Christmas isn’t really offensive to non-Christians. It’s the fact that Christians celebrate it that offends. You’ll see what I’m talking about a bit further down. But really, Christmas is for the whole world, as long as it’s not religious or anything.
But first, a little Christmas cheer to brighten your 5-shopping-days-left panic.
I was shocked to read today (it’s Jim Geraghty’s fault) that the Christmas classic “Do You Hear What I Hear” is more about eschatology than the nativity. It was written during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in fear of nuclear apocalypse.
Noël Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote “Do You Hear What I Hear” in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in response to the existential dread they felt because of the Cold War. “In the studio, the producer was listening to the radio to see if we had been obliterated,” Regney once explained. “En route to my home, I saw two mothers with their babies in strollers. The little angels were looking at each other and smiling.” This inspired the first line of the song: “Said the night wind to the little lamb … ”
Goodness and light. It makes me feel warm all over.
The photo in this post was taken by yours truly. It’s really impressive: A seven story tall Christmas tree, decorated to the hilt. Just magnificent. And it’s in Bangkok, Thailand, at the Siam Paragon mall (where, by the way, you can buy a Rolls Royce). The Christian population in Thailand is between 0.9 and 1.2 percent of the population, while 93 or so percent are Buddhists. But they love their Christmas.
Most Thais have no idea of the significance of the virgin birth of the Son of God, and what it means to Christians (or that Christianity has some quite exclusive claims to the afterlife). Were they to consider this, they might not be so gaga over the holiday.
But it’s not much different in America–only the numbers have changed. According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2013, a full 32 percent of Americans see Christmas as a “cultural holiday.” In fact, 81 percent of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas.
This includes 87% of people with no religion and even about three-quarters of Asian-American Buddhists (76%) and Hindus (73%).
Most Americans are perfectly fine with “Merry Christmas,” but about half aren’t offended by “Happy Holidays” either. In other words, they don’t care. About the same percentage realize that Christmas is actually a Christian holiday* and are okay with Christian symbols being displayed associated with it. Only 20 percent (8 percent more than the Grinches who prefer “Happy Holidays”) think it’s a bad idea to display Christian symbols when a Christian holiday is celebrated.
The good news in America is that about three-quarters of us believe that Jesus was really born and lived, and that the Christmas story is at least partially true. About two-thirds believe all of it, and 14 percent think it’s all a myth.
So somewhere between 12 and 20 percent of Americans are anti-Christian bigots, but they’re really loud and obnoxious, especially at this time of year. About a third of us are happy giving gifts, putting up a tree, and generally making merry. The rest understand that there’s some religious reason for the holiday.
The fact that Jesus was born as a baby is a nice, quaint fact we can all live with. The fact that the same Bible tells that that baby will come back to judge us, “the quick and the dead,” is a bit more controversial.
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea
The world is headed into more and more chaos, but at the same time, more and more are hearing the voice of God. Believing in Christmas means much more than just a tree, gifts, and Santa. It means believing the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Do not fear. Goodness and light will return.
*Do not email me about Christmas being a pagan holiday, or Saturnalia or Yule. I don’t want to debate the whole “it’s not historical” thing either. I don’t know the exact day when Christ was born and neither do you. If Christians were not to celebrate Christmas, then why did the host of heaven appear to the shepherds to announce it? Why is any of that in the Bible? If you want to be a Scrooge or a Grinch, feel free, but don’t include me.