Dennis O’Neil: Party On, Santa!


Did someone say war against Christmas? If there is one, General Custer must be leading the charge. The season to be jolly is upon us and unless you find somewhere that’s very, very remote, and you leave your laptop at home, you won’t escape it, and the astute, or the cynical, among you will notice that it’s more about greed and profit than religion. There are a lot more Santas on the streets (and on the television and in the magazines and newspapers and candy wrappers and and and… ) than Baby Jesuses.

This is not news.

For at least a century, mammon and the Savior have been sharing year’s end. They’re crammed together in a season that grows longer every year and Santa’s elbows are bigger and sharper. The Lord is still present but, you know, kind of an afterthought – the kid in the corner.

In days of yore – extremely yore – the church was often the biggest building in the village because worship was considered the most important of communal activities. Everybody went to pray. Now… hey, anyone feel like comparing the house of God to the shopping mall?

But don’t come looking for the grinch at my back yard. Despite what some of you may have concluded after reading the paragraphs preceding this one, and despite what a Fox News pundit might say, I am not a Christmas hater. I think that it, in its various guises, is a genuine holiday, one that has served an evolutionary need.

We celebrate the holiday because it is useful. It is a festival of light and it comes when the trees are bare, the fields barren, and each today is shorter than yesterday. Somewhere deep inside, where our primal selves live, we’re scared. What if the sun shortens to extinction? What if the world will be forever cold?

Our ancestors found an answer. Have a party! Laughter and feasting and song and gifts and, yes, light, and feel the gloom lessen and hope begin.

Once, it was called Saturnalia. Now – Christmas. Next?

And if the buying and selling smothers the hope? Not good. Because we haven’t evolved past needing that hope.

Or at least I haven’t.