It’s that time again. We’re not even one day past the Christian Allhallowtide season including the high holy day of All Saints for Catholics and secular American holiday of Halloween and already the tidings of discomfort and disdain are upon us as Christmas time has come.
Don’t tell the American Conservatives though. They are too busy bullshitting themselves into believing the War on Christmas is here. Lest they forget that there’s an actual Wikipedia entry titled “Christmas Creep” documenting some of the earliest appearances of holiday faire in retail. The foundation of Christmas’ influence bleeding into other holidays probably has its roots in printed catalogs and circulars being distributed in mid-November to allow for delivery before the Christmas holiday. These broadening appeal of these wishbooks along with retailer’s desires to elongate the selling season resulted in the formalization of the post-Thanksgiving long weekend as a retail destination in the early 1900s and the eventual moving the the Thanksgiving date by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939.
Retailers continue to expand their sphere of influence over the coming decades. The most extreme example probably started with Crazy Eddie’s Christmas in July electronics sales, but it spread to retailers big and small to move past Thanksgiving into early November, then October, then September and eventually into August where it is quite possible to find Christmas Gift and related decorating merchandise deals alongside Back to School Specials.
For a holiday that is supposedly being minimized by so-called secular society according to American Conservatives it seems to have appropriated quite a bit of the calendar for itself. No longer is the Christmas Season constrained by the Western Liturgical rites of Advent leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, it’s overtaken nearly every spiritual holiday in the latter half of the calendar. Not that most Christians really agree between all the different denominations on how and when to celebrate what to begin with. But, of those holy days that could be celebrated it is not as if there’s any real consistency in how they are actually attended.
Take, for example, the Roman Catholic celebration of Allhallowtide and the high holy day of All Saints as well as the companion days of All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day. Masses are poorly attended according to most Catholic diocese. And, despite Catholics making up more than 20% of the total US population and having an influence on popular culture in the celebration of feast days like St. Patrick, St Valentine, etc, there’s virtually no representation of All Saints outside of Church despite it’s liturgical importance being greater than that of other saints feast days. What’s more, it is possible to visit Churches that themselves have skipped straight into displays of evergreens as early as the Allhallowtide. Nevermind that The Assumption of Mary, Holy Cross Day, the Feast of Christ the King, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, as well as St. Andrew’s Day and St. Nicholas’ Day all occur before Advent and yet are often treated merely as afterthoughts in the onslaught of Christmas preparation.
But, it’s not just Christian holidays that suffer from the Creep of Christmas in the United States. It’s also American Cultural holidays at the Federal and State levels that have no religious criteria associated with them at all that Christmas encroaches on. Labor Day, which is more often celebrated as the finality of summer vacations than it is a remembrance of the sacrifices of the American Labor Movement, is now the unofficial beginning to the secular incarnation of the Christmas season within American Capitalism filled with advertising alluding to discounts on early Christmas wishes. Veteran’s Day already offers discounts on appliances, mattresses, clothes and cars supposedly in honor of those who served, but also includes toys, jewelry and other Christmas gift giving. Although Patriot’s Day still is humbled by it’s September Eleventh roots for most, there were already a few retailers who tried to borrow the solemnness to sell a few extra Christmas gifts, while Election Day has it’s occasional specials designed to take advantage of the extra few hours one might be afforded to vote to also spend some money. Granted, the Day of Infamy hasn’t become a national retail day, it might be because there’s a large part of the population that has since forgotten the Pearl Harbor attacks being so overwhelmed by other Capitalistic Rituals those sacrifices aren’t worth getting a few dollars off off.
And then there’s the fictitious retail holiday where Christmas Creep really began. Post-Thanksgiving shopping has become immortalized in movies like Miracle on 34th Street where the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s usurping of the American Thanksgiving festivities occurred in an effort to make a quick buck by leveraging the coming of Santa Clause to beckon Christmas Gift purchases. What began as an expansion of the holiday season post-Thanksgiving on the fictitious “holiday” invention Black Friday has seen the door buster scenario encroach on Thanksgiving Day itself forcing a once hallowed holiday to usurped by Christmas Capitalism as well as the entirety of the weekend become enveloped. Then, the following Monday became widely known as the digital incarnation of the Friday Capitalism known as Cyber Monday which then bled into a Cyber Week’s worth of Christmas Sales. This year, the pre-sale solicitation and digital early bird specials exist beginning a full week before Thanksgiving itself.
Sadly, that’s not even getting into the modern incarnation which now finds companies like Amazon promoting days of their choosing, Prime Days beginning in around 2015, for select sales meant to play into the Capitalistic Christmas idea in the pre-Thanksgiving shopping mindset and competitors attempting to create anti-days to these fictitious holidays promoting buying Christmas gifts for those on your list and for yourself in such ways a supporting local retailers, independent artists and more.
What’s more, this still is focused solely on Christmas creating havoc over the forth quarter holiday schedule from the point of view that American Conservatives typically identify with. Outside of their narrow-minded limited sphere of influence here are the holidays that are celebrated in each month. In December alone non-Christian rituals that have cultural and religious significance include Yule, Mōdraniht, Malkh, Yalda and other European Winter Solstice Celebrations; Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and other Western Polytheism Celebrations; Krampusnacht, Koliada and other Winter Giving Celebrations; Chanukah; Festivus; Pancha Ganapati; Bodhi Day; Dongzhi; Kwanzaa and others many of which predate the modern American Conservative interpretation of what the so-called Christmas season is but are part of December’s rich holiday lineage. Christmas’ usurping push into thieving November celebrations includes undercutting the likes of Diwali, Dia de los muertos and others while October includes Christmas stealing the focus from Indigenous People’s Day, Samhain, Kartik Purnima, Simchat Torah, Navratri, Gandhi Jayanti and let’s not forget that Christmas’ chaotic influence now usurps the likes of in Anant Chaturdashi and Ganesha Chaturthi; Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot; Mabon and other Equinox festivities and other culturally relevant holidays in September as well.
