*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 23rd of December 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Let’s hear Charles Dickens, through the mouth of his character Fred Scrooge, try to convince his uncle Ebenezer of the beauty of Christmas:

“I have always thought of Christmas time…as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

Of course, the Scrooges and Grinches would argue against it either theologically or as a waste of time and resources.

And there is also that sinking feeling when everything is seemingly going all right, and thus you know there must be opposition somewhere. We’ve told stories on this show before about the Puritans and their anti-Christmas shenanigans. H.L. Mencken famously wrote that Puritanism was the sinking suspicion that someone might be having fun somewhere. Christmas and all other church feasts not specifically mandated in Scripture were right out.

But the Puritans weren’t the only buzzkills waging war on Christmas. One of the great battles of the fabled (and sometimes fabricated) war on Christmas took place in Revolutionary France at the end of the 18th century.

You may be familiar with the basic facts of the French Revolution- essentially the end of the “Ancien Regime” in France- the monarchy, feudalism, the Catholic Church, etc.… and in the place of the ancient came the new and novel. Some good, plenty bad. But the ban on Christmas just may have doomed the revolutionaries.

The calendar itself became a tool of the revolutionaries who made all months the same length and erased the names associated with the old Roman calendar. January, February, etc.… took the names of the seasonal climate in Paris. So December was “Nivose” or “the snowy month.” And saints days had clogged the old calendar, and those needed purging too- so now each day would be assigned an animal, plant, or mineral.

And thus, Christmas was vanquished in favor of “the day of the dog in the snowy month.” But these pagan radicals went further!

A favorite French Christmas treat was the King Cakes in honor of the nativity's three kings (or wise men). The new enlightened Frenchmen had no tolerance for royalty- even the sweet, edible, nativity kind. And so King Cakes were rebranded as “Liberty Cakes.”

(Remember when some Americans were mad at the French earlier this century and started eating “freedom fries”? Same energy.)

Ideological purity and anti-Christmas snobbery proved popular only among pockets of the population, and later Napoleon would wisely reinstate the holiday to gain traction amongst the people. There was a truce called in the War on Christmas, at least for a season.

In tomorrow’s show, we will talk about a real war and the place that a Christmas celebration had in one of the more remarkable stories of the early 20th century.

The last words for today are the verses of “O Holy Night” by Adolphe Adam:

O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appears’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming

Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of December 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who walks through his freedom doors to eat freedom fries with ketchup and Freedom’s Yellow Mustard. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man wishing you a very happy day of the dog in the snowy month Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.