Is Christmas an American Holiday?

Americans have mixed feelings about Christmas. Forget about the fact that Christmas is a national holiday; that is not what I am talking about. Despite what some people think, Christmas is an American holiday just like Thanksgiving is. December 25th is also a religious holiday for those that choose to celebrate it that way. I know, I can feel the hate coming from all directions. Don’t blame me for pointing out the obvious. Why is there a Christmas grey area? Some say, “it’s a Christian holiday and I’m not Christian.” Others say, “it’s a Christian holiday that’s been overrun by mainstream America”.


Christmas is a Christian holiday. It is a disgrace how the meaning of Christmas has been lost by all the toys, decorations and Santa Clause. That is not what Christmas is about. It is about celebrating a significant birthday. American or not, it should only be celebrated by Christians. This idea that every one in America can celebrate Christmas is insulting.

But the majority of Americans celebrate Christmas. So, doesn’t that mean that the American Spirit should have a say in what Christmas is? There are actually three sides to this story. Instead of connected sides like a triangle, it is more like the letter “V”. On one leg of the V at the top you have the Christian argument that Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated by Christians. At the top on the other side you have the non-christian argument that Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated by Christians. Did you catch that? In print the argument is the same. But if you wrap your mind around it, the arguments are only different based on perspective.  That is why I chose the letter V over a triangle for an example of the three sides. At the fulcrum (bottom) of the V is the American Holiday argument.

First, let me stop right here…I want to point out that I was raised Catholic. However, if you understand that the purpose of the Brave New Times is to take down the walls in America and to stop dividing Americans into groups, you will understand that my faith has no relevance on this subject. After reading this article, I am sure you will agree that I approached this topic from the American perspective. We are all American, and as Americans we have the right to an opinion. These opinions don’t separate us. The diversity among us is what makes us so unique, strong, and resilient. So when writing this, I am looking at it from the view of Lady Liberty watching over America as a whole.

The origins of Christmas are in fact Christian (obviously). This is not the argument. The argument is when does it become an American holiday? I am not talking about an actual point in time or the American History of Christmas, I am talking about how we think of Christmas today. So, lets start with what you would need to make Christmas a Christian holiday. There are many reasons, but I am going to list the obvious ones…the ones people who know nothing about the Christian faith might know about.

  • The Nativity Scene – A retelling of the account in the bible of Jesus’ birth as found in the Gospel of Luke and Matthew. When Mary and Joseph were unable to find room at an inn, they took shelter in a barn for the evening. After Mary gave birth, both Mary and Joseph were visited by Shepherds and Wise Men from the East. Those people combined with the livestock from the barn are usually found in a Nativity Set.
  • The Advent wreath – A wreath laid flat with 3 purple and 1 rose candle which is displayed the 4 Sundays before Christmas. The wreath symbolizes the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior.
  • St. Nicholas Day – This is December 6th. St. Nicholas is the real historical person who inspired the familiar legend and traditions of Santa Claus. Children would leave a shoe outside of their bedroom door hoping to receive a small gift from St. Nick.

Many people who celebrate the Christian Christmas will have a Nativity Scene in their home. This is displayed at every Christian church whether it is outside or inside the church. The Advent wreath, which very few people have displayed in their homes, is part of Christian church services leading up to Christmas Day and is always displayed prominently. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated by the Christian churches and most Christian schools celebrate this with their students. Although very few households actually celebrate St. Nicholas Day, our family did while my brother, sister and I were growing up. This was only because I had learned of this while I went to a Catholic School and made my mother aware of it.

I want to clarify that I am not talking about going to church on Christmas Day; however, I am talking about the things that make it a religious event. Christmas lights outside your house, a Christmas tree inside your house and gifts under the tree are not what the Christian Christmas is about. Good Ol’ St. Nick gives reference to the American Santa Claus, not the actual Saint Nicholas (remember he inspired the modern-day Santa Claus). Some people hang a wreath on a window and that is clearly not an advent wreath. That would be like saying that the 9 individual candles on my table is actually a menorah. If you hang stockings for Santa Claus in early December and on December 6th you find gifts in them, then you might accidentally be celebrating the Christian tradition of St. Nicholas Day.

My intent is not to suggest that everybody celebrate Christmas. This article is directed more toward the people who get angry about how Christmas has been corrupted by main stream America. It is human to want to spread joy to others and to have a holiday to share in the kindness of mankind and enjoy each other’s company. This is something I want for all to have. If people of any faith or no faith want to celebrate Christmas, then that is beautiful. In my opinion, the teachings of Christianity embrace this togetherness. We can share the joy our holiday brings. If you want to celebrate it as a religious event then you can do that as well, but it is not required. I am also speaking to those who get bent out of shape when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas when they are not Christian. Again, if you don’t see that Christmas is an American holiday that some of us take to the next level by making a religious event out of, then that is fine. My hope is that all Americans can realize the Christmas Spirit is not that much different from the American spirit. The spirit of loving a country for her greatness and loving each other for our uniqueness goes hand in hand. The American Christmas is just this…taking time away from the stresses of life to spend some time enjoying the company of those we love. You might not agree with me, but something I wrote must have enticed you to read through to the end of this article!

To all Americans…Merry Christmas.

Jeff Olen is a writer/editor for KoN Media and an old fashioned American who believes the human spirit will always prevail. He leaves his emotions in print for others to experience his passion.
Editors note:
After editing my fellow editor Bryan Olen (Yes, he is my brother…give yourself a cookie!) shared with me a good recording about the American meaning of Christmas and the American History of how it came about.  Enjoy!

Author: Jeff Olen

Jeff Olen is a writer/editor for KoN Media and an old fashioned American who believes the human spirit will always prevail. He leaves his emotions in print for others to experience his passion.

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