Christmas has ended, but it’s still a good time to hear what Christopher Hitchens thought about the “true spirt of Christmas.” And, though Hitchens died earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal had a previously unpublished essay from Hitchens on that exact subject.
the thing about the annual culture war that would probably most surprise those who want to “keep the Christ in Christmas” is this: The original Puritan Protestants regarded the whole enterprise as blasphemous. Under the rule of Oliver Cromwell in England, Christmas festivities were banned outright. The same was true in some of the early Pilgrim settlements in North America.
the Christmas cycle imposes a deadening routine and predictability. This is why the accidental genius of Charles Dickens is to have made, of Ebenezer Scrooge, the only character in the story who has any personality to him—and the one whose stoic attempt at a futile resistance is invoked under the breath more than most people care to admit. And when the author of “A Christmas Carol” was writing, the great clanking machinery of a Ramadan-length Christmas had not got into gear, and English people reserved Dec. 26 (“Boxing Day”) for the exchange of tokens.