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Stupid whiny Christian poll

There are a diverse collection of holiday traditions in this country. For instance, in late December, my family eats a lot of lefse — and the older generation would have lutefisk, that awful fish jelly made from reconstituted planks of dried fish preserved in lye (we modern folk have at least shed that one). We also put up a tree in the living room, and last time I decorated it with cephalopods. I’m thinking this year I should look for some ornamental gastropods and bivalves, because biological diversity is important. In Philadelphia they have a Tree of Knowledge tradition in the atheist community, which sounds like a fine idea. Have a good time with your family and cultural traditions. Heck, if you want to put up a manger scene in your house or yard, go for it. It’s your privilege.

So what the heck is wrong with Rhode Islanders? Some of the more conservative dimbulbs in that state are getting all huffy because there is a decorated tree going up at the capitol, and the governor called it a “holiday tree”. It is. It’s a holiday, and it’s a tree. But some Christians want to demand that every holiday tradition be labeled as their tradition, no one elses.

So they’ve got a poll. At least it’s running in the right direction so far.

Do you agree with Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s decision to host a Rhode Island “holiday tree” lighting instead of a “Christmas tree” lighting?

Yes, it should be a ‘holiday tree.’ 53%
No, it should be called a ‘Christmas tree.’ 46%

I’ll tell you what. If you want to call it a Christmas tree, I won’t complain. If you want to call it a Holiday tree, I won’t complain. I’ll only complain if you tell me or anyone else that they must use your official terminology, because you don’t get to impose your traditions on anyone else.

And if you think people have that right, I’m coming to your house with a big plate full of lutefisk, and I’m going to demand that you eat it all up for your holiday dinner. Or Christmas feast, if you’d prefer to call it that.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Yes, it should be a ‘holiday tree.’ 820 (62%)

    No, it should be called a ‘Christmas tree.’ 484 (37%)

    Total votes: 1304

  2. freemage says

    I’ll give them one bit of credit–they stuck the phrase, “This is not a scientific poll” directly into the poll-box, immediately after the poll results.

  3. says

    If you want to call it a Christmas tree, I won’t complain. If you want to call it a Holiday tree, I won’t complain. I’ll only complain if you tell me or anyone else that they must use your official terminology

    This. A thousand times, this. Same for whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. I just don’t understand people who get pissed off when you say the wrong one to them. Nobody is telling Christians they can’t say “Merry Christmas”. We’re just asking for the freedom to choose for ourselves what greeting to extend to others, and we’d prefer to choose one the one that makes the least assumptions about the recipient. And why they insist on telling me to enjoy their holiday, I just don’t get.

  4. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Every Yule at Chez ‘Tis we put up a decorated tree. It has an angel on the top.

    One day Santa Claus was just having a bad time. The elves were threatening to go out on strike. The reindeer had the mange. Some toy shipments were late. He was coming down with a bad cold. Just a generally bad day. Then in walked an angel with a tree who said: “Santa Claus, what should I do with this tree?”

  5. Blondin says

    Lutefisk? I’d rather eat whale-snot and dirt in battery acid. Oh, wait a minute – that IS lutefisk.

  6. jamessweet says

    Yep, that’s about right. I’m not up in arms if the governor wants to call it a Jesusmas tree. But what the fuck is with being up in arms calling it a holiday tree? It doesn’t fucking matter. Probably holiday tree is wiser, less opportunity to offend the easily-offended, more inclusive…. but really, anybody getting bent out of shape in any direction over what they call the tree… I just don’t know what to say.

    (Note that calling it an Xmas tree and having a nativity scene are two entirely different things. I don’t care about the former, the latter is kinda weird.)

  7. speedwell says

    I just don’t understand lutefisk. Every time I mix lye with animal fat, I wind up with soap. So what you basically have there is fish protein impregnated with soap, right? Does lutefisk lather?

  8. Alverant says

    If it’s taxpayer funded, I would want it to be more inclusive of all the taxpayers instead of just the christian ones. If it’s a private tree, call it what you want. Same thing for “Happy Holidays”/”Merry Christmas” christians should not get special privilege especially since other religions have holidays this time of year too in addition to the secular New Years Day. In my experience those who insist on “Merry Christmas” get their underwear in a knot if someone says “Happy Haunchaka” or “Merry Solstice” or “Lo Saturnalie” in their presence. It’s like “How dare these heathen faiths show themselves at OUR holiday time.”

  9. ragutis says

    So, lefse are kind of like a potato crepe, right? I might have to try to make ‘em sometime.

    The only positive thing that I can think to relate to lutefisk is that it’s not hakarl.

  10. says

    Damn, but these Christians sure are particular about what to call some old pagan solstice symbol, aren’t they?

