Photograph by Draculina Ak
From 3 Quarks Daily:
I have very fond memories from the 1990s of listening to a friend’s Gujarati Indian immigrant family butcher Christmas carols.
It was an annual Christmas Eve tradition for these religious Hindus. Each year, with women on one side of the room and men on the other, the genders separated by the large, decorated tree, they joyously worked their way through about a half-dozen classics. Sometimes they sang in unison, and sometimes they traded parts while they consulted xeroxed lyric sheets. When it came to “Deck the Halls,” everyone always got a chuckle out of the men warbling “Fa la la la, La la la la!”
For me, an American Jew then in my mid-20s, it was a liberating experience.
Christmas might not be everyone’s favorite holiday, but there’s no denying that here in the United States, it is THE holiday. None of the others can really compete. It is front and center in the cultural consciousness for no less then a month, beginning its inexorable, swelling crescendo the minute Thanksgiving ends in late November.
The War on Christmas agitators, especially the propagandists in big-time right-wing media like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, are largely full of shit of course. Christmas dominates American culture during the entire month of December and almost everybody celebrates in one way or another, including millions of non-Christians.
But the religious Christians who complain that one of their most sacred holidays has been exploited and debased by commerce and secularization? The folks who rail against “Xmas,” decrying the removal of “Christ” from “Christmas?” I think they’re absolutely right.
For many Americans, Santa Clause is a more pivotal Christmas figure than Jesus. Elves and reindeer supplant angels and wise men. “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Winter Wonderland” are far more popular than “O Tannenbaum” or “Oh Holy Night.” And countless millions of Americans spend Christmas Eve opening gifts (or wrapping them at the last minute) instead of going to church.
In other words, my Indian friends weren’t singing the praises of Christ’s birth because they were about to convert. Rather, they were taking Christmas and making their own. They were turning something ostensibly Christian into something that was decidedly un-Christian.