How lucky we Americans are, especially at this time of year. We have two significant holidays happening simultaneously and, by strange coincidence, they both have the same name, Christmas.
One Christmas is a mass-market, secular holiday designed to stimulate the economy, ushered in by a nationally-televised parade on Thanksgiving. We gather, as family and friends, feast, give each other gifts, travel, buy things, see the Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol. We dress up, go out, have company parties. This version of the Christmas holiday is centered around the mall as temple, with Santa Claus (above, with the special Christmas holiday communion beverage) our patron saint, shopping our national ritual.
Secular Christmas is open to people of all faiths, given adequate creditworthiness.
Observe (above) the liturgy at the famed Chapel of Toys ‘R Us. Note the blue-vested vergers keeping order. Jesus Pitt (below) offers salvation in a Chanel bottle at Macy’s.
All this, of course, happens at the same time in a calendar year as religious Christmas.
Here’s (below) what religious Christmas is about, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The season of the religious Christmas is quiet, contemplative, musical.
Both Christmases can be joyous but they are, in fact, completely different in purpose, in focus and in execution.
The confusion we often seem to have in our national dialog is, I believe, the result of conflating these two, distinctly separate holidays, which happen at the same time of the year and happen, unfortunately, to have exactly the same name.