    At my house on December 25, we will as usual celebrate the anniversary of the arrival in the world of a special baby boy. Ie: our younger son, born 25 years (good grief — a quarter-century?) ago on that date.

    What, you mean something else is going on that day? Fuck ‘em.

  11. raven says

    Heck, if you want to put up a manger scene in your house or yard, go for it. It’s your privilege.

    I’m still waiting for the all dinosaur manger scene.

    An all cephalopod or all mollusc one would work as well.

    If the Pagans are going to steal Xmas back or the atheists are going to steal it, they all need to develop their own decoration schemes and traditions.

  12. raven says

    The xians keep trying to politicize Xmas. It’s just a multi-functional winter solstice holiday that they stole from the Pagans.

    It should be fun, not political.

    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything. Including their own holiday.

  13. rbrannan says

    Here in San Francisco, Starbucks has two special products this time of year. One bag is a festive, holiday red and says “Christmas Blend.” The other bag is silvery gray and says “Holiday Blend.” I am told they contain the exact same coffee. Which sells the most might be an interesting number to know.

  14. quidam says

    I agree with Sili – call it a Jeremiah 10 tree – since God hates Christmas trees

    10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:
    10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
    10:3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
    10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

  15. DonDueed says

    Somebody should explain to these “War on Christmas” folks that the word holiday has an etymology they’d approve of.

    Heck, for me, a reference to a “Holy Day” is more explicitly religious than the thoroughly compromised and secularized term “Christmas”.

  16. raven says

    An all cephalopod or all mollusc one would work as well.

    Don’t give me ideas.

    Go for it. A lot of the ornaments on our tree are derived from biology. There are a lot of glass artists around and they make colorful ornaments, many of them animals. We have a sea horse and chambered nautilus among others. The colored glass slug wasn’t too popular for some reason but the snail went over OK.

    I would do it myself but it is a lot of work, I’m busy, and not all that artistically capable myself.

    Hmmm, I’m sensing an artistic and commercial opportunity here. No religions are projected to go over 50% in the USA by 2050, now at 66 million and climbing.

  17. janine says

    These godbotherers love to point at the Pilgrims as somehow being the start of the US and must be our example. Demand that they revert to the way they observed Christmas.

  18. Crow says

    I think Solstice Tree has a nice ring to it. Recognizes the pagan roots of the holiday and is scientific in origin. (Even if Xmas doesn’t fall right on the solstice it still reflects the historical roots of the holiday.)

  19. says

    My holiday traditions involve drinking absinthe, watching Dragon Ball Z reruns from the 90’s and exchanging various baked goods and candies with my wife and with friends and NO ONE CAN STOP ME!

  20. says

    I haz a Weihnachtsbaum.
    I, and most other people in Germany, will usually wish people “Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a happy new year”
    Why? Because it doesn’t matter. Live and let live.
    Don’t get your knickers in a twist because somebody remembers that not everybody believes in baby Jeeeeeebus and might still have something to celebrate.
    Or as I told my friend this week who accused me of being a hypocrite because I don’t believe in Jesus but still celebrate:
    I firmely believe in celebration.

  21. Muse says

    See – I have a problem with calling it a Holiday Tree because it’s not. It’s a fucking Christmas tree. It’s not actually being inclusive, it’s pretending to be inclusive. No other holiday in the winter that they are trying to include uses a great big pine tree to celebrate. It’s worse than the green and red Happy Holidays banners. It’s pretending to be inclusive without doing any of the work to not be patronizing morons.

  22. says

    Oh, on a side note, I plan on referring to the holiday as “Robot Kwanzaa” (Yea, I stole the idea from Futurama, go ahead and sue me) this year. Anyone who comes to my house will be greeted by a monstrosity of cardboard and lights that has a chest compartment full of snack sized baked goods and candy.

  23. quidam says

    It already has a perfectly good name – the tree is a Germanic tradition, introduced to Britain and the Colonies in Victorian times. It’s called a Tannenbaum – as in the carol ‘Oh Tannenbaum’ – which translates as ‘fir tree’, not ‘Christmass Tree’ – that would be Weihnachtsbaum.

  24. says

    I have my Winter Celebration tree up and decorated. It is topped with an empty, festive, upside down and bow-tied Jack Daniels Old No. 2 bottle.

    Gold-dipped aspen leaves, small white lights, whatever round things look pretty but non-religious …. oh, yeah, and some fake bird nests with tiny round geodes for eggs.

    Morons cannot force me to celebrate according to their rules.

  25. Sastra says

    Either way is fine, but in my opinion the more we call these publicly-funded trees “Christmas trees” the more we secularize Christmas, allowing it to be what it has always been — a celebration of winter, family, friends, food, and life.

