Sour grapes? A bah-humbug Scrooge? Antiestablishment? Irreligious? No! None of these. Here's a plain speaking-out about a holiday nearly everybody keeps, religious or nonreligious, and nearly no one seems to really understand why! Read this personal — experience article for understanding. It's practical. Logical. Truthful. Biblical. All of these!
Many years ago I stopped to ask myself: Why do I keep Christmas? More people are unhappy, miserable, depressed, deep in debt, and violent during that holiday season than any other time of the year. There's precious little peace on earth or goodwill among men. There doesn't seem to be much of Christ in the commercialized Christmas that begins to be advertised each year before the last Christmas is paid for! For that matter, in what little reading I had done in the Bible, I never had read anything about Christmas. Where did we get all of these customs anyway? Why do I have to practice them just because everybody else does? What difference will it make if I don't keep Christmas? At first I argued with myself that I would create problems with my friends and relatives, particularly the kids in the family, if I didn't go along with the customs surrounding the twenty-fifth of December. But I was wrong. When I said I was sick and tired of it and determined not to have anything to do with it, I found many people who felt the same way. A great number of those who had in previous years felt obliged to trade gifts with me sighed in relief at not having that obligation. As for the children, when we took the time to look into the encyclopedia and the other reference works at the library, when we read with our thinking caps on the many articles that come out in daily newspapers during the Christmas season, we realized that the origins of these customs were not biblical at all — and, in fact, had nothing to do with Jesus Christ of Nazareth! And children, until they are taught differently, have an inspiring respect for the plain truth! So looking back on the many years which I have not kept Christmas, I can with happy hindsight give many more reasons now than when I first quit observing this outstanding holiday of the "Christian" calendar. Perhaps you will benefit by the cataloguing of some of those experiences and the reasons that I have learned over the years for not having to become involved in what is not only the least understood but the most misunderstood of social customs in the Western world.
1. I CAN'T AFFORD IT
By the time you add up the cost of decorations, special meals, travel expenses, gifts and cards, time taken off from work during a forced holiday season, etc., etc., it can often — especially by the time you add carrying charges and interest on those things which have been put on credit — amount to nearly ten percent of your gross annual income that can be spent on this occasion. You just have to ask yourself — is it worth it? The answer I had to give myself was — absolutely not. By the time I examined my budget in the light of the rising, inflationary cost of living — by the time I realized the serious investment that has to be made ahead of time for my children's education and for my own old age — by the time I added up all the deductions from my paycheck and then subtracted the absolutely necessary amounts for the basics of living — by the time I set aside a little for yearly family excursions to some place on this beautiful earth that I have not seen before — by the time I added in the expense of those things which are not necessary but which I would like to do and be free to do (not be forced to do) — by the time I set aside a little for unexpected occurrences and all the other picky things that belong in a budget, I realized that I had nothing left over to pay for financing the biggest business bust of the year! Whenever I mention this to other people, I usually get hearty agreement and a wistful look 'from them that says they wish they had the gumption to cut free from this ridiculous expense themselves.
2. ACCENT ON GET
Materialism and commercialism so dominate this "season to be jolly" that there can surely be no soul so blind as not to see it. Although it is the season of giving — and everyone is propagandized to feel evil if they are not involved in that" giving — the overtones, from the candy store on the corner to the department store that has everything and the mail-order-catalogue businesses, obviously put the stress on getting them more business during this time of year than any other comparable season. In fact, many commercial ventures rely on this season of the year for their survival. Whenever a question is asked after the twenty-fifth of December is past, it is generally, "What did you GET for Christmas?" Each vies with the other, determined to express the idea that he got more. Nobody likes to pay taxes, and I'm sure that if there were a way out everybody would take it and ' cease paying taxes immediately. But taxes are demanded, and it is a criminal offense not to pay them. Being taxed in addition to that by the crass commercialism and social pressure mounted at Christmas time is something I have found the strength to refuse. It is not a crime to refuse to go along with the crowds in their rush' to fulfill the season's demands in fact, there's a certain sense of satisfaction in having been able to be assailed with all of that accumulation of social trends and business furor and withstand it all, independent, watching the madness from the side: lines. There's enough of the "go now and pay later," the "put it on credit and don't worry about payments until February," the "why use cash when you can use credit?" syndromes going on in the world as it is. I not only don't have to worry about payments until February, but I don't have to worry about payments even when it gets to be March or April or Mayor June or July or for however long those holidays may continue to cost the average person for his response to Christmas commercialism.
