A marketing problem

Last Sunday I found myself in church. I discovered that Advent and Christmas aren’t the same thing. Or something. Anyway the priest was giving the “we have lost the true meaning of Christmas” talk and everyone was nodding sagely. This morning newbie threadster Brian4Jesus did the same thing:

I’m quite disappointed with catalaxy … the site seems to have bought into the commercialisation of Christmas and forgotten to keep the emphasis on Jesus’ sacrifice for all our sins.

Brian, mate, Christmas is the birthday; Easter is the execution.

In all seriousness though, why condemn the commercialisation of Christmas? Instead of the Priest saying that eating, drinking, being merry, spending time with family and friends is somehow wrong, why doesn’t he say, “In addition to eating, drinking, being merry, etc. why not come to church? See if you like it. Give it a go.”

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83 Responses to A marketing problem

  1. Toxic

    The true meaning of Saturnalia isn’t to buy and exchange stuff, or celebrate the birth of Christ, or anything like that. It’s to eat, drink, be merry, gamble, and become slaves to our slaves.

    But I guess these things change over time.

  2. .

    Christmas was commercialised from the get go.

    Joeseph was was a joiner/technical carpenter.

    The three wise men bought gifts of considerable value.

  3. one old bruce

    Never understood why we didn’t adopt the German Christmas Krampus tradition, along with the decorated tree. I can live without burning the Yule Log though.

  4. John Mc

    Christmas rocks. Go to Church. Sing some carols. Study some scripture with your kids. Give some time to charity. Then spend up on gifts, eat, drink and be merry and celebrate all you have.

  5. Anne

    Well I’m an atheist and I love Christmas! It’s all about gift giving, over-indulging in food and drink and appreciating what we have and the people we love……

    …..more the message in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (which we watch every Xmas) than any ‘magic man in the sky’ philosophy.

  6. Bruce

    Sinc – You should also read the textbook. Could be useful.

    (BTW I see it as a calling to introduce fellow Christians into David Weber, Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce, especially the corruptible young)

  7. Sinclair Davidson

    You should also read the textbook.

    I have! From cover to cover. Haven’t read the unauthorised sequel since high school though.

  8. Adam Diver

    Its not the marketing its the product thats the problem…

  9. Bruce

    the unauthorised sequel

    Heh, the Pharisees were a bit harsh on unauthorised biographers. Though not as much as the Romans. Being used as a road light is a real bummer. Took copyright seriously in those days.

  10. Brian4Jesus

    I know the difference between Easter and Christmas Sinc and my point still speaks to the true meaning of Christmas.
    The birth of Jesus is the most solemn of occasions, as it celebrates the time when God sent to earth his only begotten Son. That it’s Christ’s “birthday” (though not really of course) that does not mean that the day should be open to hijacking by people who just want an excuse to be foolish or stupid with the drink, often displaying a poor example for their children. Likewise, we shouldn’t have stood idly by as marketing execs transformed this once reflective and pious holiday into the festive equivalent of the whore of Babylon.
    The serious increase in suicides at Xmas is directly related to expectations of material gifts associated with the commercialisation of the occasion. Listen to your Priest Sinc, it is just possible that on this subject you may be wrong.

  11. .

    When the left thought the Soviet Union was going to be more prosperous than the West, they were materialistic.

    Since then, they have come to criticise materialism.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    Listen to your Priest Sinc, it is just possible that on this subject you may be wrong.

    I’m always happy to be wrong, it means I’ve learned something. But not in this case. My previous trip to church involved the same Priest talking about camels fitting through needles and rich people going to heaven – just before the collection box came around. Much to Mrs D’s embarrassment I refused to make a contribution.

  13. Ellen of Tasmania

    O.K. – this one is for Toxic:

    “But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

    Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.”

    Read more: http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v#ixzz2EWOEG7lP

    And this one is for Brian4Jesus:

    “So look around you this year. Remind yourself that your Savior came to you here, and He came to you now. Grab all the stuff you can, and throw a party. And if you don’t have any money this year, grab the old newspapers and make some decorations. And if you have money this year, act like it. This is Good News, people, not old news. This year, like all the years before us, and all the years ahead, we have a Savior. And that is the best reason to party that I ever heard of.”

    I’m with Sinc on this one – plus some.

  14. Bruce

    My previous trip to church

    You definitely went to the wrong church. Safehold, Sinc. The Reformation…

    Protestant churches don’t call the guy in the gown a priest (if he wears a gown) as that is not biblical.

    And the whole camel thing is a double meaning to address a particular problem the Jews had with money, as they figured the rich were blest by God. Christ said no they aren’t – and go read Job, guys. Also it was a teaser for the Gospel.

