My Take: The case against starting Christmas in November
November 19th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

My Take: The case against starting Christmas in November

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

I am fine with Jesus being the reason for the season, but does it have to last for two months?

A week or two ago, one of the radio stations where I live on Cape Cod, Coast 93.3, switched its format over to Christmas songs. As I am writing this, Wham! has just finished “Last Christmas” and Hall & Oates’ “Jingle Bell Rock” is still ringing in my ears.

This confuses me. Is there really demand out there in radioland for non-stop Christmas carols for four weeks in November and another four in December? The Christmas season used to kick in right after Thanksgiving. Now it can barely wait for Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong. Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” turns me on as much as the next guy. But for nearly two months? Isn’t that a bit too much of a good thing?

In the Christian liturgical calendar, there is of course a month of preparation for the incarnation of Jesus. I remember lighting the four purple candles on the Advent Wreath in preparation for the coming of Jesus in the Episcopal church where I grew up. And I remember it as magic.

Advent is not Christmas, however, and you don’t sing Christmas carols during the four Sunday services before Christmas. “O Holy Night” (which, by the way, was just sung on 93.3 by Josh Groban) refers not to November 24 but to Christmas Eve. And when Bing Crosby croons (as he did for me a few minutes ago), “It’s Christmas once more,” he isn’t right until the 25th of December.

A few years ago Bill O’Reilly invited me on “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss the religious ignorance of American citizens. He was decrying the “war on Christmas” at the time, so he asked me about that, too. I told him I was pretty sure Christmas would survive whatever attack it was enduring. If local radio is any indication, I was right. Christmas, I am unhappy to report, seems hell-bent on colonizing November.

I am no anti-Christmas culture warrior. I love the Christmas Eve service, the faces of expectant kids on Christmas morning, and the story of a God who is one of us (sort of). But it’s not ritual or theology that are stretching Christmas to the breaking point—it’s Macy’s and Madison Avenue and Silly Bandz and Stinky the Garbage Truck and Coast 93.3.

Whatever war on Christmas we are enduring is being waged by retailers and advertisers, not secular humanists. According to Percy Faith & His Orchestra, “We Need a Little Christmas.” I think we need a little less.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Christmas • Culture wars • Episcopal • Opinion • United States

soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Kelleym Karnelesk

    I've been browsing on-line greater than three hours these days, but I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It's lovely price sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the net will be a lot more helpful than ever before. "I finally realized that being grateful to my body was key to giving more love to myself." by Oprah Winfrey.

    July 9, 2012 at 12:22 am |
  2. Jason

    I am counting the days until Coast goes non-stop Christmas on November 1st. My girlfriend and I were hiking last November. We returned to the car,and I was playing with the radio until I found Coast with Christmas music. We both smiled, she grabbed my arm, and Coast stayed on our radio untouched for two months. You can NEVER have TOO MUCH Christmas in your life.

    August 31, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  3. kbc

    Thanks for celebrating Jesus birthday guys he loves even you foolish atheist.

    December 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  4. albert

    I could except Xmas better if it were more like ,, say valentines day or mothers day, but being so commercial and starting right after Halloween is to much, it is celebrating the birth of Christ, not xbox's, xmas trees and eggnog..

    December 23, 2010 at 12:16 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.