    If they wanted Christmas to be a religious holiday they should have fought to keep it out of the public square. As it is, the baby Jesus crap is just tagged on by some people — and not by others. Its origins are pagan, and because it is so popular, so diffuse, and so loaded with secular values and images Christmas is now for everyone — Christian, Jew, Muslim, pagan, atheist, whatever. The term itself is no more significant for what the holiday “really” means that the Estre in Easter, the Saint in Valentine’s Day, or the Hallow in Ween. It’s become humanist.

    “Christmas trees: because keeping the Christ out of Christmas is important!”

  26. Muse says

    Sastra,

    I think it’s really hard to think of a Christmas tree as secular and for everyone. It may be turning into a culturally Christian, as opposed to religiously Christian symbol, but it is still a Christian symbol. I still know that when I see “holiday decorations” and Christmas trees, and Santa with his reindeer, that this is a celebration of which I am not a part. It’s poking at the idea that Christmas is American, and therefore American is Christian…

  27. cicely, unheeded prophetess of the Equine Apocalypse says

    I’d like to see a tree with beautiful, translucent jellyfish adorning it. You wouldn’t need to add any tinsel.

    Oooh! And maybe each jellyfish could contain a palely-glowing light!
    -

  28. Larry says

    I’m torn on this. I don’t like it being called a “Holiday Tree” because as far as I know, there isn’t a tree in New Years, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice (maybe there is for that one).

    And I don’t like it being called a “Christmas Tree” because I don’t think the government should be putting up religious holiday decorations.

  29. says

    I have a feeling that I and my fellow Rhode Island Atheists members already beat you to it. Then again, I’d much rather believe that most people are rational enough to have voted Yes on that poll without any Pharyngulation or… Atheist…iz…ation…

  30. pyttank says

    I call it a Julgran, and if I had one I would decorate it with red and silver glass baubles, tinsel, small woven heart shaped baskets made of birchbark and candles, lots and lots of candles. In the evening I would sit by my tree and eat lutfisk with potatoes, white sauce, green peas and pepper. I like lutfisk, a lot.

  31. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Oh Rhode Island, the state in which I spent four of the best years of my life, why? Why must the state founded as a haven for religious freedom have this tarnish its face? And yes, PZ, if people can have the nativity in every cutesy version imaginable, there ought to be a cephalopod one. Or perhaps one with dragonflies.

  32. Sastra says

    Muse #37 wrote:

    I think it’s really hard to think of a Christmas tree as secular and for everyone. It may be turning into a culturally Christian, as opposed to religiously Christian symbol, but it is still a Christian symbol. I still know that when I see “holiday decorations” and Christmas trees, and Santa with his reindeer, that this is a celebration of which I am not a part.

    I don’t see the Christmas tree as a Christian symbol because there’s really nothing specifically religious or Biblical about it. Ditto when it comes to the holiday of Christmas. Decorations and Santa Claus and visiting and exchanging gifts don’t relate to the dreary story of Jesus-dying-for-our-sins. There’s nothing inherently Bible-based in any of it.

    So how do they try to connect the two? With really lame stories and analogies (“the red in the candy cane stands for the blood of Christ”) which sound forced and stretched to me. ‘Birthday celebration for Jesus?’ Not really. The 26th was preset as the date for the celebration and the Christians rushed in and tried to co-opt it.

    I’m not going to play their game. It’s too much like when they claim that all morality is really religious or marriage is a covenant with God. Nice try. I’m not going to concede anything to them which makes sense on other terms. Sure, I know a lot of conservatives are doing this in order to promote the “idea that Christmas is American, and therefore American is Christian.” I think it will backfire — because making “Merry Christmas” a generic greeting to all doesn’t convert people. It simply points out how generic Christmas really is.

    The only valid connection is the name itself — and how much do we care about the names of the holidays?

    I suspect that my position on this is strongly influenced by being raised without religion and growing up celebrating a Christmas with trees and presents and Santa and cookies and grandma’s house and all the trappings except for someone reminding everyone that “this is all really about Jesus” in some confused and totally unnecessary way. I thought the Baby Jesus story was cute, but not particularly relevant. And so it is.

    The fact that this can be done — and can be done so easily — suggests that the Christians are fighting a losing battle. “Keep the Christ in Christmas” — why the fear here? Because they know that it’s so easy to leave the damn thing out and not even notice.

    Imo they’re adopting precisely the wrong tactic to stem the tide of the secularization of Christmas with their whining pleas to please, please let’s call it a Christmas tree. Sure. Let’s call the tree that’s meant for everyone a Christmas tree and see what happens. Be careful what you wish for.

  33. andreasegeland says

    Pft, lutefisk is so for the wimpy fish eaters. A massive batch of pinnekjøtt is the true path to happiness.

