Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christ was out of Christmas a long time ago

In Turkey, all the secular traditions of Christmas (Tree, Santa, gifts, decorations), have been grafted onto a made up New Year's Holiday, but I bet most Americans could walk through a mall here and look at the decorations and think it was to celebrate Christmas.

We live in the largest solely Muslim nation in the world and yet December looks much like a lot of America. The pictures you see here are from Turkish sites celebrating the new year.

"The painful fact is that Christmas is already secularized in the United States, and it's been that way for a long time."

"Just look at the Christmas symbols. You don't see Baby Jesus' smiling face on Coca-Cola cans. That honor belongs to the undisputed king of American Christmas: Santa Claus."

"If ever there were a case of a religious symbol being secularized, Santa is it.

Originally, Santa was St. Nicholas, a fourth century Turkish bishop known for his charity. His feast day, which was widely celebrated in Europe, is Dec. 6 — close enough to Christmas to establish him as a holiday figure, in his case that of a kindly fellow who hands out goodies to children.

The St. Nicholas tradition was brought to the United States, although there was one problem with him in a largely Protestant country: He was a Catholic saint.

So over the years, St. Nicholas' Catholic vestiges were stripped away. Clement Moore's immensely popular 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better known as "The Night Before Christmas." established him as a mythical figure complete with a reindeer-powered sleigh. His priestly garments were redrawn as a distinct red suit and his name morphed into Santa Claus, or just Santa.

There's nothing Catholic — or religious — about Santa now. He's some sort of jolly elf."

Christ was out of Christmas a long time ago

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