3. GIVING IS SPECIAL
Withdrawing myself from the social demands of giving on command, of being obliged to give things I can't afford to people to whom I don't want to give — who feel the same way about me and wouldn't like what I give them anyway — doesn't mean that I have given up giving. My children, my wife, my family and close friends receive gifts from me, or I do nice things for them, at spontaneous times that are special — just between me and the one to whom I give. That way the gift is much more special. The receiver realizes that it doesn't have to be done. The thought behind the gift does count more than the gift. All the giving is not done in just one season. Special joy comes from giving and receiving between people who love each other — and it is spread over the whole year. Because it is special, care and thought beyond the mad rush of the commercial season are lavished uniquely oil the one gift at the one time for the special occasion which I find stands out much more in the memory of the giver and the receiver than any Christmas gift ever could. This way I'm free to give, not bound to give — and I find this freedom refreshing!
4. HYPOCRISY — THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
"I hate Christmas," said one department store manager in California. "I hate the hypocrisy, the one-day Christianity of Christmas; I hate the commercialism — and I'm part of it." A seasoned divorce lawyer wrote, "Lawyers usually see an influx of new divorce clients immediately following the Christmas and New Year holidays. Too much holiday cheer touches off the smoldering conflicts that have been under control all year." A psychiatrist says, "At Christmas, the lonely begin feeling lonelier, the tension prone tighten up as pressures mount and the illusion appears of ecstatic happiness all just around the corner. Christmas is the worst season of the year for the mentally ill." Even the Better Business Bureau warns, "Tis the season to be wary" — that is, it's the season of shysters, shoplifters and sidewalk salesmen. They warn that those who plead for charity should be investigated before any donation is made — especially at this time of year. In a desperate effort to fit in with the "spirit of Christmas," people smile when they don't feel like smiling. They greet one another with old pagan slogans. They get increasingly concerned about the debts they are mounting up. They get into more and more of a hard-faced, bitter fighting with their fellow Christmas shoppers as the deadline approaches and they desperately try to snap up the last few gifts from the counters which they know are going to offer the same items the day after Christmas for 30 to 50 percent off! Far too many try to get their Christmas spirits from the bottle, and either end up drunk with a hangover, or perhaps seriously injured or dead as a result of overindulgence while driving. So many so deeply wish they didn't have to be involved in this season but are forced to by social custom. Hypocrisy stands as the hallmark of this season.
5. I HATE TO LIE ESPECIALLY TO KIDS
A famous physician says that the Santa Claus myth is a fantastic web of lies which can cause your child" when he finds out" — confusion of mind, possible schizoid splits in his personality, or even it physical ailment resulting from the emotional letdown of "losing" so close a friend (Santa). One psychology professor even laid part of the blame for the generation gap and the hippie subculture on the Santa Claus myth. In the parent-child relationship the TRUTH is the most priceless commodity that they must always share. How many times have you found yourself saying to your child — "Now you be sure to tell me the truth, young man (or young lady)"? We even want them to tell us if they have done something bad — which is difficult for anybody to tell. We want them to tell us about their grades in school, about their friends and what they do and think, whether they broke a neighbor's window or took money from mama's purse. We preach over and over to them that they must always tell the truth. And then we proceed in nearly every holiday season of the year to manufacture the most ridiculous falsehoods imaginable! Sober-faced and with our hypocritical spirit of Christmas wrapped around us, we tell them — and even associate it with God and Christ and the Bible — one blatant lie after another! Is it any wonder we have a generation gap! One of the biggest things that the young people of today are accusing the older generation of is hypocrisy — and Tm afraid that I have to agree with that charge for the majority of the people who live as slaves to the social system which surrounds us. Thankfully, 1 determined, before my children were old enough to talk to, that I was not going to tell them any lies about a fat man who dresses in a red suit, flies in some magical way on a sled led by a red-nosed reindeer and somehow manages to squeeze down my chimney on the dark night of the twenty-fourth to deposit gifts for all the good little children under some tinseled tree that I have trucked in. My children didn't have to find out that dad was lying about Santa Claus. My children didn't have to even think the thought in their minds which has been expressed by a few bold children — that thought: "If they lie to me about Santa Claus, what else will they lie to me about? Now, I wonder about this whole Jesus Christ business!" This doesn't mean that my children never have lied — I certainly don't pride myself on being a perfect parent. But it does mean that they could not excuse any lying they did because they caught their mother or father telling them big whoppers — and doing it in the setting of religious worship at that! They know mom and dad don't lie, and this gives them a special respect and a special contact that is not only precious to my wife and me as parents but which we feel is a basic requirement and an indispensable tool of child rearing. It's all too often that we run across the syndrome of people not practicing what they preach. You can't ask your kids to do what they don't see you doing. You can tell your kids, "Don't do as I do, do as I say," but it won't work! Children have to learn to trust their parents — but I never knew an inveterate liar who could be trusted. Being forced by society to tell a package of lies at a time which is so special in the minds of children — when they are at their most tender and impressionable age — deals a crippling blow to child-parent relationships and creates a giant credibility gap between children and adults — no matter how much we might pooh-pooh the idea. As a child grows up, it leads to a cynical turn of mind. It gives him or her a set of values which is cheap and tawdry regarding the truth. Yet it is a reward no parent wants to miss to have his children come to him and ask any question they want to, in an open trust, knowing that they will be told the truth. You can't buy that commodity. There's no commercialism or materialism involved with it. It is the opposite of hypocrisy. And despite the fact that you cannot buy it, it costs absolutely nothing. The truth is that commodity which is most missing in today's world, and it truly is the source and power of freedom — "the truth SHALL make YOU free."
