Earlier and Earlier

I turned on the radio some time the week before Thanksgiving week, and flipped through a few of my stations to see what everybody was playing. To my horror, DC’s soft-rock station—97.1 WASH FM—had switched to an all-Christmas-music format in anticipation of the big holiday on December 25th.

It was hardly even November 25th.

I was surprised to learn that hundreds of radio stations around the United States have done exactly what WASH did, and stations that don’t switch to a dedicated-Christmas format have generally started to mix the occasional holiday song into the playlist as well.

I should have seen this coming a mile away. I saw an entire row of my local Target store dedicated to Christmas merchandise when I was there a week before Halloween (not even October 25th). I’ve seen shopping centers put up their corny red and green decorations on their light poles weeks earlier than they ever had before.

I must ask, simply, what is wrong with these people?

Two years ago, I wrote a Rant titled Christmas in April: Slated for 2015 about this subject. Things have only gotten worse since then. The Christmas music hits the radio earlier, the decorations go up earlier, and the mad rush to the malls is earlier and earlier each year.

One of the oddest things about a modern American Christmas is that it is no longer simply a Christian holiday. Well, it was never a purely Christian holiday anyway—the Christmas trees and the time of year Christmas is celebrated come from pagan traditions—but that’s beside the point. In America today, Christmas is as much a secular cultural holiday as it is a Christian one. Perhaps even more so.

I had always known that the holiday had become a mix of religious and secular pieces. Nativities, star symbolism, and Christmas Eve church services come from the religious side; Santa Claus, trees, and presents come from the secular one. But I always still thought of Christmas as a Christian holiday with secular parts. It doesn’t seem that way anymore.

Christmas always had a lead-up. This is nothing new. The entire month-long Advent season in the Christian calendar is all about preparing for the arrival of Christ (that would be Christmas). But what we’re seeing today is not Advent, but a buzzing throng of selfish people grasping at limited numbers of whatever this year’s fad happens to be and returning to their car to “Jingle Bell Rock” their way back home with WASH-FM.

That’s not Christmas.

What’s really baffling is how we’ve let the holiday get like this. Despite all the holiday craziness beginning so early this year, individual human beings that I associate with don’t generally seem afflicted. I hardly know anybody who has started their Christmas shopping. I hardly know anybody who listens to WASH-FM this time of the year. Yet go to a mall, or look at WASH’s Arbitron ratings, and you’ll see that there are apparently a lot of people out there who do get into the “holiday spirit” of consumerism and silliness this early.

But Christmas is, indeed, a Christian holiday—regardless of some of the pagan influences. The very name says what it is; a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I have nothing against the secular pieces of the holiday, some of them are fun. I have nothing against Christmas music on the radio or buying presents for loved ones. I do, however, have something against the continued cheapening of a sacred holiday.

To paraphrase my earlier rant on the subject, the longer Christmas is strung out the less relevant the actual holiday becomes. “For example, ice cream is delicious! But imagine having it every day, after all three meals, for five years. Eventually ice cream isn’t so great anymore. This is what we’re doing to Christmas.”

Christmas is a celebration of the life of the most important person in the Christian faith: Jesus. It’s time we bring that focus back. There are plenty of cultural holidays for secular celebration, but this one is a religious holiday. Imagine the outcry if we were to trivialize Ramadan and turn it into a consumeristic, secular celebration.

Now there’s something to think about, but I have to cut this rant short. I have Christmas shopping to do.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.