Readers Respond

READERS RESPOND

December 24, 2009

Keillor is correct about Christmas

Thank you for the excellent article by Garrison Keillor, "Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone" (Dec. 16).

Mr. Keillor is exactly right: "If you're not in the club, then buzz off." He should have added, "And don't post your petty, hate-filled comments against this article." There is nothing "bigoted" about his attitude. It is simply live-and-let-live.

There is an astonishing wealth of traditions, art and music surrounding Christmas. The message of Christmas applies to all, and it is mainly a message of peace. Its beautiful traditions are enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

However, it is not a requirement that Christians allow the traditions to be modified, mocked or eliminated in the interest of political correctness.

Feeling left out, some groups tried to compete with Christmas by elevating minor holidays like Hanukkah or the Winter Solstice. Nobody had a problem with that. However, when it was clear that these would never reach the same level as Christmas, a small but angry minority took the more aggressive approach: trying to enforce a "gag order" on Christmas or at least eliminating any trace of religious significance. The most obvious example is the widespread use of "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," but there are many others.

And while Christmas is still occasionally mentioned on television or in movies (although usually in some vulgar or off-handed way) it appears to be virtually forbidden to recall the birth of Jesus as the reason for the holiday.

Paul Ferkul, Cleveland, Ohio

Jews aren't the ones who secularized Christmas

If Christians like Garrison Keillor don't want Christmas hijacked ("Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone," Dec. 16), then they should keep it in their churches. Once you insist on putting it in the town square, in schools and everywhere possible, you have diluted the religious values you claim to cherish.

We can barely get our children excused from school on the Jewish High Holidays, and Mr. Keillor whines about Jews who wrote songs inspired by Christmas.

Sandi Brooks, Vernon, Ct.

People are overreacting to Keillor's Christmas rant

Mr: Keillor: Count me in your "amen" corner. Briefly, my background was Orthodox Judaism, then agnosticism, and on March 31, 2002, I was baptized at St. James Episcopal Church of Leesburg, Va., at the Great Easter Vigil.

Like most people who associate with some faith, I'm struggling. Most people who have my last name are Orthodox Jews, and your words "And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys" hit the mark.

It raised the ire of my cousin, who became quite visceral. He is a lovable mensch who isn't that religious, but like others who aren't strong in their faith, circled the wagon on this. He thinks that this is the slippery slope to the gas chamber, or to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, yelling fire in a crowded theater. My view is that my cousin is misguided and this is free speech. Repressing this is a danger to people of all faiths or no faith.

Sander Peretz Fredman, Leesburg, Va.

In defense of secular Christmas traditions

In response to Garrison Keillor's column "Nonbelievers, please leave Christmas alone" (Dec. 16): While I respect your point of view expressing your dislike of the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, I did find your comment about "Jewish guys writing Christmas songs" very offensive. The anger you voiced in that paragraph was hateful, and I, as a longtime fan, was saddened to hear it.

I assume by "Jewish guys" you are referring to Irving Berlin? "White Christmas" was written in 1942 and was an important song for many families separated by war. The wish for that song is not unlike your desire to light some candles and sing softly. It's the dream of the Christmas of one's youth, the implication of a simpler time.

Or perhaps it is Johnny Marks, composer of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," that has provoked your ire. Does the fact that an artist is Jewish mean that he cannot create something beloved for all observers of Christmas?

While you may find the observance of secular Christmas offensive, many people find much joy in this celebration. People take the time to wish you "Happy holidays" and families reunite, often for the only time during the year. Were it not for Christmas cards, I would have lost touch with dozens of friends. Without that strand which connects us, I would not feel that I could call on them when visiting their city. That thin, annual contact allows us to stay in touch.

The observance of Christmas has evolved, as it has evolved for centuries. While I agree that the constant barrage to spend spend spend is distasteful, how can I impose my values on someone else? In a country that values the separation of church and state, everyone is free to observe holidays as they see fit.

In this season of Christmas, I would urge you to demonstrate tolerance so that all celebrate Christmas in their own fashion. To paraphrase the Golden Rule, perhaps you could learn patience and tolerance and allow the celebrations of others, the way you would want them to allow the celebrations of your family.

Lyn Diamond, Tipton, Ind.

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