    I still intend to spend Christmas with my family (btw 4/5 are atheist and thankfully it’s called Jul over here) but next year I think I shall start some awesome mocking traditions. Hopefully my christian roommate will join me in mocking some of the more absurd pars of his religion.

  34. Grumps says

    Sastra @ 36

    because it is so popular, so diffuse, and so loaded with secular values and images Christmas is now for everyone — Christian, Jew, Muslim, pagan, atheist, whatever. The term itself is no more significant for what the holiday “really” means that the Estre in Easter, the Saint in Valentine’s Day, or the Hallow in Ween. It’s become humanist.

    “Christmas trees: because keeping the Christ out of Christmas is important!”

    Yes. Perfectly put.

  35. Muse says

    Sastra – I want to agree with you, but I think you’re right that your perspective is influenced by having been raised without religion except for what looks like cultural Christianity. I was raised a secular Jew, so my perspective is heavily influenced by that. For me, Christmas is still a Christian holiday, it’s may be cultural Christianity, but it’s still Christian – it’s still marks me, someone who doesn’t have a cultural connection to it, as an outcast. I don’t think I can look at Christmas and not see it as a marker for a group to which I do not belong. When it becomes a national holiday, it’s telling me that I don’t count as part of the nation, even apart from its religious associations.

  36. shiroferetto says

    There’s a guy on the net selling zombie nativity scenes. No kidding. (It looks pretty awesome.)

    I bet you could coax him into making some (possibly Cthulhu-inspired?) cephalopod nativities…

    If I find the link, I’ll post it.

  37. Muse says

    @Alverant quoting me:

    No other holiday in the winter that they are trying to include uses a great big pine tree to celebrate.

    *cough*various pagan Solstice celebrations*cough*

    you really think they are “trying to include” Yule or any of the other pagan trads?

  38. JohnnieCanuck says

    This might be the place to ask what exactly ‘sure sild’ is. My impression is that it is pickled herring, but Google translate tells me that it is sour herring, which is different, how?

    A long time ago, a Norwegian friend tried to get me to pronounce it correctly, but I never got it quite right.

  39. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    I’m coming to your house with a big plate full of lutefisk, and I’m going to demand that you eat it all up for your holiday dinner

    Data point in the PZ is one evil s.o.b. study.

  40. footface says

    This is all because Christians have to perpetually stoke the fires of their martyrdom complex. They continually invent examples of their persecution. The poor besieged masses! The long-suffering silent hordes! They run the show, but will seize upon any opportunity to feel maligned and marginalized.

    Thus, the annual celebration of the beloved War on Christmas.

  41. raven says

    and candles, lots and lots of candles.

    Not a good idea. Lots of flames, lots of hot wax, on an incredibly dried out fir or pine tree.

    What could go wrong?

    I’ve heard of people trying this and having the tree catch on fire. It’s a wonder our civilization even survived old Xmases so we could invent electric lights.

    PS: Don’t get too worked up about the supposed xian meaning of a fir tree that is decorated. The xians stole it from the Pagans. Besides which, traditions evolve. Despite the hatred some xians have for the word evolve, religions themselves are constantly evolving. Some are just slow about it. They may go extinct.

  42. Sastra says

    Muse #47 wrote:

    For me, Christmas is still a Christian holiday, it’s may be cultural Christianity, but it’s still Christian – it’s still marks me, someone who doesn’t have a cultural connection to it, as an outcast. I don’t think I can look at Christmas and not see it as a marker for a group to which I do not belong.

    I understand; our childhood associations are strong, and hard to shake off. S’okay.

    When it becomes a national holiday, it’s telling me that I don’t count as part of the nation, even apart from its religious associations.

    Well, technically speaking it’s not necessarily telling you that. Without the religious association all Christmas is, is a holiday which you didn’t celebrate in the past and/or don’t choose to celebrate today for whatever reasons you want. You’re excluding it, not the other way around.

    When Christmas became a national holiday it perforce lost any exclusive claim any sectarian religion could make on it. Humanistic values took over. It’s not “their” holiday. It never really was.

    They WANT atheists out of it. “Keep the Christ in Christmas.” “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Oh yeah? Too late. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas being sung by the unholy. Death by repetition.

    Fun factoid from the future: DID YOU KNOW that Christmas got its name from an ancient mythical god named “Christ?” Really!

    I say ruin it for them. Have a Christmas candy in defiance. Christmas. For atheists. Launch a personal insurrection. Start small.

  43. macallan says

    It’s called a Tannenbaum – as in the carol ‘Oh Tannenbaum’ – which translates as ‘fir tree’, not ‘Christmass Tree’ – that would be Weihnachtsbaum.

