In October 1963, singer Andy Williams released his first Christmas album which included the newly written but soon-to-be holiday standard, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
A breezy tune with a light-hearted and happy lyric, the familiar carol wonderfully transmits the fun, emotion and tradition of family and community Christmas celebration. Why do we go back home for Christmas? Because “it’s the hap-happiest season of all.”
And oh, how humanity – especially American humanity – pursues happiness. Whatever else we want, we want it to bring us happiness, the pursuit of which is right there in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitutional DNA. As busily as the modern PC crowd works to kick “Christmas” off the calendar and Christ out of the classroom, nobody is going to assault the American pursuit of happiness.
And that’s why I think Americans are especially un-European (Thank God!) in our stubborn non-acquiescence to the politics of “Don’t Say Jesus or Christ or Christmas.” As noisily as some cry “separation of church and state,” and as grating as it is to hear the awkwardly forced, carefully inclusive and politically correct greeting, “Happy Holidays,” I think Christmas is here to stay.
Why? Because I don’t think a generic Winter Holiday or “Winterval” (shorthand for “Winter Festival,” or possibly the winter “Interval” between academic semesters) will ever make us as happy as Christmas; there is no reason for it to. What’s the big deal with a festival in winter? There’s not. The only big deal and happiness is for a tradition that means something. And that tradition, that truth, is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Pagans of old – way old – celebrated the lengthening of days right after the winter solstice which occurs December 20-23. The gods had been robbing light from the day and were suddenly returning that light to the earth, etc. The ancient Roman holiday “Saturnalia” in late December was just such a celebration.
The birth of Jesus likely occurred not on Dec. 25 but earlier in the fall, when harvests were in and taxes were collected (see Luke 2). The eventual Christian celebration of God’s son incarnate in humanity, this Light of the World reconnecting our misdirected pathway of sin into the perfect light, love, grace and salvation of Jesus Christ, overwrote pagan superstitions with Godly, miraculous and biblical truth and supplanted Saturnalia with Christmas.
O happy day! Christ came and freed our souls.
It’s not just the most wonderful time of the year; it’s the singularly most outstanding event in all human history. Merry Christmas.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) looked into it and learned the “scary ghost stories” lyric in this carol refers to an old Victorian Christmas tradition – think Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”