Ebenezer Scrooge vents repeated “Bah Humbug!” wrath on Christmas.
But those verbal lumps of coal fired at our most overpowering — and economically essential — holiday don’t hit nearly as hard as the withering contempt oozing from Christopher Hitchens’ 2008 Slate essay “ ’Tis the Season To Be Incredulous: The Moral and Aesthetic Nightmare of Christmas.”
From that scorching scream against the Yule tide:
“The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States — a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state — turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state. As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere.
“You go to a more private place, such as a doctor’s office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television because certain officially determined themes have been programmed into the system.
“Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader’s birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring.”
Hitchens died of cancer late in 2011, sparing him further suffering from the annual onslaught of “official propaganda” based, albeit increasingly loosely, on a religious faith.
Too bad the demise of that Englishman turned U.S. citizen at age 62 also deprived us of his gifted way with words, which reasonable readers should appreciate even when disagreeing with the views they express.
And objections to how Americans celebrate Christmas live on across a wide range of critics.
Or if you prefer to be more specific, how we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Or if you prefer to be more secular, how we celebrate “the holidays.”
The rampant, ever-intensifying commercialization of Christmas riles many Christians.
As the title character shouts in 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which will air again at 8 tonight on WCIV, followed by “It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown”:
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
These days, Christmas seems to be almost all about giving — and getting.
Still, if you’re not getting into the uplifting Christmas spirit anymore, check out the daily “In Memory Of” lists of contributions to The Post and Courier’s Good Cheer Fund.
Sure, holiday stress can weigh down your mood.
However, those Good Cheer donations are a sweet way to honor people no longer with us by giving money to six very worthy local charitable organizations.
And that “In Memory Of” roster is a reminder that all those still with us share the great gift of life itself.
Back to Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic “A Christmas Carol.” After his nephew Fred wishes him a Merry Christmas, the cranky old miser goes on a bitter rant, including:
“What’s Christmastime to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”
Yet you should keep in mind that Scrooge, unlike Hitchens, eventually warms up to Christmas after transforming instruction from a trio of ghosts.
So Scrooge ultimately resolves:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Even self-billed “antitheist” Hitchens, in his last essay, softened — well, a little — on the creative culpability of the author of “A Christmas Carol.”
As Hitchens wrote in “Charles Dickens’ Inner Child,” published in the Jan. 31, 2012, issue of Vanity Fair, nearly seven weeks after his death:
“He loved the idea of a birthday celebration, being lavish about it, reminding people that they were once unborn and are now launched. This is bighearted, and we might all do a bit more of it.”
Then again, Hitchens added: “It would help me to forgive, perhaps just a little, the man who helped generate the Hallmark birthday industry and who, with some of his less imposing and more moistly sentimental prose scenes in A Christmas Carol, took the Greatest Birthday Ever Told and helped make it into the near Ramadan of protracted obligatory celebration now darkening our Decembers.”
But before descending into your own dark late-December funk, try seeing the light about the holiday season’s positive promotion of compassion, generosity and yes, “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.