    On top of that, there is nothing christian in the term ‘Weihnachten’. It’s archaic german for ‘blessed night’ which is sufficiently vague to fit pretty much anything from religious rituals, christian or not, to a long night in the pub.

  44. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Rhode Island, eh? I have a suspicion Roger Williams would have wondered what the hell the state government was doing involving itself in Christmas celebrations in the first place. He believed any government involvement in religion violated the rights of individual conscience and sullied religion.

  45. Larry says

    @Muse 47

    I was raised a secular Jew, so my perspective is heavily influenced by that. For me, Christmas is still a Christian holiday, it’s may be cultural Christianity, but it’s still Christian – it’s still marks me, someone who doesn’t have a cultural connection to it, as an outcast.

    As a secular Jew myself, I completely agree with this. I was raised never celebrating Christmas in any form, although we did make Hanukkah way too commercial. I spent a few years in Britain, and despite (or because of?) being a much less religious country, most of the British Jews I knew celebrated Christmas. I had trouble understanding it. I wouldn’t expect other cultural groups to celebrate a secular Passover like my family does.

    I also acknowledge the hypocrisy that I have no problem dressing up as Santa for my office’s Christmas party, or celebrating Halloween or Valentine’s day in a secular way.

  46. bird.is.the.word says

    Ha ha. Zombie nativity scene takes place in Deathlahem.

    I am going “caroling” with friends this year…it involves covering my body with lights run on a battery pack, running to various friends’ houses, drinking whiskey & nog, and eating. Good times will be had by all.

  47. cag says

    Lutfisk (Swedish spelling) reminds me of a youth spending much of Christmas Day outside, avoiding the awful smell. The smell was the worst thing. It actually looked somewhat like fish, but to this day I have not tasted same.

    I say “Merry Christmas”, I have also been known to say “god” and “jesus”. Mind, when saying the latter 2, my demeanour may not be quite as positive. Words are only words.

    *I try to be god-like, but however much I try, I remain real.*

  48. Brain Hertz says

    Heck, if you want to put up a manger scene in your house or yard, go for it.

    I do, as a matter of fact.

    It’s usually set up along with an illuminated reindeer with a red nose and an inflatable Santa Claus.

    I don’t think the neighbors have figured out the implication yet.

  49. echidna says

    A while ago, when I was a relatively gnu atheist (ha), I tried to figure out exactly what was Christian about the Christmas tree. The most obvious thing is that the tree belongs to a winter solstice tradition that has nothing to do with Christianity. While it’s recent history suggests that it is a Germanic tradition, it doesn’t even really fit the Norse myths either.

    My best guess is that it was a very widespread tradition in the Northern hemisphere, which survived in pockets in Japan, India and northern Europe. If these pockets are actually remnants of a more widespread tradition (rather being totally unconnected) I would hazard a guess that the injunction against decorated trees in the bible could well be related.

    The Winter Solstice myth of the Japanese sun-godess Ameratasu hiding in a cave, being lured out by the sight of a tree decorated with mirrors and jewels shows a clear connection between a decorated tree, and the winter solstice.

    So I will call it the Ameratasu tree.

  50. says

    what was Christian about the Christmas tree

    Crosses: made of? wood.

    One could concoct a suitably gruesome story about the pine tree that started growing the day jesus was born, and had grown proud and strong and straight and seen all the great events of the christ’s life and story and happened to be chopped down and turned into a cross, thereby twining their lives and deaths together in just the kind of morbid nonsense that a christian would appreciate.

  51. frankb says

    On a major street near my house big letters were put up in lights in front of a parsonage that read “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS”. Someone in my town is feeling a little insecure too.

  52. bksea says

    To Sastra above: Right on!

    Christmas is a kick ass holiday. Too bad the Christians have to ruin it for everyone else.

  53. says

    Christmas is an offensive word because millions have been murdered for Mr. Christ. Holiday tree makes no sense because there are several holidays. It should be called a Santa Claus Day tree and normal people (non-theists) should say Happy Santa Claus Day instead of the disgusting alternative morally corrupt Christians use. — Human Ape

  54. peterh says

    It seems this thread has its (seemingly unavoidable) sanctimonious self-appointed victim.

  55. Muse says

    Sastra quoting me

    When it becomes a national holiday, it’s telling me that I don’t count as part of the nation, even apart from its religious associations.

    Well, technically speaking it’s not necessarily telling you that. Without the religious association all Christmas is, is a holiday which you didn’t celebrate in the past and/or don’t choose to celebrate today for whatever reasons you want. You’re excluding it, not the other way around.

    Even if I stipulate that Christmas is secular rather than religious, it’s still culturally Christian. I am not ethically or culturally Christian. It’s not my holiday.

