Skip to comments.The War Against Christmas: Harvard's holiday spirit .....
Posted on 12/17/2007 8:18:09 AM PST by rface
For anyone who has spent any considerable amount of time on this campus, Harvard students knee-jerk liberalism and militant atheism, or, at least, militant hostility to religion, is more than apparent. An integral part of any misguided teenage rebellion includes perfunctorily discarding the formalities and traditions long observed in ones family: Sunday mornings spent in church, obligatory dietary restrictions, and even a baseline belief in God. Thanks to cartoonish caricatures of Evangelicals in the media, religion immediately connotes images, in the minds of the self-styled intellectuals at Harvard, of provincialism, stupidity, and Republican Party politicsthings to avoid.
Yet, despite this religious apathy or antipathy, the final stretch before Christmas, and the impending Christmas break, is still greeted with unmitigated glee. Certainly, Christmas in America has lost most of its religious flavor, as atheists, secular Jews, and other non-Christians all eagerly mark with merriment the Yuletide occasion. Given this mix of irreligion and desire nevertheless to celebrate a gift-giving holiday, Christmas festivities, decorations, and attitudes around campus have taken on an eccentric flavor.
The city of Cambridge itself has continued its custom of festooning Harvard Square with strings of lights. Overhanging Massachusetts Avenue at various locations, peculiar whirlpool-shaped designs shed blurs of light on the automobiles and pedestrians passing below. These odd illuminations alert visitors and residents alike of some impending festive occasion, but remain ambiguous as to what that occasion might be. Lights during December traditionally signal Christmas, even when arranged in no particular pattern, but the Cambridge decorations seem to imply some other holiday by their strangeness: something new, something different, something starkly conscious of a Christian heritage they carefully avoid recalling.
Fear that celebrating Christmas excludes other religiousor non-religioustraditions compels the Harvard campus into lavish public displays of other wintertime holidays. Indeed, when Christmas is explicitly acknowledged, it is only through sterilized, secularized aspects such as fir trees, wreaths, and Santa Claus; but, since other holidays have not enjoyedor sufferedalmost complete absorption into popular culture, religious elements cannot easily be discarded.
Chanukah, a holy day observed by a sizable portion of Harvard students, enjoys the public recognition on campus that it deserves. During the eight-day-long holiday, a giant menorah graced the Yard right in front of Widener Library. Such campus celebrities as former University President Lawrence H. Summers, Justice professor Michael Sandel, and current University President Drew Gilpin Faust herself even participated in public menorah-lightings, garnering significant Crimson coverage.
But not one public Christmas displayno Nativity crèche, no Advent wreath lightingsreceived any such attention, in the campus daily or on email lists. Surely there are still Christians on campus who cling tightly to their Christmastime traditions, but theirs do not figure meaningfully in the multicultural mélange that dominates Harvard this time of year.
On first glance, one can easily understand how non-Christians and atheists derive so much joy from Christmas shorn of its religious context. Receiving giftsand, for a few, giving them as wellis a good enough reason for many to endure the countless hours in shopping malls, the tacky faux-fir trees and garlands strewn everywhere, and the unbearable pop holiday music that tyrannizes the radio waves. But, at some point, one must question why some make such a fuss about a holiday that has no meaning.
Indeed, the secular observation of Christmas strikes not a few ironic chords. For one, Christmas persisting even in the absence of Christianity testifies to the raw force of inertia in long-observed customs. Those former Christians who have cast away their faith may think themselves more open-minded and rational, but they are merely paying homage to a mindless and irrational, albeit pleasant, tradition by continuing to celebrate the holiday.
Christmastime provides ample proof that mankind is not as rational, as open-minded, as free-thinking as many secular people think it and hope it could be. Secular celebrants of Christmas either ignorantly perpetuate meaningless traditions, or, even worse, find comfort and joy in observing them.
Professing atheism is easy, no wonder why it comes naturally to so many Harvard students; living a life free of the religious and irrational influencea life free of Christmasproves much more difficult.
Christopher B. Lacaria 09 is a history concentrator in Kirkland House. His column appears regularly.
I guess they are all giving up their Christmas break, and later Easter break to stay there and study
Harvard was started by a Christian Pastor in, I think, 1639.
Harvard University and Theological Seminary
Harvard was the first center of higher learning in the United States. It is located in Cambridge MA, just across the Charles River from Boston. The first class was started in 1628, and nine of these graduated in 1642.
The growing liberal climate of Harvard reached a point at which conservative Congregationalists became outraged. In 1805, the Unitarian Henry Ware (senior) became Professor of Theology at Harvard, and this soon lead to the establishment of Andover as a bastion of orthodoxy.
Hard to believe the university’s first benefactor and namesake was a clergyman, and that it was founded as a Puritan learning institution.
It’s first “mission statement” was: “To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches.”
Yes, I think that if schools/colleges desire a winter break rather than a Christmas break, they should be forced to take it in the middle of winter rather than around Christmas time. This would send a panic through the teachers unions.
why do they, as adults, NEED a elementary break?
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