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‘Tis the time of year for the annual “war on Christmas” complaints.
The idea is that there is a secular plot to undermine Christmas through the use of terms like “Happy Holidays,” “Holiday Tree,” “holiday cards,” etc. People get downright incensed when department stores and such put up “Happy Holidays” signs.
Christmas was always a private religious holiday until President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law designating Christmas as a national holiday in 1870. At that moment, Christmas was officially secularized (First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion”). Congress had no right to declare a national religious holiday — by designating Christmas as a holiday for all Americans, it was, Constitutionally-speaking, declaring Christmas to be a non-religious, secular holiday.
The following Christmas songs were written by Jews (cribbed from a web site, but I first heard the story on a locally produced radio show of an NPR affiliate station):
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Writers Mel Torme and Bob Wells…Jewish
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Holly Jolly Christmas and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Johnny Marks was a Jew who specialized in Christmas songs.
Santa Baby – written by Fred Ebb and Joan Javits (both Jews, Javits of the famous family)
I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Walter Kent, who wrote the music and Kim Gannon, who co-wrote the lyrics…Jewish
Silver Bells – Jay Livingston and Ran Evans…Jewish
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – George Wylie (not his birth name) is also famous for writing the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song
Sleigh Ride – Mitchell Parish who wrote the lyrics, was Jewish and born “Michael Hyman Pashelinsky” obviously.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – lyricist Sammy Cahn and music composer Jule Styne … Jewish
There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays – Al Stillman, the lyricist…Jewis
White Christmas – Irving Berlin wrote this one… his birth name Israel Isidore Baline
Of all the Christmas songs, the one with the largest national air play on TV and radio is the “Chestnuts roasting” song.
All this music was a direct result of declaring Christmas to be a national (secular) holiday. Were Christmas treated the same way as Easter (not a national holiday), it would have about the same impact, culturally speaking — i.e. an important day for religious Christians, but something on akin to Halloween or Valentine’s Day for the un-Churched.
Would we really wish Easter to rise to the level of Christmas, as a secular holiday?
Christmas is a huge holiday in Japan, where a grand total of ONE PERCENT of the people are Christian. On one of my trips to Japan, I was there for several days after Thanksgiving. On every block there was not just one but about a dozen public Christmas trees — everywhere in downtown Tokyo. Lots and lots of silver streamers and other decorations. Lots of TV commercials, promoting Christmas products. Enormous live Christmas trees in the lobbies of the big hotels. And everywhere you go it’s “Merry Christmas” (“Merikurisumasu” –> “Me-ree-koo-ris-mahs-u”). Not “Happy Holidays.”
Huge holiday. All “Merry Christmas” — but devoid of any and all religious meaning.
I personally think that “Happy Holidays” is a much better term for use in commercial advertising, secular decorations, greetings from non-Christian people, etc. The way to put the Christ back in Christmas is to take Christmas out of the secular culture, which means not to force secular people to say “Merry Christmas,” when all they are really trying to say is “Happy Holidays.”
- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA
P.S. Merry Christmas