  15. rebel with cause

    Brian doesn’t work for the Labor party by any chance does he? I only ask because he has the same attitude – it’s not the message that is the problem, it’s that people aren’t listening. Yeah keep telling yourself that sunshine.

    Most other organisations would have the attitude that ‘it’s great to see you here, come back anytime, anything we can do to make your visit more pleasant?’ But most churches have the attitude ‘ah I see you are here for your once yearly visit. A better person would come more often. Oh and by the way, your reason for coming is wrong’. And they wonder why their congregations are shrinking!

  16. Anne

    The serious increase in suicides at Xmas is directly related to expectations of material gifts associated with the commercialisation of the occasion.

    What a load of crap!

    You might stop whinging about how others should behave and be grateful for what you have: starting with, having been born in this country!
    (or granted the great privilege to live here)

  17. candy

    “The serious increase in suicides at Xmas is directly related to expectations of material gifts associated with the commercialisation of the occasion.”

    i always thought it was about people being lonely with no family who cares/or a divorce has stuffed things up etc, and comparing themselves to ‘happy’ TV families and so on.

  18. Anne

    And they wonder why their congregations are shrinking!

    Yep.

    Also, freedom and prosperity undermines the mindset necessary to support belief.

  19. John Mc

    Also, freedom and prosperity undermines the mindset necessary to support belief.

    The churches are still valuable in the modern age (….although we seem to be doing our darndest to forgo freedom and prosperity at times in the modern age!) I wouldn’t call myself the most ardent defender of a literal God, but I acknowledge the spiritual side of human existence, the crucial input of Judeo-Christian values into our freedom and prosperity, and richness it’s provided to our cultural heritage.

    And they offer very real services when people most need them, such as births, deaths and marriages, and times of trouble and tribulation.

  20. Anne

    It’s all good John. Some of my favourite people are religious. It adds joy to their lives and I respect them enormously. Its just not me.

    If I were any more joyful I’d have to register with the authorities!

  21. Brian4Jesus

    Anne I do admire you, coming out as a self confessed atheist, and I understand you see Xmas as an opportunity for a bit of R&R however that hardly qualifies you to contribute to this debate.
    Candy don’t you find it compelling that you attribute everything causing suicide except the disappointment of missing out on materiel goods. Can it be assumed you have high expectations for the gift giving season?

  22. Gab

    however that hardly qualifies you to contribute to this debate.

    Go get knotted, you sanctimonious fascist pratt.

  23. candy

    “Candy don’t you find it compelling that you attribute everything causing suicide except the disappointment of missing out on materiel goods”

    i really think the tragedy of suicide at Christmas is perhaps related to not being felt loved, Brian4Jesus, and families falling apart and Christmas makes some people feel sad and vulnerable.
    All the material goods in the world won’t make up for that.

  24. Rafe

    Merry Christmas Brian!

    And Merry Christmas Sinc as well!!

  25. Anne

    Thanks Brian, I relish the compliment.

    “Coming out as a self confessed atheist”????? Sheeesh! You make it sound like a venereal disease!

    I didn’t realize we were having a ‘debate’. I’ll slink off then… hey…wait a minute!

    If it were a debate wouldn’t you need an affirmative and a negative side? Its not about ‘faith’ or you’d be quoting Aquinas. If it’s about what Xmas means to different people – I’m a different person! Eminently qualified!

  26. nilk

    I know the difference between Easter and Christmas Sinc and my point still speaks to the true meaning of Christmas.
    The birth of Jesus is the most solemn of occasions, as it celebrates the time when God sent to earth his only begotten Son. That it’s Christ’s “birthday” (though not really of course) that does not mean that the day should be open to hijacking by people who just want an excuse to be foolish or stupid with the drink, often displaying a poor example for their children. Likewise, we shouldn’t have stood idly by as marketing execs transformed this once reflective and pious holiday into the festive equivalent of the whore of Babylon.
    The serious increase in suicides at Xmas is directly related to expectations of material gifts associated with the commercialisation of the occasion. Listen to your Priest Sinc, it is just possible that on this subject you may be wrong.

    Okay, I think I need to fisk this – like I believe that Easter is the most solemn season on the christian calendar, not christmas, but we’re running out the door to Mass. :)

    Talk about timing!

  27. Brian4Jesus

    @Gab

    Go get knotted, you sanctimonious fascist pratt.

    Ah, abuse – the calling card of those with nothing to say.

  28. .

    Wow, a self professed trolling Xtian who is an empty vessel.

    No doubt a fool that wanted to live in the USSR right up until 1989.

