|Schaetzel Nativity and Christmas Tree|
December 27, 2017
Victory over the War on Christmas is assured, simple, and begins immediately in your home. To understand how to achieve victory, the first thing you need to understand is where the War on Christmas starts, and how it is fueled. The War on Christmas begins with commercialisation. It begins by reducing Christmas to one-day out of the year for gift exchanges. This is where the belittlement begins. It all begins here. The excessive focus on Santa Claus begins here. The same goes for all the myth surrounding the hijacking of St. Nicholas into a "jolly old elf" with flying reindeer and presents under the tree. These things were just harmless children's fairy tales until the commercialisation came, and when you understand that commercialisation is where it all begins, then you'll begin to realise that the War on Christmas began long before any of us noticed it. It began in the early 20th century and reached a crescendo only in the last 20 years with the replacement of "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays." It only makes sense when you stop and think about it. Once the driving social force for Christmas was turned over to the retail outlets, it was only a matter of time before "Christmas" would be replaced with "Holidays" to appeal to non-Christian shoppers. As society became less and less religious, it was inevitable.
So my question to you is this. How much do you let retail outlets drive and dictate your celebration of Christmas?
I bet many of you never thought of it that way before. It bet it never occurred to you that you, and your family, have allowed retail outlets to become your religious dictator. I bet it never occurred to you that when it comes to Christmas, your "pope" has become Wal-Mart, Sears, JC Penneys and Amazon.Com. They tell you when Christmas begins, and when it ends, not by dictate, but by leading you by the nose. They tell you Christmas begins around Black Friday, following the Thanksgiving feast, and stops on December 25, when you give all those bargains away to your family members. When you stop and think about it. This all makes perfect sense if you're a retailer. You're in the business of staying in business, which means you've got to get people buying your stuff as soon as possible, to close out your books before the deadline of December 25. This gives you about six days after to get those books balanced before the new year. The placement of Black Friday, on the day after Thanksgiving, makes perfect logical sense (don't you see?) because that gives retailers almost exactly one-month to increase their revenue, putting themselves in the "black" financially, before Christmas Day. Then the next week is spent getting those books balanced just in time for the new year. It's nothing new folks. This is been going on for over a century, and technically speaking, there is nothing morally wrong with it. So it's unfair for us to attack retailers for doing exactly what they're designed to do. Like I said, they're in the business of staying in business, and we wouldn't want it any other way. The economic fallout of them going out of business would hurt us all.
The War on Christmas is dictated by this fiscal reality, but where the real war takes place is not really in the shopping centres, markets or public square. The real War on Christmas takes place in our minds!That's right. So long as we allow the commercial market to dictate our view of Christmas, we lose. Because the markets see Christmas end when sales dry up, which is right about at December 25. That's when they start taking down the decorations, the Christmas (Holiday) music stops playing on the radio, and the general mood of society begins to switch back to "normal." In fact, it's so profound, that if you wish people a "Merry Christmas" anytime after December 25, they're liable to say something like "Don't you know it's over?"
How much has this affected you? Is the market your pope? Have you allowed America's commercial markets to tell you when Christmas begins and ends? Because if you have, the War on Christmas rages on, and guess what? You're losing!
So how do we turn the tide? How do you make a difference in your life, family and household? It's simple really. You just rise above it. You win by refusing to fight. You win by simply ignoring the prompting of the market. You win by celebrating the REAL Christmas, not the commercialised one.
There is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts on Christmas Day or having the typical American Christmas Day "blowout" on Christmas morning. In fact, I would argue that if you're able to do that sort of thing, it's best to get it all out of your system that morning, because the REAL celebration of Christmas is about to start only AFTER the gifts are unwrapped. When all the presents are unwrapped, and the kids are playing with their toys, it's time to begin. First and foremost, it's time for mom and dad to relax. That means making sure all you're kids' toys are assembled BEFORE they unwrap them on Christmas morning. (Be smart and think ahead.) Batteries should be in place. Programming should be done. Assembly should be complete, etc. If you must do these things after unwrapping them on Christmas morning, then set aside some time for parental rest after.
Now you should have gone to a Christmas Eve mass ahead of time, but if you didn't, you've got a holy day of obligation to observe. So make sure you go to mass. Christmas Day night, after all the gifts have been cleared out from under the tree, is a good time to move the Nativity set under the tree. Have you're children give Baby Jesus a kiss on the knee as you make the transfer. This visual of moving the nativity under the tree sends a clear subliminal message to your family. Jesus is what this is really all about, and the REAL gift of Christmas is God's only Son -- Jesus Christ!
Moving the Nativity set under the tree should set the mood in your home. Now it's time to change up the Christmas music so that it has a more religious connection. It's time to be done with Rudolph and Jingle Bells and move on to Emmanuel and Noel, as well as an assortment of other religious tunes and chants. With modern music storage methods, this should be fairly easy. My smartphone is loaded with a couple religious Christmas playlists, which I make sure to play in my home, and in the car while I'm driving.
Then it's time for more religious celebration and family visitation. Christmas is about Christ and family. So that's what you're going to make the following 12 days about. You see, the secret to winning the War on Christmas is extremely simple. After all the commercialisation is finally over (on December 25) just celebrate the full 12-days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 6. There are no more gift exchanges, no frantic shopping, and no more pressure. It's just Christ and family. That's it.
Continue going to mass regularly throughout the 12 days. Make sure you hit the Holy Days of Obligation, but also maybe some other feasts and solemnities too. Continue wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas" or a "Merry Christmastide" all the way until Epiphany on January 6. Even if this makes people question you, it's okay, that's just an opportunity to witness. Tell them Christmas lasts 12 days, and it's not just a song. It will remain Christmas until January 6 -- the Feast of the Epiphany. Leave your Christmas lights up until at least then. Keep that tree in the house until then. Don't put anything away until then. Most of all -- slow down! Take some time to breathe. This is the 12-day celebration you've been preparing a whole month for. Don't cut it short just because the retailers do.
Most of all, this is not just a "Catholic thing." This is a Christian thing! Every Christian can (and should) go about Christmas this way, because it's the traditional way. It's the way Christmas was celebrated generations ago, by all of our Christian ancestors -- Catholic and Protestant alike. Granted, Catholics have done a little better job keeping the liturgical season intact within our churches, but that doesn't mean Protestants can't jump right back in, just like the good ol' days. To make it simple, just mark January 6 on the calendar. This is the Feast of the Epiphany. The 12-days of Christmas are bookended by two major feasts. The first is the Feast of the Nativity on December 25, which commemorates the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds. The second is the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which commemorates the visit of the wise men (magi). The time in between is Christmastide -- the season of hope and cheer. There is no reason why all Protestants, Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc., can't go back to celebrate it this way. If you want to have victory over the War on Christmas, there is no other way really. You can't win by fighting. You just have to rise above it.
That's how it's done folks, and guess what? It works!
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.
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