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The Telegram
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The two Christmases
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
Dec. 26, 2013 12:14 p.m.



I’ve tried to resist the urge to write about Fox New’s silly “war on Christmas,” but Rob went there with a post yesterday, and I’ve published two letters from local readers convinced the alleged war on Christianity is real:

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/opinions/letters_to_the_editor/x915455462/Byrnes-Call-it-what-it-is-A-Christmas-tree

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/opinions/letters_to_the_editor/x1275654296/Marshall-War-on-Christmas-is-real

As I see it, the problem is that there are really two Christmases: the religious Christmas and the cultural Christmas.  The figure at the center of one is the baby Jesus; for the other, it’s Santa Claus. The central symbol of one is the creche; for the other, it’s the Christmas tree. One is marked by gathering in church to read scripture, pray and sing sacred songs. The other is marked by gathering around the tree, unwrapping gifts, and listening to Elvis sing “Blue Christmas.”  One is about the Gospel of Luke; the other involves ritual readings of Clement Moore and viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

For many people, these two Christmases coexist comfortably; even people raised as Christians who have given up religious practice delight in family traditions with religious roots.  The vast majority of Americans are tolerant of all religions and happy to wish their neighbors happiness, whatever holiday they are (or aren’t) celebrating. But some very religious Christians resent how the cultural Christmas has “taken Christ out of Christmas.” These are the ones who get steamed up when some store clerk says “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” resent calling The holiday can be a quandary for Americans without Christian roots who want to be part of the celebration, or for families of mixed religious heritage.  Can Jews have a Christmas  tree? Does Santa bring toys to Muslim kids?  Some non-Christians, like Rob, resent having “your holiday shoved down my throat.”  A warning: don’t send your mother’s Christmas cookies to the Meltzer family.

Polls show Americans are becoming less religiously homogenized.  The number of those who identify themselves as members of a non-Christian religion are growing, but not as fast as the number of those who identify themselves as having no religion.  For the “nones,” Christmas is as religious as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July: People prone to prayer may pray out of gratitude or patriotism on those occasions, but it’s not central to the celebration.

I have one thing to say to all these people, complainers and celebrators alike: Happy New Year.

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