  29. Go get knotted, you sanctimonious fascist pratt.

    Well, I was going to say…
    Perhaps this newbie commenter is not all they seem. Perhaps we have an Alene Crucifista in our midst..

  30. Gab

    Ah, abuse

    You telling other commenters here they are not “qualified” to enter discussion here is abuse. You deserved what followed.

  31. Toxic

    Ellen of Tasmania,

    Thanks for the interesting read. However, your linked article concedes that there is no evidence of the celebration of Christ’s birth before that of Sol Invictus, and ignores the numerous celebrations around the time of the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice (including Saturnalia) which assuredly do predate the birth of Christ and from which celebrations of Christmas appropriated customs from the beginning.

    Since the dawn of Western civilisation, “Christmas time” has been a jolly time of year. It did not begin with Christ.

  32. wreckage

    Hi *wave*

    I’m a Christian from a Christian family… mind you I’m a very bad Christian, personally, no fault of my parents… we’ve always celebrated Christmas with gifts, food, and family get-togethers.

    The wise men brought gifts, and Christ’s first miracle was turning water into wine. Christmas is meant to be joyful.

    I am not sure why Christians would turn their back on a centuries-old, joyous tradition of songs, giving, and happiness. It is in some respects a shared tradition, but then so is marriage. Does anybody insist there be no celebration at a wedding, that gifts and celebration demean the “true meaning” of a wedding day?

    Bonus points if you spot the implicit additional argument. Matter of fact, if you can’t answer the unspoken argument as well, don’t bother trying with the others; I will win.

  33. wreckage

    My previous trip to church involved the same Priest talking about camels fitting through needles and rich people going to heaven – just before the collection box came around.

    Most churches specifically ask non-regulars to not contribute, they particularly make sure to say this on days when there are a lot of visitors. It’s a user-pays system.

    But wait, aren’t you boasting about not paying for your consumption? Are you some sort of communist?

  34. wreckage

    Most churches specifically ask non-regulars to not contribute

    Well OK, some big congregations with a bit of a prosperity gospel flavour do ask everyone to contribute, but it is a distinctive of that strand of Christianity that they believe in a kind of Karma-plus-interest for that type of giving, and they just want everyone to share in the capital gain ;)

  35. Infidel tiger

    The Christmas suicide link is a myth.

  36. Ellen of Tasmania

    Toxic,

    I think the argument can still be made that the Christian celebration stands and falls on its own. Regarding the ‘appropriated customs’ – I’ve got nothing against appropriating; after all, Christians believe the whole earth is the Lord’s, but it’s also worth noting that when we celebrate anything it usually involves food, family, friends and decorations. Which customs and which decorations came from where and mean what isn’t all that cut and dried.

    Point is, athiests tend to want to de-Christianise the Christmas season, and sometimes become a little too dogmatic about the roots and customs involved.

  37. TonyO

    Brian4Jesus

    Do you realise that if we DON’T sin, Jesus will have died for nothing??

  38. Anne

    Do you realise that if we DON’T sin, Jesus will have died for nothing??

    Ha, a loophole!

  39. jrm

    Perhaps this newbie commenter is not all they seem.

    My thoughts too. Or maybe he’s just really young in the faith, or an even slower learner than I am.

  40. Chris M

    Brian, seriously Christmas is a nice time for many things but it is a pagan based celebration (northern winter solstice) not a Christian one hence not mentioned in the Holy Bible.

    What does get a mention is pagans that decorate trees with silver though….

  41. Bruce

    TonyO – That’s Romans 3:5-8 that is. Doesn’t cut the mustard mate, sorry.

    OTOH having Wreckage call Sinc a communist is a first. On his own blog too. Talk about farting in church.

  42. Anne

    Well, at any rate Brian, bless your sweet soul and if we’re all still here after the 21st I hope you have a lovely Christmas filled with love and laughter and that someone gives you something precious, material or otherwise.

    Personally I’m hoping for a new car! Just kidding!
    Not really…

  43. Anne

    Oh, and I’m gonna make some of Gab’s little strawberry Santas!

  44. Anne

    With Grand Marnier in the whipped cream!

  45. Gab

    Well, there’ not mine per se, Anne. They do look yummy and cute!

  46. Anne

    I have a simple rule. If I make it it becomes my recipe.

  47. manalive

    The context of the camels/needles quote is Christ was asked how to get to heaven to which he (allegedly) replied “… Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me …”.
    It follows, I think, that no one with a computer can afford to be preachy and no one here is going to heaven.

  48. Driftforge

    Too easy for Christian’s to get caught in the poverty doctrine trap; just as much of a misstep as prosperity doctrine is.