6. XMAS TREE BEARS BAD FRUIT
Another reason I don't keep Christmas is a logical, cause-and-effect reason. I look around me and it doesn't take too much intelligence or research effort on my part to determine that the fruits of the Christmas tree are heavily seasoned with bitterness and violence, depression, depravity and debt. The Book my Maker gave me says that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. When I look at this Christmas tree, I see a great deal of bad fruit. It's a paradox. At Christmas time, when millions of families are drawn closer together, at least in physical proximity, it is also a fact that simultaneously more people are depressed, deep in debt, discouraged, drunken and dying during that time than any other month of the year. The FBI says, "The peak monthly rate [for murder and manslaughter] almost invariably occurs in December. This may have something to do with the approach of Christmas, which leads to an unusually large number of family rows... 'Peace on earth,' we say, but it looks very doubtful that we really mean it at Christmas. Not when families are suffering such heavy crime statistics. On a week for week basis more people commit suicide during this holiday season than any other period of the year." A policeman writes, "I have been an officer for over 19 years... we get more calls from neighbors to go out and settle family 'fights on Christmas Eve than any other night during the year, including New Year's. You walk into a house that is gaily decorated, the tree is aglow, beautifully wrapped gifts are under the tree and the husband and wife are throwing things at each other. The kids are crouched in the corner scared out of their wits." A leading neurologist says, "There are certainly more depressions, suicidal gestures, cries for help at Christmas than at any other time." Overeating, hives, crying jags, dishonesty, sexual deviation, playing with your neighbor's wife, plain orneriness, a peak in highway accidents, and family murders are among the fruits of this season's tree. Personally, for me, I thank God that the Christmas tree is not in my home to bear these bad fruits.
7. XMAS DEMANDS INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY
Beyond just plain lying to our children, coming up with reasons why we keep these holidays produces a prime example of either a bad case of intellectual blinders or outright intellectual dishonesty. It doesn't take great, in-depth research to — find out that the roots of Christmas — and for that matter every so-called Christian holiday on the calendar — are not found in the Bible, which is the handbook from the Creator. A little further basic research in encyclopedias will force a person to either rebel against the dictates of commercial society — or compromise his intellectual honesty. Take the Catholic Encyclopaedia, for instance, under the article "Christmas." It plainly tells us that many early church fathers condemned the keeping of this baptized Saturnalia and that it was not an acceptable "Christian" holiday until well into the fourth century. Even after that it goes on to show that many outstanding leaders in the history of that church as well as a pope or two have condemned the practices of that season. It continues explaining that even the Parliament of England declared the holiday illegal at one time. It states very plainly that there is no Bible precedent for observing the birthday of Christ. It plainly points out that nobody really knows when Christ was born — that "respected authorities" can be found who place the birth of Christ in almost any month of the year. Further than that it plainly explains that if there is anyone month when the birth of Christ could not have occurred it would be December. And on and on and on... To think that in the light of all the information which is readily available any individual would continue to celebrate this festival seems to me to be blatant intellectual dishonesty.