    When Christmas became a national holiday it perforce lost any exclusive claim any sectarian religion could make on it. Humanistic values took over. It’s not “their” holiday. It never really was.

    I see the point you’re getting at, but I think that it’s still a culturally Christian holiday, even if it’s divorced from the religious aspects. I have a problem with the concept of “secular religion” that the court wants. I don’t think a culturally Christian holiday should be a national holiday. I think that it reinforces the pretty toxic idea that Americans are Christians.

  56. says

    Kudos to you for actually coming up with some decorations. I try to find ornaments that reflect the interests of all the members of my family, but it’s pretty hard. I’ve found musical instruments for the kids, but all I’ve found for my husband is an ear of corn, which isn’t really a complete reflection of plant molecular biology. At least I found some fishing gear.

  57. nmmng says

    The tree should be decorated with pistols and semiautomatics, and you should be able to have your photo taken in front of it while brandishing an assault weapon, like in Scottsdale, Arizona.

  58. PseudoPserious says

    I think they reset the poll…

    Yes, it should be a ‘holiday tree.’

    226 (30%)

    No, it should be called a ‘Christmas tree.’

    523 (69%)

  59. Mattir says

    I’m always amazed at how atheists from a culturally Christian background insist that Christian holidays really aren’t Christian. Sure, they’re swiped from pre-Christian European paganism, but they’ve been part of Christianity for several hundred years now. Is there a statute of limitations or anything? At any rate, they aren’t necessarily my holidays, and I don’t have to want to celebrate them. I’ve actually gotten lectures from atheists for celebrating Jewish holidays, as if being an atheist means that you have to do what the dominant culture requires, instead of observing the holiday traditions you choose.

    On a side note, as a Jew-by-choice atheist, I enjoy the Christmas season a lot more now that I don’t celebrate it. It’s like a great show that I don’t have to be part of.

  60. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Sure they have been culturally Christian holidays, but they are also not so much now. While my larger family is marginally christian, Christmas in my family’s house is ALL about getting family together.

    In fact I can not remember a single time in the last 15 years that Christ was mentioned once during Christmas. Unless you count the word Christmas.

  61. magistramarla says

    To Echidna @ #65 and others:
    I used to teach Latin, and we would discuss Saturnalia.
    Some of my brighter students surmised that a lot of Xmas traditions were stolen from the Romans.
    During Saturnalia, which lasted about a week around the time of the Winter Solstice, the Romans would decorate their houses with greenery, buy presents for children and friends, enjoy family feasts, and even had one slave who was appointed as “the master” for a day and was waited upon by the nobleman and his family. There was lots of fun, feasting and merriment, and businesses and the government closed down for a holiday. Sound familiar?
    Of course, the Romans had borrowed this from their Etruscan roots and embellished upon it. I have friends who are Wiccan and New Pagans, and they celebrate the Winter Solstice with greenery, yule logs and holly berries and mistletoe. They claim that their Celtic traditions were even older than those of the Etruscans and the Romans.
    The silly Xians are celebrating a pagan holiday with pagan traditions and don’t even know it. I just laugh at them.

  62. PseudoPserious says

    There are apparently two polls.

    The poll linked to in PZ’s post has the tag -e28b45b0 on the end of the address. It’s dated 01 Dec, has a clip art of a tree for a photo, and is heavily in favor of ‘holiday tree’.

    The poll that is in the story that is actually linked to from the front page of the news site has an address with no tag (http://middletown.patch.com/articles/poll-christmas-tree-or-holiday-tree). It is dated 29 Nov, has a photo of the governor, and is over 2-1 in favor of ‘Christmas tree’.

  63. magistramarla says

    We assembled our Holiday Tree yesterday evening. We’ve been collecting the Hallmark Star Trek ornaments since they first started them, back in the mid-’70s. They nicely decorate a table top tree. I’ve even added a beautiful glittery peacock to the top to represent Gene Roddenberry, “The Great Bird of the Galaxy”.
    Our children have fond memories of pushing the button on the shuttlecraft Galileo to hear Spock’s voice say “Spock here. Happy Holidays”.
    We’ve had a secular tree for a long, long time.

  64. Charlie Foxtrot says

    Hey, PseudoPserious is right! We get to vote twice! Once in the poll PZ links to, and then again in the other poll that turns up when you remove the ‘-e28b45b0′ from the URL.

    Lucky us, eh?

    The second only has ~840 votes at the moment, so would shift pretty quickly if anyone happened upon it…

  65. Rey Fox says

    They should be happy it’s not a Festivus Pole.
    Airing of grievances!

    Because I got a lot of problems with those people.

