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Hitchens' Bah Humbug
The strange writhings of people bent on claiming Winter Solstice as a holy, national holiday, by Christopher Hitchens on Slate:

...I was invited onto Scarborough Country on MSNBC to debate the proposition that reindeer were an ancient symbol of Christianity and thus deserving of First Amendment protection, if not indeed of mandatory display at every mall in the land. I am told that nobody watches that show anymore—certainly I heard from almost nobody who had seen it—so I must tell you that the view taken by the host was that coniferous trees were also a symbol of Christianity, and that the Founding Fathers had endorsed this proposition. From his cue cards, he even quoted a few vaguely deistic sentences from Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, neither of them remotely Christian in tone. When I pointed out the latter, and added that Christmas trees, yule logs, and all the rest were symbols of the winter solstice "holidays" before any birth had been registered in the greater Bethlehem area, I was greeted by a storm of abuse, as if I had broken into the studio instead of having been entreated to come by Scarborough's increasingly desperate staff. And when I added that it wasn't very Tiny Tim-like to invite a seasonal guest and then tell him to shut up, I was told that I was henceforth stricken from the Scarborough Rolodex. The ultimate threat: no room at the Bigmouth Inn.

This was a useful demonstration of what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivization of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy. Time wasted on foolishness at one's children's schools. Vapid ecumenical messages from the president, who has more pressing things to do and who is constitutionally required to avoid any religious endorsements.

...A revealing mark of their insecurity is (Christian enthusiasts) rage when public places are not annually given over to religious symbolism, and now, their fresh rage when palaces of private consumption do not follow suit. The Fox News campaign against Wal-Mart and other outlets—whose observance of the official feast-day is otherwise fanatical and punctilious to a degree, but a degree that falls short of unswerving orthodoxy—is one of the most sinister as well as one of the most laughable campaigns on record. If these dolts knew anything about the real Protestant tradition, they would know that it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver Cromwell—my own favorite Protestant fundamentalist—to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether.

No believer in the First Amendment could go that far. But there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as "churches," and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether. If this is not sufficient, then god damn them. God damn them everyone.

The cards I ordered yesterday for next year,
and other less in-your-face solstice greetings, available here. And yes, I'll still send Santa with a surfboard cards and the like to those likely to be wounded by the entrance of rationality into the season. For the record, if I know you're Christian, I'll wish you "merry Christmas." If I don't know what you are or suspect you're Jewish, Raelian, or Hari Krishna, I'll say "happy holidays." If I suspect you're thinking enough not to believe in any god, I might even say "reason's greetings." All of the above beat "Get the fuck out of my way!"

Posted by aalkon at December 22, 2005 7:00 AM

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Reason's greetings to you, too.

I think your post makes a powerful case for doing what I would do, under ideal circumstances: Hibernate until January.

Posted by: That Julia at December 22, 2005 8:02 AM

Hitchens' support of Cromwell strikes me as pretty odious. Ask anyone with a grasp of Irish history.

Posted by: LYT at December 22, 2005 5:28 PM

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