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Never a Purely Spiritual Holiday

From the beginning, the Church’s hold over Christmas was (and remains still) rather tenuous. There were always people for whom Christmas was a time of pious devotion rather than carnival, but such people were always in the minority. It may not be going too far to say that Christmas has always been an extremely difficult holiday to Christianize....

One idea I do not recommend is a campaign to turn Christmas into the purely spiritual holiday it never was. My understanding is that the Christmas message is “incarnation,” that God entered fully into the world. So combining Jesus’ birthday party with at least some worldly celebration seems appropriate.

- from a review in the Christian Century, December 11, 2007, of Bruce Forbes, Christmas: a Candid History, University of California Press.