  66. jfigdor says

    Damn PZ, this is downright reasonable. I expected more apoplexy from you on this subject. Seasons greetings!

  67. Aquaria says

    One of the people over at the Rhode Island site pointed out something useful, something I’d forgotten: It wasn’t so long ago that all the christards were screaming about businesses and non-Christians appropriating Jesus for bucks! Anyone old enough to remember how they hated people associating the orgy of spending with their emo scumbag deity? I do!

    So now everyone says Happy Holidays–and they’re still screaming.

    The only thing these christards want is to be pissed off about something to feed their undeserved persecution complex.

  68. Aquaria says

    Kudos to you for actually coming up with some decorations. I try to find ornaments that reflect the interests of all the members of my family, but it’s pretty hard. I’ve found musical instruments for the kids, but all I’ve found for my husband is an ear of corn, which isn’t really a complete reflection of plant molecular biology. At least I found some fishing gear.

    You could make your own decorations, like women in my family had been doing, passing it on from mother to daughter. We even have a few science ones in our collection. One that my mother made with her mother in the Sputnik era was Santa waving from his orbit of the earth in a 50s idea of a space ship. When I was finally old enough to make decorations, too, it was the year of the Apollo moon landing, so my mom and I (actually, my mom–I’m allergic to crafts) made a moon with an astronaut holding a candy cane and the Apollo module done up like a tree with painted on lights and a gold star on top.

    My great aunt crocheted the most astounding DNA double helixes out of crazy colors when she saw the first articles about them in a magazine. She hung some of them up around her porch like people do wind chimes now.

  69. Francisco Bacopa says

    My family makes a French scallop dish on Christmas eve. Scallops lightly simmered in white wine sauce and then quick broiled with burned cheese on top. And these have to be real fresh-caught scallops from the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t reckon you can get these in Morris.

    For after Christmas celebrations it’s Tamales from Balderas, though I have to say I’m developing a preference for the larger salvatrucha style tamales. Please note that around here we can say “salvatrucha” without implying the additional “mara”.

  70. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    There’s nothing wrong with lutefisk. It’s in Sweden, I’m in the US. There’s a whole big ocean separating me from lutefisk. It’s happy in Sweden, I’m happy here. Win-win!

  71. bird.is.the.word says

    Yes! Regular Joe! You have just inspired a new line of “holiday” cards that I can subscribe to!

  72. says

    ‘Tis:

    There’s nothing wrong with lutefisk. It’s in Sweden, I’m in the US.

    I’m afraid lutefisk has the bad manners to infest much of the U.S.

    There’s a lutefisk festival in my town every November, which I duly hide out from every year.

  73. rukymoss says

    There are better uses for lutefisk: My house in WI has a big front porch, but we never enter through it, and rarely go near it once the weather cools off. Last weekend, I noticed the door to the crawlspace beneath it had been disturbed, and went investigating with a flashlight (cautiously, thank dog). There were skunks, plural–apparently they will sometimes den together in cold weather–just great. With the holidays coming, we will be getting a lot of stuff delivered, and I can’t get UPS or FedEx to come to the back door, so the delivery people could potentially get sprayed, and my house would stink for months. The city has no one who can deal with them, the Humane Society wasn’t interested, so I tried a couple of pest control outfits. One said “forget it, I learned my lesson the last time”, and the other one quoted me upwards of $500 for humane traps and relocation, and wouldn’t guarantee he could trap them all. I could not afford this.

    I was whining about it to a friend and he claimed to know a sure (and cheap) remedy–LUTEFISK! He thought a couple of pounds should do it, so I got about 3 lbs and pushed it under the porch. That was 5 days ago, and I decided to take another look–oh hell–

    The skunks are gone, but now there’s a family of Norwegians living under there!

  74. says

    rukymoss:

    I was whining about it to a friend and he claimed to know a sure (and cheap) remedy–LUTEFISK! He thought a couple of pounds should do it, so I got about 3 lbs and pushed it under the porch. That was 5 days ago, and I decided to take another look–oh hell–

    The skunks are gone

    Unbelievable, there’s an actual use for lutefisk!

  75. CJO says

    During Saturnalia, which lasted about a week around the time of the Winter Solstice, the Romans would decorate their houses with greenery, buy presents for children and friends, enjoy family feasts, and even had one slave who was appointed as “the master” for a day and was waited upon by the nobleman and his family. There was lots of fun, feasting and merriment, and businesses and the government closed down for a holiday. Sound familiar?

