Appropriating the Christmas Appropriators

Note: Our Fall fundraising campaign ends today so that we can all turn our minds to Advent and Christmas. Fr. Pokorsky reminds us of just how much our secular celebrations – without knowing it – owe to the Faith. But we’re sure that you all appreciate what a gift the Faith is and how it must be defended and extended in our time. We’ll do our part at The Catholic Thing if you’ll do yours. We’ll all stand or fall together in this struggle. – Robert Royal  

Three businessmen – a Catholic, a Protestant, and an atheist – go to lunch during Advent to discuss what Christmas means to them. The Protestant says Christmas means a 50 percent increase in profits. The Catholic says he looks at the bottom line; Christmas means a 20 percent increase in earnings after taxes. The atheist says that the Christmas business is so profitable that on Christmas day, he and his friends gather around the Christmas tree, hold hands, and sing, “O what a friend we have in Jesus!”

Some people think this is funny. I used to until I was woke or awakened or woke up – or something. The “woke” culture is, of course, the very latest thing these days. Until the next self-proclaimed enlightenment comes along. You claim victim status, share your grievances with semi-serious drama, and scold opponents à la Greta Thunberg: How dare you!

Practicing Christians have become a ridiculed – even despised – minority in this country. It is more dangerous to your reputation and career to bring a Bible to work than dirty books from the Fairfax County School libraries. The less we talk about Jesus and Christmas – excuse me, “Winter Holiday” – the safer we are in an atheist culture.

“Cultural appropriation” is just one of the grave injustices recently discovered by the “woke” culture. It is – according to authoritative sources – the inappropriate adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of a dominant culture. Most of mainstream culture has already taken Christ out of Christmas. But you might argue that, by “cultural appropriation,” it continues to make money off of Him, while abusing the rights of Christians. So we have winter holiday trees, festive lights, wreaths, holiday spending – without Jesus.

How dare you!

I have no problem with atheists making an honest buck off Christmas. But when an atheistic culture cashes in on Jesus while impugning His followers as intolerant and hateful, it’s time to rise up and, well, claim victim status.

How have they offended us? Let me count the ways:

They have appropriated the Christmas tree. But the Christmas tree is a symbol of Jesus. In winter, what is evergreen becomes a sign of everlasting life, and it reminds Christians of the “tree of life,” an image of Christ on the Cross.

They have appropriated wreaths. Wreaths adorn our shopping centers and businesses. But the circular shape – without beginning or end – represents God, and the evergreens represent eternal life.

They have appropriated holly. But the holly tree is another Christian symbol. The sharp leaves symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Jesus, while the berries represent drops of His blood.

They have appropriated seasonal lights and candles, but the festive glowing lights symbolize Jesus, the source of all light. Jesus is the Light of the World.

The star atop the tree represents the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus. It directs us to follow the light of the Savior just as the Wise Men found Him by following the star.


The poinsettia is like the evergreen tree. It thrives during the winter and symbolizes everlasting life. The shape resembles a star (see again the Three Wise Men). Red poinsettias remind us of the blood that Jesus shed for us. The white poinsettias symbolize His purity.

Christmas bells symbolize the hymn of the angels in Heaven announcing the birth of Jesus and praising God: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill.”

Candy canes remind us of the staff carried by the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus – and that Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who gently leads us to safety and peace. “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want.” (Ps. 23)

Santa Claus brings gifts to children on Christmas. Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Catholic saint – Good Saint Nick – forms the basis of his popular image.

Christmas is the season of giving – and consumer spending. The Wise Men “offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Mt. 2:11) But the greatest gift of all came from our Heavenly Father: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) On Christmas Day, we remember that the Savior is the true gift of Christmas.

They can’t even escape Jesus when they reduce Christmas to a “winter holiday.” “Holiday” is a conflation of  two words: “holy day.” Get it? Ha, ha!

How dare you!

If they are serious about excluding Christianity, let’s insist they get rid of all Christian symbolism in our public spaces and workplaces. No public displays of Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes, festive lights, and Santa Claus. No Christmas music, ever. Not even “Santa, Baby,” or “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”!

We can change this country into a workers’ paradise without public expressions of generosity or joy or any public sign of Christmas. Demand honesty! Let’s make our cities and workplaces look as lifeless and sterile as the concrete buildings of the Soviet Union. Our feast day, our choice!

How dare you!

In the meantime, during Advent, Christians may continue to prepare for our Savior’s birthday with a good Confession and light penitential practices: “Prepare the way of the Lord, [and] make his paths straight.” (Lk. 3:4)

Amidst a harsh, barren, intolerant, and ugly culture, let’s adorn the sanctuaries of our churches and homes with the symbols of Christmas: twinkling lights, evergreens, candy, and gifts – the reminders of Jesus and the sweetness of the Gospels. On Christmas Day, let’s gather around the decorated Christmas tree and the Nativity Scene and sing hymns of peace and joy. O Little Town of Bethlehem. Silent Night. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

At need, even throw in the Elvis Christmas album for good measure.

Image: Pope Francis incenses the St. Peter’s Basilica creche, calling it a “domestic Gospel,” December 24, 2019 [CNA photo]

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Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.