To: Christmas Defenders
From: Santa Claus dictated to Valerie Elverton Dixon
Re: War on Christmas
For the past several years, the holidays have been scarred by talk about a “war on Christmas.” In the name of tradition, many of you lament the trend of people wishing each other happy holidays, changing the titles of various parades and pageants from Christmas to Holiday this or that. So, you have defined this trend as a “war on Christmas”, and you have entered into battle.
As you know this is my busy season. In some countries I made my deliveries on December 6, it has been busy for me since Halloween. When I learned of the discussion about whether or not I could be represented as anything other than a white man, I decided to send this memo.
To be brief and to the point: You need to stop.
You are not helping the Spirit of Christmas by insisting that people say what YOU want them to say, represent me the way YOU want me represented, and by refusing to allow the tradition to expand and to grow. Traditions must change in order to maintain. If they do not, they become stagnant, and sclerotic, and they die. The changes you see upset you. Take a look at your angry faces. Listen to your combative tone. Your defense of Christmas is choking the joy out of it.
Let us take a moment to review the history and the meaning of Christmas. The scriptures do not tell us that Jesus was born on December 25th. The ancient Roman world celebrated December 25th as the birth of the unconquered sun. It was a celebration of the winter solstice when the days begin to get longer.
In the fourth century of the Common Era, Chrysostom wrote: “[T]hey call it ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who is so unconquered as Our Lord. . . ? If they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm)
From the very start, Christmas has been in a syncretistic relationship with other non-Christian spiritualities, and some of the symbols from those traditions have become a part of Christmas. The Yule log is a long that burned in northern Europe during the longest night. The Christmas tree and decorations with evergreen come from celebrations of the winter solstice. Romans decorated their temples with fir trees during the December Saturnalia celebrations.
Mistletoe comes from Norse mythology where the goddess Frigga redeems the mistletoe that was crafted into a weapon that killed her son. She blesses it to become a symbol of peace and love. Scandinavian warriors would put down their weapons in the face of the enemy when standing near mistletoe. (http://www.herbco.com/t-mistletoe.aspx) Over time, we have lost the idea of mistletoe as a symbol of peace, and we have made it into a symbol of romantic love. I am hopeful that we can reclaim it as a symbol to end wars, all wars, even and especially this nonsense about a “war on Christmas.” All of These symbols now have multiple meanings.
Speaking about multiplicity, I myself am more than one image. I wear fake fur in the northern hemisphere and swimming trunks in the south, since Christmas is a summer festival there. I am the representation, the personification of the magic of a wish come true. What race, nationality, or ethnicity is this generosity? I bless the child-like faith that life and love can bring us the things we want. We err when our thinking stops with the representation, the personification and hides the unseen thing that the symbol intends to reveal. We err further when we cannot see beyond the thing that we wanted.
The reality behind the symbol that I am and behind the gifts we give and receive is love. It is radical love that is the Christ consciousness that can be found in many religious traditions. It is the spirit of peace on earth and good will toward men and women.
Keep this in mind when you wish each other as I wish you all now:
Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays.
For a longer version of this memo, see: http://justpeacetheory.com/files/A_Memo_from_Santa.pdf
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.