Happy Holidays: the Case for a More American Holiday

Matthew Koehler

The case for officially ditching Christmas for "the holidays"

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=32msA2_0YUyk1fv00Photo by Denise Johnson on Unsplash

As the first snowflakes fall, may we recall fondly the holiday that, like Thanksgiving, brings us into a warm house filled with animated family members and friends. Maybe there’s snow outside. If there isn’t, I feel sorry for you. Snow really makes the Holiday of holidays great.

Now in the warm glow of the Christmas season, its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures involuntarily inundate our culturally tempered minds with endorphins galore. Whose joy wouldn’t threaten to blow through the top of their heads like a volcanic orgasm during this time of year?

The togetherness the season inspires seems to be part of some innate social programming.

It probably is.

Yet, despite the orgy of goodwill towards all the season of seasons is supposed to inspire in us, we're still deeply cynical of it, aren’t we?

Sure Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day deserve our scorn, but Christmas has, since the turn of the 20th century, slowly become an obligation of consumerism. And today, religious pro-Christmas celebrants are often pitted against everyone else, especially by conservative media, to maintain the purity of the holiday.

No matter what side of the Christmas divide you land on, though, we're all in agreement that the holiday has become a gaudy shadow of its former self.

To the disgust of the religious, and the criticism of everyone, Christmas is now a soulless creature that eats money like a military budget. But, it’s not hard to understand how an old religious tradition slowly got co-opted and turned into “the holidays.” What better way to include everyone in this economic free-for-all than by making it more welcoming to non-religious celebrants.

A little good with the bad? Perhaps. All we can do is just roll with this economic monster – adapt to it.

Just as economic forces have changed the Christmas holiday over the last century, it has also evolved, in a way, due to necessity. Christianity is no longer the hegemonic force it was, nor the sole arbiter of American culture. America, due to economic forces and racial and cultural diversity, has redefined “the holidays” for everyone.

The rebranding isn’t necessarily a negative. Think of how different ethnic and religious groups can equally commiserate over holiday family gatherings, in-laws, money spent, that one intoxicated family member who brought up politics.

There's the ubiquity of Xmas-themed sensory input: decorations, lights — every store and shop is involved (would be foolish not to capitalize on the wallets of Seasonal shoppers) — Nativity scenes, etc.

There's the ceremonial lighting a this or that Christmas tree in every town and city, including the White House.

Who could forget the yearly company Xmas party with oblivious colleagues in Santa hats who think Christmas is the only winter holiday the world celebrates.

No one in this country is confused about what America is celebrating, and, whether or not you celebrate the tradition, you’re often brought into it due to social obligation (secret Santa with co-workers and Cheryl from accounting who got the whole division to wear Santa hats).

This makes the so-called “War on Christmas” laughable, as it is still the most widely celebrated and advertised holidays in the US. Beginning the day after Halloween, every American, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation endures reminders that the Christmas season is imminent. For two months, we are force-fed ads of all the things we just need to buy.

Christmas is coming. Did you hear? Christmas is coming! Anyone down for Black Friday? Small Business Saturday? What about Cyber Monday?

So, where does this leave us? Should we now:

  1. go off on a tirade about why it’s time America did away with giving Christmas the highest pedestal during the winter season?
  2. give equal airtime to all the other American religious/ cultural traditions that take place during the winter?
  3. Or, should the Christmas holiday evolve with the culture and take on more of an eclectic ambiance?

To those points…

  1. There simply isn’t enough whiskey, here, to attempt such an endeavor.
  2. Well, lots of well-intentioned progressives, liberals and even conservatives have been trying to do this but keep getting side-tracked by the perpetual “War on Christmas”.
  3. Thanks for bringing that up! What a fine way to define what seems to already be happening with the holiday season.

For me, I love the family aspect. The party. The decorations — Xmas traditional, menorahs, the secular Festivus pole, and other pagan stuff. The spiked eggnog. Snow and snow-people. Countless hours spent visiting grandparents and in-laws. Awkward conversations with family members. Time off. Spur of the moment weddings. Whatever! The revelry is the best part of the holiday and it’s what makes the entire build up worth the wait.

It also nebulously defines what Christmas has come to mean for me, and probably for a lot of us: family time.

Would that it could end there and we all went home happy and reconnected with all the people a busy life doesn’t give us time for in the off season.

Would that it was just a winter holiday, where all Americans were given some time off to spend time with family and friends, because, f*ck it, it’s the end of the year and we deserve it.

We need to stop enshrouding this holiday in one kind of ritual. It doesn’t have to be one kind of holiday over another. No one is stopping us from having whatever holiday we personally want to have. We should just go the extra step and legitimize “The Holidays” as a rebranded winter celebration for everyone.

You can just tack on whatever personal traditions you want; it’s America, be free to express that holiday how you want.

With family.

Or not, because you couldn’t get any time off. Even if you don’t visit your family, you WILL NOT be exempt from buying gifts.

And Santa should be whatever race you want him to be – his history no longer matters because he’s become a symbol of something greater.

Like Jesus.

Or, Batman.

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Essays and reporting. Most of this is true. Bylines around the Web. Editor of a local newspaper in the District. Got a tip? Contact me here: https://twitter.com/MattJKoe.

Washington, DC

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