Ever since the first Christmas, people have bickered over its meaning

SOME Christmas rituals have an ancient pedigree. One of them is clerical scoldings. At least since Chrisitanity’s fourth century, priests of that faith have been deploring the revelry that distracts people from spiritual contemplation. As Mark Forsyth, a British author of popular history, observes in a jaunty new book, “A Christmas Cornucopia”, “Christmas has for sixteen hundred years been viewed as a festival that has lost sight of its True Meaning.”

That (unlike quite a lot of the things in the book) is an accurate statement, and you can find evidence in almost any era. In 742AD, for example, Saint Boniface complained of the terrible example set by people in Rome to the Germans he was trying to convert. Residents of that supposedly pious Italian city marked mid-winter by “parading the streets…shouting and singing songs in pagan fashion [and] loading tables with food and drink from morning to night….”

Tudor England was no better. As a cleric expostulated in 1582, “What dice-ing and carding,…Continue reading

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