Then again, Christmas’ major traditions are all about cultural appropriation, in many cases through the raping, pillaging and genocide instilled by many historical forms of Christianity in order to forcefully assimilate non-Christians to the Church.
It is not, in fact, a Christmas Tree, for example. That bastardization of post-Victorian American Capitalism has its roots in a number of polytheistic uses of evergreens during the time between equinoxes, particularly during the darkness of the winter solstice. Northern Europeans including Norse Vikings, Saxons, Celts and Gauls among others were said to have use evergreen boughs, among other uses of plants in general, to provide a combination of homes for wildlife during the winter months and provide a hopeful greenery instilling a visual warmth till the spring thaws. The were often decorated by berries and other fruits of the harvest as well as seeds representing the preparing for the spring rebirth, jewelry and other spoils of war in celebration of the success and sacrifice of the year; the bones and skins remaining from harvest kills; as well as other trinkets to ward off evil spirits and welcome light and the readiness for the coming spring. The use of evergreens during the winter solstice timeframe can further be found referenced in Hebrew scriptures and pre-Christian Roman Empire as it relates to Christian appropriation. However, the use of evergreens is near universal and includes references to conifers and other year-round greenery as a part of the winter experience common in Chinese literature during the high dynasty periods, as part of the Mongolian Empire, in North American in a number of indigenous cultures, ancient Egyptian and throughout North Africa and into the region beyond the Black Sea. So, referring to that decorated fir in your parlor corner as a holiday tree is, in fact, historically accurate since the ritual predates the invention of Christianity itself. We take for granted the celebration of public tree displays but they are a relatively modern affair begun on the South Lawn of the White House (first done 1923) Rockafeller Center (1931), the the Macy’s Great Tree in Atlanta (1948), etc. They were vestiges from German immigrants during the post-war 1800s derived from traditions that date back to Colonial days when it is said Hessian Mercenaries began the North American tradition of tree celebrations during the Revolutionary War. The commercialism of trees really began post-WWII and was even given critical treatment in the now infamous Charles Schultz television special for the Peanuts in the 1960s.
It is not, in fact, a Christmas gift. The act of gift giving existed as part of a number of influential celebrations occurring in-and-around the timing of the winter solstice such that the practice was usurped by latter incarnations of Christianity in order to ingrate Christian beliefs to societies it was attempting to evangelicize in.
It is not, in fact, a Christmas card. The act of providing holiday greetings around winter celebrations including through song, etched leaves, scribed parchments and more which were derived from the larger celebration of holidays overall. Greeting Cards as we know them today are most often dated to Victorian era love letters while the first Christmas card is believed to be from 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who would latter create the popular Penny Post line of Cards. By the early 1900s the custom spread throughout Europe and to the US through Irish and German immigrants and eventually led to the creation of Hallmark Cards in 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers. Hallmark’s innovations in both card design and marketing during post-WWII economic expansion made card giving as ubiquitous as gift giving.
It is not, in fact, a Christmas Flower either. Winter blooming flowers played a role in cultures throughout the world from celebrating their apparent defiance of nature itself. The use of Snowdrops, English Primrose, Hellebore and others are common to find a part of Solstice celebrations because of their winter blooms and continue to find their way into modern Christmas decorations despite their antiquated roots in polytheistic European celebrations. The poinsettia’s use for Christmas has it’s roots in a 16th-century Mexician folklore leveraging the Aztec flower and was popularized by Franscian Friars beginning in the mid 17th-century. It received its common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825 but reached its apex in Christmas imagery thanks to Albert Ecke in the early 1900s through a combination of innovative cultivation and distribution techniques and some savvy marketing. By the post-war 1960s Christmas flowers of all sorts became part of the ever expanding home decore market and now includes the influences of Southern Europeans especially Italians, Iberians especially Spanish and Latin American immigrants who brought their own floral customs with them during their integration into American Culture.
So, if you’re going to be a bigoted, narrow minded, douche of a Conservative this holiday season whimpering ignorantly about some made up War on Christmas it might be best to remember many, if not most, of your most cherished so-called Christmas traditions were outright stolen from someone else and what you’re really experiencing is the process of other cultures de-appropriating what Christian Christmas has stolen from them over the years while at the same time admitting that the Christian version of Christmas long ago became a disfigured corporate conglomerate of Capitalistic American greed.
While some American Conservatives might want to push a kind of poinsettia colored glasses, evergreen candle scented, candy cane mint flavored latte tasing version of the outlandish Victorian fiction derived from the likes of Washington Irving’s “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent;” and Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas;” and Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol;” and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “The First Christmas in New England,” among others, the reality is Christmas as a Christian holiday has always been a cultural appropriation nightmare combined with American Secular Christmas concept being a cultural melting pot of diverse concepts and ideas of how to celebrate the winter months from all over the world.
Thus, there is no “War on Christmas” as much as there is a cultural reckoning between rectifying the historical oppression by Christians to those whom they sought to convert and the American spirit that has chosen as a so-called cultural melting pot to continually incorporate that which is convenient from its immigrant and minority groups into the greater identity of the country’s cultural lexicon.
After all, American Christmas traditions themselves have changed quite a bit over the last 100 years and continue to redefine themselves today in light of changing sociocultural demographics and the continued push by corporate America to monetize the holiday in pure Capitalistic fashion. So long as some version of Christmas is literally inhaling every possible tradition around it that it can there will not be a War on Christmas so much as there is a War by Christmas on every holiday that dates surround it.