Guest / Limited Access /
Christmas Is For Everyone
Image: (tr.robinson / Flickr)

For an ancient holiday, Christmas has had a surprisingly cozy relationship with the modern world. The commercial radio age began on Christmas Eve, 1906, when "O Holy Night" was sung on the first AM radio broadcast. You could write a whole history of Christmas broadcast television, from sleepy Whoville and its Grinch to Charlie Brown specials (not to mention Gian-Carlo Menotti's NBC opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, broadcast in 1951). Christmas provides the leitmotif for It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, Elf and Home Alone. And 2013 brought us Christmas albums from Mary J. Blige, Erasure, Nick Lowe, and (no joke) Bad Religion. Without Christmas, our popular culture would be as flightless as Santa's sleigh without its red-nosed reindeer.

It's not just punk bands that find themselves in Christmas's surprisingly inclusive embrace—Handel's Messiah was first performed in April and is better suited to Easter, but it has become a staple of the Christmas season. Ancient Yule traditions mix merrily with the holiday's religious elements, nowhere more than in the carols from England and Europe (many of which, like the tune to "Good King Wenceslas," began as spring carols but were repurposed to convey wintry cheer).

To be sure, one other holiday is gaining on Christmas both culturally and commercially. Halloween, too, has its own beloved Charlie Brown special, and like Christmas, it traffics in candles and darkness, celebrations of childhood and hints of mortality. But it is in every way a thinner and less substantial holiday, the apple cider to Christmas's egg nog, the scowling pumpkin to Christmas's festive tree, a candy bar instead of a feast. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current Issue
Subscriber Access Only Reply All
Responses to our January/February issue via letters, tweets, and Facebook posts.
RecommendedPatrick the Saint
Subscriber Access Only Patrick the Saint
Behind the fanciful legends of the fifth-century British missionary stands a man worthy of embellishment.
TrendingThe Real St. Patrick
The Real St. Patrick
A look at the famous saint, and his strategic missions.
Editor's PickMoral Relativism Is Dead
Moral Relativism Is Dead
Why outrage culture is good news for the gospel.
Christianity Today
Christmas Is For Everyone
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

December 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.