Christmas ain’t What it Used to Be

Barry Dredze
3 min readDec 9, 2022

Despite growing up with an outsider’s perspective, Christmas in America was still always a pretty good time. The music could be pretty good, where everyone from jazz beatniks and rockabilly greasers to dirty blues players and punk rockers wanted in on it. For Jesus’ birthday, the culture schlock mostly did a pretty good job of keeping the more exclusively religious aspects out of its more public celebrations, ostensibly for the sake of inclusion if not mostly for that of an easy buck. Snowmen and candy canes, sleighbells and mistletoe, Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer, all of it made for a festive season that cancelled virtually no one. If the sacred was more your thing, churches are pretty much and always have been all over the place; and you could always invite whoever you wanted into your own home — or not.

In any event, from that outsider’s perspective, the more it has been wielded as a weapon of socio-political supremacy the more the fun has gone out of Christmas. And why not? Christmas is the only religious holy day to be declared an American federal holiday, inventing traditions and bridging a gap between notions of the sacred with the profane. American culture being all about freedom of choice, I always appreciated the option. And I joyfully run with the profanity.

Is it really so hard to celebrate Christmas in the USA? Does acknowledging our religious diversity with a “Happy Holidays” greeting in a retail transaction make celebrating the birth of your savior so difficult? Is tolerating a commitment to love and partnership outside of any particular theological restrictions so oppressive that it feels like violent coercion?

But as Christianity in the West — including these United States — becomes more nationalistic, Christians have grown steadily more possessive of Christmas, despite its recognition as a national holiday in otherwise diverse, inclusive and secular societies. Or maybe because of all that. After all, the law is whatever our lawmakers decide it is. So, if the sacred can be nationalized, then the profane can be criminalized. Like what…?

Like marriage equality, family planning, and abortion, for a few examples that are currently, or have been recently, or likely to come before the Supreme Court of these United States.

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Barry Dredze

Just another mortal, tweaking my cognitive map on the fly.