Christmas Components

November 29, 2006 | Filed Under big ideas, god bless the internet, good lord, politics | Leave a Comment 

“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” — Garrison Keillor“If they could, secularists would cancel Christmas as a holiday. That’s how much they fear the exposition of the philosophy of Jesus.” — Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly and Garrison Keillor certainly and obviously hail from opposite sides of the tracks - but believe it or not, they actually share a tiny little piece of common ground. Sort of. Garrison, of course, is the voice of reason and wisdom to Bill’s raving lunatic, but apparently they both want to keep Christmas in the world.There are differences to their approaches, not surprisingly. Bill’s solution to end the “War on Christmas” would be to force all non-christians to willingly defer rule to christianity and christian symbolism in public, without any “equal time” for other faiths, essentially because “we were here first,” and any entity proposing a compromise that might omit the word Christ must be economically boycotted. O’Reilly sees any adaptation motivated by a sense of political correctness as a religious persecution against Christians, and the fundies love him for it.So what about those of us libs who also happen to really like Christmas? This is where Garrison Keillor chimes in today on Salon:

“Whether or not you believe that the Creator of the Universe came to earth in the body of a child, the day itself is an enormous gift.

There are people who feel “excluded” by Christian symbolism and are offended by the manger and the angels and the Child, but there have always been humorless, legalistic people. Complaint is an American art form, and in our time it has been raised to an operatic level. To which one can only say: Get a life. When you go to France, you don’t expect a stack of buckwheat pancakes for breakfast or Le Monde to print box scores. You’re in France. Now you’re in America. It’s a Christian culture. Work with it.”

His argument, (also against the over-compensation of the p.c.-minded), is more about recognizing the fact that the religious component of Christmas is actually a pretty small fragment of the already long-since secularized “Christmas season”. He says there’s plenty of room for non-christians to enjoy Christmas, and that the trappings of the season, with all the food, nostalgia, and carols do not require an adherence to any particular faith to be enjoyed.Basically, his much more rational point of view is that, in our current society, it’s true that Christianity was here first. Pretty early on, however, the Christmas holiday extravaganza got firmly established in the secular world and was commercialized in a million films, songs, and store promotions. There’s all this great food, pretty lights, and kids love Santa Claus. It’s a very American, capitalistic, and in the past 100 years, a hugely secular thing. I think what he’s saying here is that if you’re not Christian, or even if you’re not religious at all, you can still eat the cookies and watch the rudolph special, and even still feel some goodwill towards men or something.None of us, Garrison included, would ever want to live in the near-theocratic society that Bill-O’s followers dream of. I don’t think Garrison is suggesting that Christianity get any special treatment at Christmastime, or that any other religious holiday should be silenced, just that the reality is, there’s a whole Christmas culture that a lot of people feel sentimental about and are really fond of, and he doesn’t want it to disappear into a politically homogenized fog.Politics aside, the majority of Garrison’s piece is really about elucidating what’s beautiful and wonderful about Christmas in the first place; why it’s something that so many people care about at all. I particularly love how he first observes the season through the eyes of a little girl and then later, as an adult full of the pain of life - and the moment during Silent Night on Christmas Eve when all your Christmases meld into one.If nothing else, at least we know Garrison Keillor can beat Bill O’Reilly at poetics.


Another Christmas-related item: The Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas box set is out now. Last year, I blogged about three of these five E.P.s, as they weren’t available to buy, but you could find them online. (Now the links go to this page.) I listened to them a lot and they’re really great. I guess the story is that he does a Christmas E.P. with his friends every year as a tradition. I think the ones that were online were the first three years, ’cause the way Pitchfork writes about the more recent ones sounds like something I haven’t heard yet. I would ask for this set for Christmas, but that doesn’t really make sense… I want to be listening to this in the car on the way home, you know? Guess it’s going on my grocery list. 


Finally, while doing all this Christmas themed googling today, I came across this:Not very secular, especially for characters that most people consider pretty secular, but I bet Garrison Keillor still likes it. And that Vince Guaraldi music is really something. Might be going on my grocery list also. 


November 5, 2006 | Filed Under art, funny haha, god bless the internet, politics | Leave a Comment 

“I’m just not sure it’s in our best interests to have a government led by demons!”