432. Work on what has been spoiled (IX)
If you think about it, the debate over whether Christmas is about gift-giving and revels or about the birth of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ is an earlier iteration of our own culture wars. The gifts and revelry in the darkest season of the year came first; later, the “woke” of their day—the Christians—turned up and said, “It’s not about ale and cakes and cheer in the cold darkness. It’s about the birth of Jesus, that’s the real Christmas message.” You still see Christians say this today sometimes, although very mutedly—and some opportunistic people who want to feel important say it anyway. Yes, I know, pedantically “Christmas” refers to Christ; and yet the nominative overlay does not change reality in this case—just as all the attempts to change what “gay” means have not changed the underlying reality.
Just as the woke today will look at an American festival like Thanksgiving—as with Christmas, about attaining food and goodies in sparse times—and say, “What we should really remember this holiday is the native Americans dispossessed from their lands; that is the true, deeper message we find in Thanksgiving. Just think of all the blood those white Christian settler-colonialists spilled…After all, this holiday only takes place because the native Americans saved the Pilgrims; and look how we repaid them…” Presumably, people who actually say this at family gatherings have Brussels sprouts—or similar side dishes—thrown at them, or end up being passive aggressively ignored; the holiday is about good food in leans times and family reunion, not a homily to “the indigenous people whose land we now occupy.”
The Christians performed a similar operation with winter festivals in general; the practical and pragmatic “spirit of Christmas” was good food and drink in lean times—be merry! Christians came along and counter-signalled the prevailing view—just as their descendants, the woke, do today. “Actually, this is a festival about our lord and saviour and his birth; it is a very special time, a sacred time and silent time, nothing to do with raucous boozing and eating too much.”
Just as the woke rename places and events to honour POCs or the LGBT, so the Christians renamed all winter festivals “Christmas”; and yet the actual point, winter cheer, carries on as it always has done, slightly impeded by “woke” counter-signallers—as with many activities today. Some people are too good for gifts, booze, and delicacies; they are ever so concerned about Baby Jesus, the POC, the native Americans, etc.
Is Father Christmas real? In the sense that there is not a literal man in a red suit, no. In the sense that Santa is a symbol for gift-giving, yes; the gift-giving is real and the spirit that animates it is symbolised by Santa—i.e. your parents, you, and your relatives are possessed by Santa. Santa is real: when you see someone shopping for Xmas presents you see Santa, or an aspect of Santa—he’s like “America”; nobody can show you America but she still exists, same with other countries and same with God. Santa is an ancient symbol; his red outfit and little Phrygian cap are Mithraic—so he goes back to pre-Christian times (yes, the redness has come and gone; but it has always been there, Coca-Cola notwithstanding).
His spirit has been around for a long time, as long as the winter season. “But he’s just a symbol”—yet how could the tradition and activity exist without a symbol? No Santa, no Christmas. Santa is a symbolic hybrid: he combines the English Father Christmas with the NY Dutch Sinterklass—who was said to be St. Nick but whose beard and hood recall the leader of the Wild Hunt, Odin; a wintry god. Semantic drift notwithstanding, there has always been a symbol for mid-winter cheer: the desire to feast—to grow big-bellied—and give gifts must be personified, and so Santa is real; the mid-winter cheer is in us all, to various degrees.