    Those concerned over the origination of the festival seem to have a small concept of God. So a pagan holiday has been taken over; great. If you think the origin despoils the sanctity of the event, you really haven’t got a hold of the concept of sanctification.

    Build relationships. Celebrate life. Remember that you are valued, and demonstrate that you value others.

  49. nilk

    Oh dear. Brian4Jesus, looks like everyone else piled on, which works for me.

    As for Sinc not putting money in the collection, there’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. If anyone else has an issue with it, it’s their issue.

  50. nilk

    Build relationships. Celebrate life. Remember that you are valued, and demonstrate that you value others.

    Amen! :D

  51. Anne

    Anyway, isn’t environmentalism the new religion and ‘carbon’ taxing the new Alms for the Poor.

  52. Bruce

    Manalive – Not quite:

    No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

    Jesus was making a point. Its the 2nd commandment. The rich guy thought he was blest, which was de rigueur Jewish theology at the time. (Which was why in Mark’s account the disciples are completely flabbergasted, so that Christ says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”, ie impossible). He couldn’t make himself do what Jesus commanded him. QED, test failed.

  53. John A

    Brian4Jesus

    Do you realise that if we DON’T sin, Jesus will have died for nothing??

    TonyO, do you have any evidence to say that your “If” proposition has any legs? Try comparing with Matt 5:27 or John 8:1-11 for example?

  54. wreckage

    I am sure Sinc will understand the light hearted humour and not smite me.

    to which he (allegedly) replied “… Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me …”

    He said that to a guy who had allegedly obeyed every commandment since infancy. While many early congregations practised communal living, having sold all their possessions, it was never mandatory.

    northern winter solstice

    No, it’s not. It is not far off the Southern Solstice, but was never timed to fall on the Southern Solstice either. This is all complicated by the fact that it was originally and in some areas is still calculated according to the Julian calendar, which is now roughly a week out of synch with the corrected Gregorian calendar.

  55. wreckage

    The other, other thing is that modern Christmas celebrations and timing are quite different to very early forms. Saying “We party on Christmas eve because PAGANS” ignores about a thousand years of actual history.

    Personally, I’m happy to celebrate the solstice too, if anyone is up for it. Pagan roots bother me not one whit; however let’s try to be reasonably accurate shall we?

    PS It’s around June 21 next year in the southern hemisphere. I can supply oak leaves, mistletoe and booze, but no virgins.

  56. kae

    Wreckage, good luck with that.

    You know why Jesus wasn’t born in Australia.

  57. Couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.

    Anyway, isn’t environmentalism the new religion and ‘carbon’ taxing the new Alms for the Poor.

    Also, no need for good and evil anymore. We have the “like” button.

  58. .

    Couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.

    “Australia” isn’t a nursing degree.

  59. Bruce

    Wreckage – Marx’s dad was a Jewish Lutheran, so he got a double dose. Communism is the result.

  60. Anne

    “Also, no need for good and evil anymore. We have the “like” button.”
    OHH

    Best line of the thread!

  61. Steve D

    Ha, a loophole!

    That’s the challenge. How’s it going so far?

  62. Anne

    Ha, a loophole!

    That’s the challenge. How’s it going so far?

    Well, I’ve pretty much got lust through gluttony down pat but still having trouble with envy and greed. These just don’t come naturally to the libertarian soul!

  63. Steve D

    So, there you go, Anne. Your copy book is already blotted! ;-)

  64. Anne

    Ha ha, long time ago Steve. 

  65. TonyO

    Thank God for John A and Bruce – I could never last the night without some Bible quotes…..

    Anne – they’re telling us this is NOT at loophole. Bugger!!!

  66. Just Another bloody Lawyer

    Having had the benefit of hearing a wonderful and godly minister as a boy. I would point out, that the “eye of the needle” was a gate into the city that a fully loaded camel could just enter. So the task for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven is not impossible but merely onerous.

    Now CL, however he or she might be, will agree with that but would not of course agree with his masterful sermons on communion and why transubstantiation was wrong.

  67. Well, I was going to say…
    Perhaps this newbie commenter is not all they seem. Perhaps we have an Alene Crucifista in our midst..

    Yes. That’s why I originally called him out on his declaration as I did.

    He’s just a troll, guys. A moby.

  68. Bruce

    I could never last the night

    Thanks or something. CAGW’ers say stuff like ‘we’re all going to fry next week’, have to counter that with science from the sources. So if Sinc says something dodgy about camels and priests, same thing.

    Can empathise for climateers who stray into Cat territory only to get a blast of links. On other hand given how much money they swim in, maybe empathy is slightly less.

  69. Pedro

    “just before the collection box came around”
    A priest being manipulative, who’d a thunk it!

