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Hallo again to all.

We've spent a good part of the last few weeks investigating the origins of the global monoculture of modern Christmas. There are rabbit holes aplenty to go down.

There is the controversy over whether Coca Cola created the modern Santa Claus. (They did not.) There is the controversy about whether the General Seminary professor Clement Clarke Moore was the author of A Visit from St Nicholas. (He was certainly the first open transmitter of it, if not its originator.) There is the controversy over whether there is a 'War on Christmas' in affluent, multicultural First World civil society, bent on eradicating crèche scenes, caroling, and the very wishing of a Happy Christmas. (This is a fake-news myth.)

There is no real controversy about whether the modern Anglo-German-American-Dutch Christmas product—threaded through New Amsterdam, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Washington Irving, and Charles Dickens—is, from its first emergence, somehow about a time just before or around our earliest clear memories. Already in 1819-20, Irving's Sketch Book casts Christmas celebrations as something done best in olden days. The Ghost of Christmas Past shows 1843's Ebenezer Scrooge a vision of the pleasant Christmases of his apprenticeship under Fezziwig—which must in his case have been in the late eighteenth century. (Dickens, like Dante, offers a spectral guide for his time-and-space travelers.)

If the literary, domestic-celebration traditions of modern Christmas are rooted in a time around the Industrial Revolution's forcing of millions into urban poverty and a smaller number upward—before which there was certainly something cozier and more squirearchical for all—the modern cinematic Christmas is still more identified with the first two years of the post-World War Two American Baby Boom. Nineteen forty-six and 1947 gave us, respectively, It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, the tropes of which have yet to be escaped by studios, by directors, by audiences.

There is something natural for cultures shaped in the northern hemisphere—where the dark is longest just around Christmas, and the cold used to be most intense—to create stories of longing for the warmth and security we hope will surround memories of childhood. This is undoubtedly part of what's happening in the cultural accretions and attitudes adhering to what Christmas has become. There is nothing wrong with this on its own, and there can be something wonderful about it.

But there can be something even more wonderful about it all if that wonder inspires strength to foster the same securities of shelter, sustenance, family stability, and social connection we claim to celebrate in the cult of Christmas gemütlichkeit for persons who are outside of its glow today. The Christchild of Robert Southwell's New Heaven, New War is characterised by cold and weakness, shaking, tears, a tiny breast, babish cries, weeping eyes, cold and need, feeble flesh; a broken wall, a crib. They're the places where we know that we can and must meet the incarnate God of the Christian gospels. If our lives are better for a Christmas of hygge, we're strengthened for that service in a new year of grace.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana

All of us at Anglicans Online

1 January 2017

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