Happy holidays! Er—I mean, merry Christmas! Have you been reminded yet to “keep Christ in Christmas”?
The “keep Christ in Christmas” movement isn’t as old as you might think. So far as I can tell, the slogan was coined right around the year 1920 by an organization of young Lutheran men and woman called the Walther League. These young folks wanted to display their faith more earnestly and more openly, and one way they tried that was by encouraging local Milwaukee businesses to not completely sell out to the secularization of Christmas. They asked businesses to display religious signs and symbolism, and they encouraged people to maintain a religious element in their Christmas cards. The 1937 citation below was taken from an advertisement for Christmas cards that contained verses from the Bible and not just a bland “Season’s greetings” or “Happy holidays” message.
This is just one of a few different holiday Christianese catchphrases that you’re likely to hear at this time of year. How many times have you been told that “Jesus is the reason for the season” or (less commonly) that we need to “keep the holy in the holiday?”
As with all good Christian slogans (such as the megacelebrity Christianese idiom “what would Jesus do?“) it wasn’t long before the slogan “keep Christ in Christmas” ended up on bumper stickers. You don’t see this particular slang phrase on the highways quite so much any more (apparently the heyday for these stickers was the 1960s and 1970s). Probably I’ve seen more “Smile! Jesus Loves You” bumper stickers lately than “keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers. Of course way more popular than any of those phrases is the Jesus fish. And if you’re lucky, the Jesus fish is swallowing a creepy legged fish or an alien. I tell you, when it comes to bumper sticker theology, it’s truly a case of survival of the fittest!
Anyway, in an upcoming post I’ll talk about Xmas and whether it’s a cop out to write “Xmas” instead of “Christmas.” Some people say that by writing “Xmas” you’re taking an active role in removing Christ from Christmas. My oh my, how do people have time to get into these semantic debates when there are only a handful of shopping days before Christmas? I’ll never understand where people find the time to debate these things.
Stay tuned for the definition of Xmas later this week, and see below for the current draft definition of keep Christ in Christmas.