Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
  Putting the "X" in Xmas, or, The Phantom Menace
Every year about this time we are newly inundated with holiday noise. A lot of folks with the intention of somehow getting your money into their pockets are vying for your attention. Merchants come to mind right away with their admonitions to Buy Buy Buy their stuff. Pickpockets take a more direct approach, relieving marks of their hard-earned cash. And among the loudest noisemakers we find the annual crowd of “religious” types, ostensibly concerned at the alarming secularization of a supposed religious holiday, but actually motivated by a need to augment their coffers.
The latest assault is actually a recycled attempt to “keep Christ in Christmas.” The holy rollers and televangelists raise their electronic voices in righteous indignation at the merchants, government officials, liberals, and the ACLU at their attempt to further secularize this holiest of holidays! How dare we ignore the very reason for this celebration, the birth of Jesus? And they always manage to bring up the use of the letter “X” in place of the name of Christ. Oh, by the way, send us a generous contribution so we can continue to do the Lord’s work and prevent the godless secular humanists and the ACLU from stealing the holiday from Christians.
God spare me from fundies!
Folks, this might be news to you, but the holiday we celebrate in December has always been a secular one. It derives from ancient Germanic observance of the Winter Solstice, Yule. Such traditions as the Yule Log, the Christmas tree, Wassail bowls, and the hanging of boughs of holly and mistletoe are directly lifted from the Northern European Yule observance. The birth of Christ was traditionally celebrated on January 6, and is still observed on this date by Eastern Orthodox churches. Although the early Germanic peoples accepted Christianity, they persisted in observing their Yuletide festivities. The Church was alarmed at their inability to eradicate pagan holidays, so they simply re-designated the celebration of Christmas to coincide with Yule and put a Christian face onto a pagan holiday.
The issue of putting the “X” in “Xmas” is also easily explained. The name of God is sacred to many devout believers in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Among orthodox Jews the name of God is never written, lest it be inadvertently desecrated. In the past, many devout Christians shared this sentiment and substituted the letter “X” for the word “Christ.” This sentiment continues into the early 20th century where many American Christians considered a public display of Christ’s name in a secular context to be disrespectful. In order to show proper respect and reverence for the name of Christ, they would substitute the letter “X.” Thus, the practice of putting the “X” in “Xmas” does not come from a bunch of godless secular humanists, but from devout believers motivated by a sense of devotion and respect.
This argument, of course, does not impress your average fanatic fundie. It is brushed aside with loud thumps upon the bible from which he will quote chapter and verse to obfuscate any logic presented.
Myself, I kind of like the religious observances of Christmas. There is a hobby shop in Lansdale that always has a Nativity scene on display this time of year. I always compliment the proprietor on his display and make it a point to thank him. The proprietor is not displaying the Nativity scene to separate anybody from their cash. His wares are sufficient for that task. He just likes to acknowledge the reason we celebrate in his own way. Whether he displays it or not, many customers will find their way to his shop and gladly part with huge wads of cash still smoldering from spontaneous combustion in their pockets in order to take home a new locomotive, an RC airplane, or (in my case) some new rocket goodie.
Let’s face it, folks, this latest campaign is more about raising money than raising awareness. Falwell and his gang have manufactured this crisis in order to pay for their latest batch of Rolex watches and designer suits. They would have you believe that there is an active conspiracy on the part of those stinking liberals to remove Christmas from public life. They blame the same gang of perpetrators (liberals, gays, the ACLU) that they blamed for the 911 attack. And they are just as full of shit as ever. Make no mistake about it, they are exploiting the human need for a boogeyman to line their pockets, and are proving, in the process, that Boobus Americanus is not an endangered species.
If you really need to give some money to a religious organization this holiday season, might I recommend the ubiquitous bell-ringers of The Salvation Army? This organization might be a conservative Christian church that advocates family values, but they also live the Christian ethic by providing freely to the neediest of God’s children. Your money will do a lot more good feeding the hungry than it will paying for Falwell’s wardrobe.
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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

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