8. CHRIST NEVER WAS IN CHRIST-MASS
"Let's put Christ back into Christmas," some say when they notice the commercialism. Yet this saying is of itself a sad commentary on the entire subject. When you put all your research together, looking at the Bible, looking at the readily available references in your public library and perhaps at the books on your own shelf, you can quickly see that the true Jesus Christ of Nazareth who lived in Galilee nearly two thousand years ago never was in Christmas. As you progress through a short study, you rea.1ize that His name was put into Christmas and accepted as the heart of the story of Christmas by about the fourth century. You realize the name of 'Christ was used and applied to this custom. But then, of course, you realize that the name of Christ was prophesied by Jesus Himself to be preached and associated with the deception of the many as one of the signs that would precede His coming and that He Himself gave this prophecy to His disciples in Matthew 24. As your study goes further, you realize that many attempts at reform were made at various times in both the Catholic and Protestant churches — feeble attempts to get back to the faith once delivered to the saints — attempts to not allow, as the early New Testament church did not, the name of Christ to be associated with such a dubious background. It would be impossible to put the true Christ back into Christmas because the true Christ never was in Christmas. Christ's name has been used in vain to decorate that day, and so the third of the great Ten Commandments is broken. Jesus Christ is the living Word — the personal, human and now divine expression of the living Ten Commandments. The keeping of this holiday breaks not only the third commandment but every other one. It's obvious that the commandment against lying is broken here. Often the commandment not to commit adultery is broken especially on that day. It's obvious to see that coveting is the universal principle of this season. It is all too sadly plain to recognize that murder is committed and a great deal of stealing goes on and children have a very difficult time honoring their parents. The Jesus Christ of Nazareth who gave His life to pay for my all-too-many sins — the Jesus Christ of Nazareth who py the Spirit of God is, according to the dictates of His Word, the Bible, supposed to be living His life-style over in my life — that living Jesus soon to come to this world as its King of kings and Lord of lords will not give authority for His name to be associated with any aspect of this pagan holiday.
9. IT'S PAGAN
In most any public library you can get proof of this in a book entitled Four Thousand Years of Christmas by Earl Wendell Count. The very name of this book proves that the Christmas holiday isn't Christian. It was celebrated two thousand years before the birth of Christ in honor of pagan gods. Therefore, it was and is idolatry. God very patently says, "Take heed... that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods?' — that I also may do likewise. You shall not do so to the Eternal your God; for every abominable thing which the Eternal hates they have done for their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:30-31 ).
10. I GIVE TO CHRIST
The excuse of giving gifts that comes from the story of the birth of Christ regarding the wise men giving Christ gifts is misapplied in OUT giving one another gifts. The reason the wise men gave gifts to Christ was because he was a King. He is much more a King now than He was then, and He will be even much more a King in the soon-coming future than He is now. To give to every Tom, Dick and Harry and NOT to give to Christ, particularly at a season which claims Christ as its center, seems to me the worst hypocrisy of all. Having read and believed Malachi 3, I have dedicated that first ten percent and another generous amount of my budget to be given to God, to His Work on this earth today, to proclaiming the good news of the coming Kingdom of God to rule over this world, to His representatives who preach and teach that truth which is the only source of freedom. I find many biblical commands — inescapable — which require me to give to my Christ and other statements which allow me to give freely of freewill offerings at any time or on special occasions. This kind of giving r can do with a completely free conscience. I may be faced with a few unpleasant comments from people and have to suffer ridicule or scoffing or accusations because I don't keep the arch holiday which is designated by the name of Christ (taken in vain), but I will not have to stand before my Creator whose name is Jesus Christ and explain to Him why I kept Christmas. I don't think it will be too difficult facing the judgment — to be able to say to my Creator that, instead of giving at a time of the pagan winter solstice, gifts I couldn't afford, which were not appreciated — that I have instead given as commanded (and I hope generously as freewill offerings) my gifts directly to the Work of the living Jesus Christ. These are just ten reasons why I don't keep Christmas — but I think they are adequate to explain my conduct. The freedom I enjoy, the good conscience I am able to have, the sincere friends who give to me of their time and effort and consideration as well as a small, physical gift from time to time — the security I feel at not having a mountain of debts to pay, the ability to look my son and daughter or anyone else in the eye and tell the truth — al1 these are priceless and indispensable factors that influence every day of my life. When I gave up Christmas, I didn't give up anything but debt, materialism, hypocrisy, lying, intellectual dishonesty and paganism. The freedom of the truth is rich and it gets richer every year. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Why don't you join me in my freedom?