refunded her the $51. After reviewing the security tapes, they discovered that the man in line behind her who obviously knew it was hers when she walked off and could easily have shouted after her that she forgot the card, instead of calling to her, he picked it up and immediately handed it to his wife in the adjacent lane who used it. The manager of the store did eventually refund the rest of the money to the lady who bought the card but I daresay that that was a personal decision on his part and not store policy.

kj said...

i'd guess this was cathartic fun to write, snow! you put so much irony in this piece that at least for me it entertained and enlightened.

my holiday was good (the better/best one of the last four years.) my family including two little guys left a few hours ago, but we had presents and dinner last night and breakfast this morning. that alone is my own definition of christmas.

i wish you and peggy a good year ahead.


CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I partook in none of that. Just a small gathering of friends - potluck and not extravagant.

And this year, when I phoned the little cousins - I asked them about the best gift they GAVE. It got some really amazing answers! It was the highlight of my day!

nollyposh said...

Christmas in a lot of ways has lost all meaning... i personally think of it as a way of catching up and hanging out with those of my family and friends whom i like to let them know i care... and perhaps THAT is the 'True' meaning anyway? For instance if You and Peggy were neighbors of mine, i would pop in with a plate of food and a bottle of wine for a lively chat X:-) (If that was ok with you guys of course!) HaPPy New Year my Friend x

Snowbrush said...

Nollyposh, we would love for you to come over. Do it anyway, despite the distance. You would be welcome to stay awhile, of course.

Yes, KJ, it was cathartic to write. People who criticize me for criticizing religion fail to understand that I do it as much for me as for others, yet I also believe that I have something to say that is worth saying, and the fact that some people get so damn upset about it just seems to validate my belief..

Ellen, I think you're on to how Jesus would "do" Christmas if he were alive, and it most assuredly wouldn't be by pigging out and buying even more trinkets for people who already live in overstuffed houses.

Yeah, Kristen, giving up candy for Lent is pretty funny. But, giving up coffee and vodka, now THAT would be a sacrifice worthy of the name.

Snowbrush said...

Oh, Hiker, I was in a hurry and missed you. You celebrate much as we do.

tattytiara said...

I was out for a walk today and noticed that a family on my block have a little black and while yard sign that says "Christ is Christmas". I'd never noticed it before, though, because it was eclipsed by the giant, color plastic Santa head hanging directly above it.

Yeah, what Christmas I celebrate is all about the mall, and mainly because people I care about enjoy the gift exchange so much. I don't make honoring the example set by any prophet of peace and compassion as a one day a year celebration, personally. I'm blessed to be part of a community where charity and compassion are just part of daily life. Probably because we're all poor!

Couldn't help but notice your previous post, by the way, and my sincerest condolences on the passing of your little friend. I have two very elderly dogs myself.

rhymeswithplague said...

I tried to find something in your post with which I could disagree vehemently and even vociferously, but (alas!) there was nothing.

Marion said...

Graham and I adopted a family for Christmas. We had some extra furniture we didn't need...a couch, TV, and bed and some food and so we gave them to our adopted family. Part of the reason we adopted a family is that my own family was away, and it was great to watch the two little ones bouncing on that bed on Christmas Day. We will continue to keep watch over this family we would never have had the opportunity to meet in other ways.

I live in a small town; compassion for the ones who have less is always there and hospitality is a way of life. If someone needs something, whether it's Christmas or not, chances are their needs will be met.

thank you for this post, Snow and a Happy New Year to you and Peggy!

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes said: "I tried to find something in your post with which I could disagree vehemently and even vociferously, but (alas!) there was nothing."

Oh, Rhymes, I write to please you, and you are displeased--I am so sorry! Woe is me that I failed to offend!

Marion, I greatly respect you for adopting a family. There are whole churches that adopt only one family.

Tattytiara said: "yard sign that says "Christ is Christmas". I'd never noticed it before, though, because it was eclipsed by the giant, color plastic Santa head hanging directly above it."

First, let me say that you have a most charming name. Second, you're made my point that there's a gap between what the Christian community says it believes and how it behaves that leaves those of us on the outside with our mouths open in astonishment, both because of the contradiction and because Christians seem, for the most part, oblivious to the contradiction. Of course,, I don't mean to represent every Christian, but rather American Christendom as a whole.

Skepticat said...

I've felt grumpy about Christmas for a while now for many of the same reasons you've mentioned. So I was very happy to see this year that my family has started giving gifts that are needed more than just junk that would probably be forgotten by Jan. 1.

I thought a lot the past few days about all the people I've seen who are living on the streets and had nothing this Christmas. I feel very angry because I'm not in a position to help - I'm having to let some wonderful people help me right now. I want to do something but I feel powerless. I plan to address that soon because I'm tired of not being part of a solution.

Snowbrush said...

Skepticat said: "I'm tired of not being part of a solution."

Skepticat, what's wrong with you?! You're an atheist. You're supposed to be out raping, murdering, embezzling, kicking dogs, drowning cats, and stealing candy from small children (well, you're a female so forget the rape part).

Myrna R. said...

I tried to tone down the commercialism and focus on the human connection - friends and family. The visits were warm and low keyed. I had a wonderful time.

It's too bad that Christmas can be so un-Christian.

Stafford Ray said...

Hi Snowbrush, nice to meet you!
I still do Christ-mythn because, in the absence of a solstice celebration, it is an excuse to get the family together.
Most of us agreed that the Xmas present buying competition was now of hand so we have gone for a 'Secret Santa' or 'ris Kringle' formula, so the outlay is manageable while each present can be quite substantial and we all have a lot of fun sitting around enjoying that excuse for a get-togther.

Kert said...

Consumerist Christmas has even entered the cities of my country -- being that we're the most "Americanized" Southeast Asian country.

However, as I was treading my way in a rural area, people were still working very hard in their farms. Life is too difficult for them to enjoy the luxuries mentioned in your entry.

(This is geek, btw. I changed my name, finally after some deliberation with myself)

Mad Mind said...

I am in complete agreement with you. We do give a couple of gifts to the grandkids but, for the most part, there is not a lot of gift giving on our part. It is much more fun to sit and enjoy each other's company than worry about the gifts.

I was raised in the church as my dad is a minister. I don't discuss religion with any of my family for one very big reason. Organized religion teaches discrimination. It teaches that we are to look down or feel sorry for those different from us. Then they forget the message they say they are teaching their children.

Most churches today say we are to follow Christ's example. If that is the case then we are not to FORCE people to believe or worship the way we do. The fact is, the laws we need to ensure equality are sadly lacking in substance. There is still serious discrimination going on and it seems to be legally sanctioned.

We need to figure out how to separate human rights from the religious zealots that make the laws.