Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the Committee to Save Christmas may get all worked into a lather over the fact that some retailers prefer “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” to “Merry Christmas.” But a growing Christian counter-movement says they’re missing the point. The Advent Conspiracy urges Christian to slow down, spend less, and give (donate) more during the Advent and Christmas season. And the progressive American Values Network is encouraging evangelicals to consider alternative Christmas gifts in the form of donations to Heifer International or Oxfam.
One reason it’s so easy to get swept up in Christmas consumerism is that Americans really have two separate holidays that take place this time of year and both happen to go by the name “Christmas.” One is a secular, month-long occasion to show appreciation for everyone from relatives to friends to people like your newspaper carrier and your kids’ teachers, and a general excuse for merriment. The other is Advent season, culminating on Christmas Day as one of the holiest days in the Christian liturgical calendar. The religious holiday has nothing to do with gift exchanges and everything to do with quiet contemplative preparation for Christmas.
Maybe some re-branding is in order. The whole idea of celebrating Christmas exists, after all, because Christians appropriated some pagan festivities, including midwinter solstice. We could return to the Germanic tradition of Yuletide for the secular holiday. Or if Christmas has already been too intertwined with Santa and Rudolph to go back to its religious roots, we could re-name the religious holiday. Baby Jesus Day, perhaps? Whaddya say, Bill O’Reilly? Re-branding Christmas seems like a challenge worthy of your abundant energy.