Grinch Relents
I refuse to participate in your neurosis

What idiot declared war on Christmas?

Just around the corner from our place, a certain upmarket food store trimmed its tree with boxes of champagne.  Empty ones, I might add, lest you decide to pluck a sly tipple before they disappear tomorrow.  Tradition in Bavaria holds that the tree comes down after the Epiphany, or the Twelfth Day of Christmas.

Some may deplore this as a particularly crass example of Christmas gone commercial.  If so, bring it on.

Like every December, 'twas the season for self-righteous to remind us of the True Meaning of Christmas.  Which, by all accounts, is that we shouldn't be enjoying ourselves too much, since we have to remember that a pregnant lady 2000 years ago once had trouble finding a hotel room. 

But if we want to achieve  peace on earth and good will toward men, then gifts, celebration and laughter surely help. 

Any atheist who tut-tuts the holiday because of its religious origin, truly does his cause no service.  What idiot turns his nose up at joy?

Johann Hari wrote of this in The Independent a couple of Christmases ago.   And though I'm not a big fan of Objectivists,  Tom Bowden's thoughts on the Ayn Rand Institute's Voices for Reason blog make a convincing case for the atheist to roll up his sleeves and get into the holiday spirit.

The so-called "commericalisation" of Christmas makes a broadly-celebrated holiday meaningful to everyone.  To those with different beliefs, or with none at all.

Irving Berlin gives us the classic example of a non-Christian's constructive engagement with the holiday.  Many have remarked on the irony that Berlin, a Jew, should have written the most popular Christmas song of all time. But if you look closely at the lyrics for White Christmas, you'll find it utterly secular.  It's just a song about the weather, really. 

You'll notice that I put the word "commercialisation" in quotes.  I did that deliberately.   A secular Christmas doesn't need to cost a lot of dough.  

But since God and Mammon are apparent opposites, spending too much money on a holy occasion guarantees big-time blasphemy.  Right?

On those grounds, Munich is a blasphemer's paradise.  Compared to the average German, a Münchener contributes three times the GDP to the national economy, and he likes to spread the wealth.  There's no better city for a materialistic Christmas, if that's what you're after.

The upscale merchants of the Briennerstrasse turned streetlights into chandeliers


Insouciant little Christmas balls, sprinkled around a €3000 party frock

A 2008 Christmas display at the upmarket Nymphenberg Porcelain

The last paragraph might surprise some.  After all, I've lived in New York.  Isn't that the birthplace of Christmas glitz?  

In my experience, New York Christmases are glittery, but not all that glamourous.  You'll see lots of decorations,  but apart from places like Rockerfeller Centre, they're not exactly classy.

New York Christmas 2006 018_2 In a 42nd Street gift shop

New York Christmas 2006 017

A Mad Manly watering hole.

New York Christmas 2006 013a
A relic of better times: extravagant trees grace the lobby of Bear Stearns in 2006.

Now that we've reached the official end of the Christmas season, I've paused to reflect on it.   Few cities celebrate Christmas with such grace and style as Munich.  We enjoyed our third Christmas here.  Trust that wherever you are, you did the same.


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