A Christmas Message from the South Dakota War College

There has been much debate on the news, and the Internet, and on South Dakota web logs about a perceived assault on Christmas. There’s as much debate as to whether there IS an assault on Christmas as there is about what the assault is made up of.

Let me state for the electronic record; I don’t know if I would consider it an assault. I’d tone the debate down and chalk it up to something a little simpler. I think that more than anything it is simply gravitational pull.

You’re likely saying “Gravitational pull? PP did you fall off your chair?" It might seem kind of a silly concept, but look in it in this light:

We have the commercialization of Christmas where major retailers like Wal-Mart begin placing Christmas items on the shelves a day or so before Halloween in an attempt to push the season. Literally, it’s “to hell” with celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday where we give thanks for the bounty we enjoy in this country, and let’s move into spending money and giving and getting, and debating what the hot gift items are going to be.

Pulling against that are the forces of non-secularization. They wish the removal of Christianity from anything connected with the public sector. Whether it is prayer in schools, a holiday display on public property, or as innocuous a thing as school choirs singing traditional holiday carols that mention the birth of Jesus, they believe that the separation of church and state has to be a barrier to such displays, as opposed to a prevention from preference.

Closely related, and equally tugging on the holiday is the force of political correctness and the goal to remove anything that offends another. Where in the attempt to prevent from offending anyone with terminology like “Christmas,” they usually end up making more people mad by trying to mask the obvious.

Let’s also throw stubborn personal and family tradition pulling at us into the mix. Where almost all of us grew up a certain way, and remember celebrating holidays – especially Christmas a certain way. And that tradition demands that it’s to blazes with anyone who wants to change that.

And finally, let’s add the force of Christianity to this. St. Nicholas aside, Christmas is the traditional celebration of the birth of the infant Jesus. It’s viewed as commemorating the birth of the man responsible for a form of religion, Christianity. This form of religion will have endured for nearly two thousand years during most of our lifetimes. It’s branched off into several sects from the original, but the various branches of Christianity all flow back to the birth of a child who (many feel) was destined to be put to death so that our sins could be forgiven. And these people of various faiths believe it is their right to observe this occasion.

So, year after year, we have all these forces pulling against each other. And everyone is fighting about who is right. Is the holiday about shopping? Is it about not offending one another? Is it merely around the time of the winter solstice? Is it simply about the birth of Jesus?

I’d ask - is it about an idea that’s bigger than us all? And in response I'd say, maybe, it’s about a little of all of it.

I like to think it’s about family, and giving rather than getting. It’s about selflessness, rather than selfishness. It’s about respecting the differences between each other, and maybe for just a short time agreeing to disagree. It’s about the Christian tradition of loving your enemy, and for a short time, forgetting about conflict. It’s about forgiveness and seeking a sense of redemption.

So, for a few days this year, let’s accept the fact that we all have differences, and put those differences aside. Let’s make an attempt to get along, just for a few days. Try to only see those things which we have in common as opposed to what divides us.

Don’t understand Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the fact that some people don’t celebrate the holiday? Give them a break. For the most part, Christians aren't burnt at the stake anymore, nor do they feed us to the lions. Tolerance is also a message of the season.

Share your traditions with others. Shared traditions foster understanding, and create new ones. And spend the holidays with your family. If you can’t be there, don’t forget them. Because the holiday is about that too.

Try to only accept the pull of the positive aspects of the holiday, and ignore those things that get your goat. The legislative session is coming up in less than a month, and it will be an election year, so we will have over eleven months to squabble and disagree. Let’s use the next week or so as a time out, and reassess what’s truly important.

In closing, I’m going to be off for a few days spending the holidays with my family, and posting will be light to non-existent. So in the interim, let me leave you with a couple of quotes which sum up what Christmas means to me.
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'"

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
- Linus, from a Charlie Brown Christmas
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
May your heart be light
In a year our troubles will be out of sight
From now on

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
In a year our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Precious friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

I know that
In a year we all will be together
If the Fates allow
Until then, we'll just have to muddle through somehow
And have ourselves a merry little Christmas now.

- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meet me in St. Louis
May you and your families be safe, happy and together for the holidays. Merry Christmas from myself, and my family, to you.


My name is Roger Wonnenberg, I am a Christian, also I am the democratic Chairman of Tripp county. This essay (Who wrote it?) is really really good. You hit the nail on the head, thanks for enlightening us all!
PP said…
Actually, I wrote it all by my lonesome.

(except for the Biblical/Charlie Brown part and the song from Meet me in St. Louis)

Thanks for the compliment.
Anonymous said…
PP & family - Have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Now where is that mistletoe?!
Gary Howie said…
PP I'm new to South Dakota politics and only discovered your site because my brother, Gordon, is currently being hammered there for his comments (albeit by seemingly intentional misinterpretation of his initial comments and of his later self-deprecating humor). At any rate, your essay is simply excellent.

Gary Howie

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