    Jeez brian is a twat if he’s for real.

  70. Chris M

    JABL – that’s a common extra-biblical theory someone cooked up, found in some bible commentaries today.

    But even if it were true which is doubtful the fact remains you aren’t entering with that baggage regardless…

    This needs to be viewed in the context that the Bible also teaches parents to save for their children and not to be enslaved to lenders etc.

  71. Fleeced

    Brian, mate, Christmas is the birthday; Easter is the execution.

    Sinc, mate, Easter is the Resurrection ;)

    As an aside, my brother spent a couple Christmases in the US, and reckons they promote the crucifixion story a lot more around Christmas than we do (don’t know whether he’s right – perhaps JC or sdog can confirm)

    But your post touches on something about Christmas that always bothers me, and that’s this increasing insistence – even among non-religious types who celebrate it – on making it a sombre occasion.

    For believers, should it not be a celebration? And if non-believers celebrate the occasion, wouldn’t it be better for believers to use that as an “in” to sell them the Gospel?

  72. nilk

    Notes from my missal for the First Sunday of Advent:

    At first sight it is surprising to be reminded of the Last Judgement during the first Mass of the Church’s year. But it shows that Advent is not simply a preparation for the commemoratino and celebration of an historical event at Christmas: it also enablues us to enter into and share the Church’s expecation of the final coming of her King at the end of time.

    Fleeced, for me it’s a time of celebration. By all means remember to pay attention to Last Judgement – we should keep that in mind anyway. Just don’t forget the Good News, which is highlighted at Christmas and Easter.

    For those christians who tend towards the evangelical or salvationist denominations, I don’t know why they’d worry about the Last Judgement anyway since according to their way of looking at things they’ll be caught up in the Rapture anyway.

    (any sarcasm or offence not intended – typing on a blog can destroy nuance).

  73. Infidel Tiger

    But your post touches on something about Christmas that always bothers me, and that’s this increasing insistence – even among non-religious types who celebrate it – on making it a sombre occasion.

    My Baptist Grandmother used to get very upset when we would say “Merry” Christmas. “Merry” implied we were going to get liquored up and attempt dancing.

  74. Anne

    Yes IT, we must remain impassive and try to keep the cheerfulness from breaking through.

  75. Justin

    At the risk of being criticised for commercialising Xmas also I nonetheless propose a Catallaxy petition to improve the sorry state of Melbourne Xmas decorations. I look at pictures at the Rockefeller centre in New York and cringe at our pastel plastic trash passing for decorations. It is hard to say whether they have just faded in the sun being such great quality Chinese product or bargain basement relics from the set of Miami Vice. They say it’s the thought that counts. Can’t say I find any thought in this sorry trash bag of ba humbug. I urge all Catallaxy readers to email Doyle and demand better!!

  76. Sinclair Davidson

    “Merry” implied we were going to get liquored up and attempt dancing.

    So no Christmas bonk?

  77. Sinclair Davidson

    Sinc, mate, Easter is the Resurrection

    Heh – I reckon those Romans were more efficient than you’re giving them credit. People who were executed probably stayed executed.

  78. Infidel Tiger

    So no Christmas bonk?

    The tryptophan in the turkey usually puts an end to those plans.

  79. my brother spent a couple Christmases in the US, and reckons they promote the crucifixion story a lot more around Christmas than we do

    No. It’s all nativity scenes and nativity plays all over the place.

    Americans might be silly in a lot of ways but it’s still an overwhelmingly unashamedly Christian country at heart and anyone with enough of a religious grounding to be commemorating a specific event from the life of Jesus on the day knows the difference between Christmas and Easter.

  80. Chris M

    ‘mas’ = death so Christmas is “Christ’s death”. These meanings seems to get mixed up over time. Santa = female saint so Mr Claus is actually Mrs or perhaps transgender. Easter is from Ishtar, pagan goddess of fertility or something.

  81. ‘mas’ = death so Christmas is “Christ’s death”. These meanings seems to get mixed up over time.

    “Mas” does not mean “death” in either Spanish or English, the two main languages spoken in the USA. If there were the confusion between the holiday celebrating Christ’s birth and that celebrating his resurrection, that would not explain it.

    Are you one of those kooks who believe that Christmas is an evil Popish plot to corrupt Protestants and send them to Hell?

  82. .

    Are you one of those kooks who believe that Christmas is an evil Popish plot to corrupt Protestants and send them to Hell?

    Those guys are funny.

    Alexander Hislop was a crackpot and a fraud. Fundamentalists also believing in latter day prophets and a pre tribulation rapture is funny and ironic, but I doubt they’ll get it.

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