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The Trouble with Christmas Paperback – March 1, 1992
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From Library Journal
Flynn, the associate editor of Free Inquiry and an avowed atheist, has written an argument for the downsizing of Christmas as a national holiday in view of the diverse nature of America's population. Providing extensive footnotes, Flynn devotes approximately half of this work to dispelling any "fond notions" anyone may have about Christmas, from Jesus and Santa to Christmas trees to poinsettias. The second portion of the book, which deals with the difficulties of celebrating Christmas in a democratic, multicultural society, raises an important issue: There are many who choose not to celebrate Christmas; thus, continuing to expect everyone to participate in or be tolerant of a religious holiday in which they do not believe is unrealistic and undemocratic. Flynn's point is valid, but a better alternative to reducing the holiday might be to educate those who observe it in the needs and concerns of those who do not.
- Joanna M. Thompson, Bluefield State Coll. , Bluefield, W. Va.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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He asserts, "Christians have often tried to deny that the Christmas tree has a pagan heritage. One popular story claims that Martin Luther invented the tannenbaum. Despite the popularity of this tale, it is untrue... Catholics made a groundless origin claim of their own. The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 3: Can-Col strains to trace the tannenbaum to the German paradise tree... The paradise tree might make a promising ancestor of the Christmas tree if the custom were not too recent. It peaked in Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries." (Pg. 39)
He states, "By the early nineteenth century old Christmas lay dying in the English speaking world. By mid-century, it HAD died. The authentic English Christmas of boar's head and plum pudding, of mistletoe and caroling... gave a little groan and flatlined. Had social and cultural development followed slightly different paths, today's average American might not even know what Christmas was. The Christmas we celebrate today is a revival." (Pg. 94) He earlier noted that Dickens' "A Christmas carol had an enormous influence on the later development of the holiday. One of his legacies is that Scrooge's turkey---accompanied by the stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and other accouterments of the American Thanksgiving---is the star of most Christmas dinners today." (Pg. 50-51)
He reports with satisfaction, "Recent legal actions by infidel activists in local communities have forced the removal of religious symbols and mottoes from municipal seals, challenged Nativity displays and other religious observances in public places, and precipitated a constitutional crisis in the state of Utah." (Pg. 185)
Yet he laments, "I've gotten to know atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists, rationalists, and other infidels from all over the world. Some ignore the winter holiday. But an embarrassing majority keep Christmas or some analogous festival like the winter solstice." (Pg. 231)
Certainly not a book intended to sit quietly on the bookshelf, Flynn's book is by far the most detailed and thoughtful secular critique of the holiday that has ever been written; it deserves serious study, whether one agrees with him in all respects, or not.