“Festivus for the rest of us!” It is an arguably comedic take on an anti-Christmas celebration made popular by the show “Seinfeld.” The phrase generally draws chuckles with each replay of Frank Costanza revealing his opposition to Christmas, opting instead for a celebration that emphasizes the “airing of grievances.”
At “Festivus” (celebrated on Dec. 23), each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. That is followed by a dinner and the pinning of the head of household to the floor (Feats of Strength). Instead of a tree, there is a pole. It would be funny if, once given more thought, it weren’t so sad. Sadder still is that more people are really beginning to observe it as a serious holiday. As The Washington Post reported last week, “celebrations have spread across the nation.” That includes the District of Columbia, where participants this year were encouraged to write and post their grievances on a “Festivus” pole to be read aloud during the “celebration.”
I am as much a fan of “Seinfeld” as many Americans. But really? What was meant as joke has clearly become yet another secular excuse for opposing Christmas and all that it represents. It is part of the constant degradation of what has, is and will remain a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the world’s savior - Jesus Christ. If that offends some people, then they shouldn’t celebrate it. Because that is exactly what Christmas is.
Even though non-Christians are welcome to and do participate in the celebration, its meaning and orgins have never changed.
In the television classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Linus couldn’t have been more astute when Charlie Brown asked, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus replies: “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
” ‘And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night, when lo the angel of the Lord came upon them. And the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them. And they were sore afraid and the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which should be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manager.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God, and saying ‘glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
Secularists can attempt to water it down as much as they want, but there is no getting around the Christ in Christmas. From the significance of the tree: Many Christians see the evergreen as a representation of life and rebirth (Tree of Life) and candles (or lights) used on the tree, as the light of Christ. To those who believe, the candy cane, created by priests, holds religious significance as well. The shape reflects the staff of the shepherd. The hard candy of the cane, “the rock;” the peppermint flavor, the Magi gift of spice to the baby Jesus; the stripes represent his sufferings/the lashings upon his back (white, his purity or holiness, and red, his blood sacrifice.)
And the celebration of Hanukkah (which I also happen to observe), coincides this year with Christmas week. It is the annual religious celebration marking the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, after its destruction and God’s eight-day miracle with a the container of oil. Funny, you don’t see the secularists trying to replace Hanukkah with “Hanukk-us.” It is a wonder why Christmas is at the center of their angst? A rhetorical question, no need to answer.
Yet, the selfish narcissistic, I am mad-at-the-world attitude displayed in pronouncing “Festivus” and other non-Christmas festivities, is the exact opposite of what Christmas represents. It is the most selfless time of year. It is a holy time. A time to reflect. No, not materialsm and consumerism - but humanism - that is deference to others above ourselves. It is a reminder and retelling of miracles beyond our comprehension, the self-sacrifice made for humanity and capable in us all. For anyone to take the slightest bit away from and trivialize its meaning is nothing short of sacrilegious.
Thankfully, there have been notable efforts of late to keep Christ in Christmas. They include petition drives that put pressure on cities to replace “holiday” trees with Christmas trees with, and boycotts when Target attempted to ban the Salvation Army kettle campaign. It quickly reversed course. Even Macy’s has encouraged its sales staff to return to the greeting “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism of those who wish to celebrate what they choose - to each his own. But they shouldn’t do so at the cost of hijacking another holiday.
The “rest of us” can have “Festivus.” I’ll take the real thing - “Christ”mas.
Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. E-mail Tara Wall.