Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Santa Penguin? Not in my house!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013


Should I be making plans to take my grandchildren to see Santa Penguin, right after we decorate the Holiday tree?


I try not to let the secularization of Christmas get me down, because it is a beautiful and sacred season that I look forward to every year. But this year, the rhetoric around Christmas has gotten downright disheartening.

For one thing, the American Atheists are back in Times Square with a billboard that suggests we take Christ out of Christmas, because the really important things about Christmas are the Rockettes, presents and Chinese food (included, I suppose, because Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas, offering sustenance to the fictional family of “A Christmas Story” and to real-life Jewish families).

But it’s the penguin that’s really got my goat. Slate magazine blogger Aisha Harris suggested in a post that we ditch the pink-cheeked Santa in favor of a penguin, because kids of every color like penguins and no one will feel excluded. She recalls her childhood, when she would see white Santas in the mall and black Santas in her neighborhood. When she asked her father why. “My father replied that Santa was every color. Whatever house he visited, jolly old St. Nicholas magically turned into the likeness of the family that lived there.”

What a wise and wonderful father, offering up what I thought was a perfect answer. But Ms. Harris didn’t buy it. She goes on to say how she felt so ashamed of her dark skin because she thought the real Santa must be white. I hope that’s not true, because I hate to think of any child being ashamed of who she is. But I’m also tired of the annual attempts to make me feel guilty for being a Christian.

I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I celebrate His birth at Christmas, mourn His death on Good Friday and revel in His resurrection on Easter Sunday. I was born and raised a Catholic and the church welcomed me back with open arms even after I had left it for years. One of the most beloved Christmas traditions is to tell children about Santa Claus, a jolly old man who lives in the North Pole and delivers gifts to good children all over the world. To young Christmas celebraters, it’s enchanting to think about Santa visiting every home all over the world. Santa is completely inclusive in these young minds. You just have to be good!

The legendary Santa Claus sprang from the real-life St. Nicholas, a wealthy and generous young man from what is now Turkey. He became a priest, and then a bishop. I don’t know if he had rosy red cheeks, but I do know he was not a penguin. He was an actual flesh-and-blood human being. His first act of beneficence saved young girls who were on the verge of being sold into slavery. His story spread throughout Europe, and Europeans brought him, and their traditions of giving each other small gifts, with them to the New World. The legend spread and morphed and St. Nicholas became Santa Claus, known for his trademark red suit and his bowl-full-of-jelly tummy.

I am not denying that our country has been, and in many ways still remains, divided by race. But Santa Claus is not the culprit. The fact that black Santas existed in Ms. Harris’s childhood was a sign that African-Americans had embraced this delightful custom as part of their (very Christian) celebration of Christmas, but ornament makers and greeting card designers hadn’t yet caught up.

I don’t know if Ms. Harris will take any solace from this, but every child worries that the Santa on whose lap they are perched is not the real one. The hope that he might be is part of the magic of Christmas.

Somehow, I just don’t see a penguin pulling that off.

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Christians Are to Blame for the Commercialization of Christmas

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The first volley in the “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry  Christmas” wars has been fired in Rhode Island, where Gov. Lincoln Chafee has announced there will once again be a “Holiday Tree” at the  statehouse in Providence.

What the heck is a “Holiday Tree“?

It’s true this is a “holiday season,” with  Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all celebrated in December. A few years ago,  even Ramadan  arrived during the holiday season.

But an evergreen tree decorated with lights and  tinsel does not represent all those holidays. Do Jewish families light the  Holiday Menorah at sundown? Do Muslims greet each other with “Holiday Mubarak”? A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas – and a secular  one at that.

Remember when you didn’t see Christmas decorations  in the stores until after Thanksgiving? At least that’s how it was when I was  growing up in Brooklyn. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushered in the Christmas season and yes, we called it “the Christmas season.”

All stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day as we  celebrated our national holiday. The next day we went to Manhattan to see all  the beautiful store windows unveiled and visit Santa with our wish lists. It was  magical! Manger scenes were plentiful around town and there were no apologies or  need for a campaign to “Keep Christ in Christmas”!

Is this now just the Ghost of Christmas Past? How  did we get from there to here? How did we go from that warm feeling about  Christmas and knowing that we were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, to the  secular frenzy we have today? Don’t blame the non-believers. Instead I think  those of us who believe in the divinity of Jesus need to examine our own  consciences.

If you are a Christian who celebrates Christmas, ask  yourself these questions.

1) In decorating your home for Christmas, is the  Christ Child and manger scene a focal point in your home, both inside and  outside? Are there as many decorations depicting the Holy Family, Angels and the  Wisemen as there are snowmen, Santas and reindeer?

2) When selecting Christmas cards, do you pick only cards with Mary and the  Christ Child or do snowmen, Santa and skating penguins top your list? Oh, by the  way, let’s not use the excuse “But I have some friends who are Jewish or don’t  celebrate Christmas.” I do too, and for those folks I buy a handful of separate  Happy Hanukkah cards for my Jewish friends, and for non-believers, a Happy New  Year’s card. The point is, I don’t subtract the Christ Child from the  equation!

3) Do you only say Merry Christmas or do you give in  and find yourself spouting the correct “Happy Holidays”?

4) When purchasing stamps for mailing my Christmas  cards I only buy the Madonna  and Child. In fact, I buy extra to use throughout the year. What about you?

5) Wrapping paper for gifts: Here, too, no Season’s Greetings or Happy  Holidays on my wrapping paper. Yours?

The commercialization of Christmas is the fault of  us Christians. We buy the secular cards, wrapping paper and other trappings. If  we only purchased the items that are Christ-centered, then that would be what  the companies would produce. For them it is all about profit.

Here’s an example: One year I was selecting a  Christmas card for our ministry from a large printing company’s book. Usually I  place an order for a large number of Christmas cards. One year I noticed that  there were only two styles that featured the Madonna and Child, both of which I  had already used in previous years.

I didn’t place an order with that company that year  and I told them why.

Don’t you know the following year they contacted me  with their new catalog and were proud to tell me they have a larger selection of  religious cards then ever before. So you see, we have power in our purchasing,  if we do it wisely.

In order to “Keep Christ in Christmas” and make sure  people know that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” we have to set the  example.

People of all religions are proud of their holidays  and happy to share their special meaning with those of other faiths. It’s time  for Christians to stop apologizing for Christmas.

Janet Morana is the executive director of Priests for  Life.

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