    There are obvious surface similarities, and there’s no question that in late antiquity Roman Christians incorporated elements of the old pagan solstice celebrations into their own developing Christmas rituals. But Saturnalia is often not well understood as the product of Roman culture that it was, and that always means there’s more of a dark side than a straight description in modern terms like the above really gets at. Saturnalia was all about reversal and deception. The presents were either worthless trinkets or fakes, the Roman version of gag gifts: paste jewelry and the like, or a lavishly decorated basket with a common item inside. Hanging greenery around the house brought the wild, untamed, and verdant into the usually meticulously controlled private/public interface that was the Roman home. Making slaves “masters” for a day was likewise not some harmless jape. The reversal was mutual, for one: slave-owners pretended to debauchery and license, mockingly aping the supposed depravity of a slave whose master is absent, while slaves were patronizingly offered the opportunity to behave in ways that mocked authority without fear of punishment. But the idea that a slave in any way was or could even realistically pretend to the manners of a citizen was absurd, and the joke was really on the slaves. In reality, at Saturnalia, everybody was a slave for a day, the masters for a lark, but in a way that served to underline the stark difference between slave and free in the Roman mind, not to bring the slaves into any proximity to the actual regard due a freeborn citizen. It was fun to be sure, and feasting and merriment certainly took place, but it should not be overlooked that there was a strong undercurrent of affirming the ever-present cruelty and extreme inequality of Roman society.

  76. magistramarla says

    CJO,
    You’re right that much of Roman culture had a dark side, but it is very obvious that they shamelessly borrowed from the cultures that they conquered. The goddess Sulis in Britain, the worship of Isis in Egypt and the worship of Mithras are just a few examples. The worship of all of these and other holidays were very popular in Roman society. The early Xians had a lot to compete with, and if you look closely, you can see that they “borrowed” quite a bit from those popular holidays and rituals, probably to lure the common Roman citizens to “switch”.

  77. Azkyroth says

    Lutefisk is an incredible example of human adaptability and ingenuity. Since the various plants called “pepper” don’t grow so well in the cold northern latitudes, Scandinavians had to turn to alternative methods of turning the necessity and potential pleasure of eating into sheer, undiluted misery.

  78. anteprepro says

    A good number of xian “saints” are other religions’ deities who got a makeover.

    By “saints”, did you mean “demons”? Because I don’t know whether they stole saints, but they totally said that other religions’ gods were demons. Here are some popular Christian demons

    Baal- First king of Hell in Christian demonology, name of the god of the Arameans.
    Mammon- Sumerian god of wealth, Christian demon of avarice.
    Beelzebub- God worshiped by Philistines in Ekron, alias for Satan to Christians.
    Moloch- God of many different ancient Semitic people, including Canaanites, Hebrews, and Phoenicians. Christian prince of Hell that specializes in stealing babies to make mothers cry (no, I’m not joking).
    Adramelech- Sun god according to the Old Testament, one of 10 archdemons that appears with body of a mule or a peacock according to Christian demonology.

    That’s just the demons where the Christians didn’t bother changing the names. This is to say nothing of the demons that show clear similarities to pagan gods, or the elements of demons that are clearly references to paganism. And also to say nothing of the common tendency of portraying demons in art that had caricatures of Jewish facial characteristics.
    Christians perfected “attack ads” and propaganda 1.5 millennia before we even invented the terms for it.

  79. chigau (本当) says

    Most RC saints deemed “pre-congregation” are left-overs from older religions.

  80. says

    Orange danish. Except that started petering out, so now the only tradition my family has is… celebrate it on the 25th? Well, no, we bleed into the 24th. Eh. I got nothin’.
    And it should be called a Holiday Plant, so that it doesn’t have to be a tree AND you can put it up on any holiday you want! I know I’ll be putting up a Venus Flytrap next Memorial Day!

  81. StevoR says

    Done. Latest figures :

    ***

    Do you agree with Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s decision to host a Rhode Island “holiday tree” lighting instead of a “Christmas tree” lighting?
    (Voting has been closed for this question)
    Yes, it should be a ‘holiday tree.’

    7319 (91%) No, it should be called a ‘Christmas tree.’

    641 (8%)

    ***

    Y’know I think we’re winning! (Big cheesy grin.)

  82. StevoR says

    @ PseudoPserious : 1 December 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Hmm … Okay latest for the other version there :

    ***

    Do you agree with Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s decision to host a Rhode Island “holiday tree” lighting instead of a “Christmas tree” lighting?
    (Voting has been closed for this question)

    Yes, it should be a ‘holiday tree.’ 1581 (74%)

    No, it should be called a ‘Christmas tree.’ 542 (25%)

    ***

    Still winning despite the sneakiness!

    Voting closed eh? So what did my clicking ‘submit’ do then I wonder?

  83. gravityisjustatheory says

    Calling Christmas “Christmas” doesn’t bother me in the slightest. No more than five days of the week being named after Norse gods, or several months (and the planets) being named after Roman gods.