Christmas and Western Civilization

From Carson Holloway:

Though Christmas is a religious holiday, secularists should appreciate its great contribution to Western Civilization: the lesson that all men are equal in their fundamental human dignity.

The holiday season has many traditions, some ancient, some modern. Among the most recent is a paradoxical one: complaints, yearly renewed, about the public recognition of Christmas as a religious celebration. As these observances get underway (see here and here), we might do well to ask the following question: what, if anything, has Christmas contributed to Western Civilization that could earn the respect even of the secularist and hence win his acquiescence in its ongoing public acknowledgment?

One might point to Christmas’s annual role in boosting the economy, but this would be superficial. Christmas is older than the large scale gift-giving (and hence gift-buying) that has become associated with it in recent decades, and Western Civilization is more than the contemporary commercial society that measures its health by yearly economic growth. More seriously one might point to the rich treasury of art and music that Christmas has inspired. Yet neither is this quite what we seek. While an undeniable boon, the art and music of Christmas is more a contribution to Western culture. As distinct from culture, the term “civilization” (which shares the Latin root of “citizen”) seems to imply a common legal framework, or at least a shared set of publicly acknowledged ethical principles. Has Christmas, then, made an important contribution to a still commonly valued moral core of Western Civilization?

Read more: Public Discourse

Image credit: