While many Christians are complaining about the cultural "war on Christmas," many evangelicals have an ongoing war against Santa himself, the consumerist usurper of the celebration of Jesus. However, there are actually a wide variety of views on this in evangelicalism. Here are a few.
1. The Puritans were adamantly *against* the celebration of Christmas
Many evangelicals rightly admire the Puritans for their theology and missional outlook. However, all admit that they had some extremes. One possible extreme is their opposition to the Christmas holiday. I say "possible" because I think they may have been correct. Check out A Puritan Christmas:
The Puritans, however, set out to eliminate Christmas. When they took
control of Scotland’s Parliament in the 1580s, they ruled that
Christmas no longer existed. As can be imagined, this did not
permanently settle the matter….
In 1647, the Puritans threatened to throw anyone celebrating Christmas
in jail, but relented when this provoked large protests in Canterbury
and other locations. The anti-Christmas laws remained in effect until
1660 when the monarchy was restored, yet it took almost another 300
years before Christmas became a full national holiday in Scotland in
While many evangelicals are trying to put the "Christ back into Christmas," there are plenty of Christians who don’t like Christmas or Santa. They see Santa as an impostor, a usurper of the real meaning of Christmas. As one site compares Jesus and Santa, the similarities are uncanny and make the argument of usurpation almost believable:
- Santa is Eternal – Jesus is Eternal
- Santa has white hair – the returning Jesus will have white hair
- Santa flies around giving gifts, Jesus ascended and "gave gifts to men"
- Santa is coming soon, Jesus is coming soon
- Santa is omniscient and omnipresent, Jesus/God are omniscient and omnipresent
What’s really amazing, however, is the current anti-Santa fervor in Europe, as illustrated by the banning of Santa in German and Austrian marketplaces, as well as the anti-Santa movement in Czechoslovakia.
In his book The Religions Next Door, Marvin Olasky discusses the three possible responses that minorities, and specifically, moral or religious minorities, can take to popular culture that is in opposition to their own values. These same three responses apply to how we approach Santa or Christmas – do we just separate ourselves from culture and do our own thing (separation), do we try to transform culture (through cultural action or arms), or do we accommodate the culture, and compromise our values?
And is all accommodation really a compromise, or should we really choose our battles and not worry about Santa? The Reformed Evangelist, one of my favorite sites, put up a surprisingly accommodating post on this last week entitled Should Christians Play Santa?
As well, [stepping on my soap box] it would seem that there are so many
people who choose to set aside all their secularism in December and
require that there be a moratorium called on all things not pertaining
to Christ, but forget the rest of the year. This seems to
evidence a loss of priorities. I have often heard it said by
Christians that Santa has taken over Christ in December, but I would
argue that December has taken over Christ for Christians.
Should Christians play Santa? I have no problem with it. Personally,
I can’t bring myself to tell my children that he actually exists, but I
have no problem with others who do and I have no problem singing
Christmas carols that don’t involve Christ so long as Christ is the
focus of our lives, not just our Decembers.
Christians actually have a wide variety of responses to our cultural holidays, from censure to total participation. Me, I use a mix of responses, and while I think we have liberty as Christians to do as we please, I think there are definite benefits to abstaining from, providing alternatives to, and revising our own traditions in order to reflect our own convictions and values, regardless of what the fundamentalist Christians, secularists, or jingoists say.
You might be interested in a couple of previous posts on this, including Happy Holidays Bruhaha, in which I argue that fighting the war on Christmas is both dumb and essential, as well as Atheists Attempt to Kill Easter Bunny, in which I outlined the following possible responses to holidays:
- Total abstention (no holidays)
- Partial abstention (observing congruent holidays only)
- Modified celebrations (creating alternatives)
- Modified celebrations (Judaized holidays)
- Accommodation (celebrate like the culture, but emphasize true meanings)