Bah! Humbug?

‘Tis the season to kvetch about Christmas: because it’s too commercial, too religious, or whatever. I won’t do that.

I’ll look at why we celebrate instead. Also Scrooge and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Besides, I think enjoying the holiday and doing what I say I believe makes more sense. Although the day is special because we celebrate our Lord’s birthday, I like many of my culture’s secular holiday traditions, including “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Deck the Halls.”

I even like Christmas specials. Some of them. But they don’t show the big picture.

What “the true meaning of Christmas” is depends on which Christmas special I pick.

I’ve heard that giving is better than getting, folks should be nice to each other, and being with family is important. I think those are good ideas. But “the true meaning of Christmas?” Not exactly.

A Charlie Brown Christmas” got it right.

Linus told Charlie Brown “what Christmas is all about” by quoting Luke 2:814.

His translation used somewhat old-fashioned and formal language — “And there were in the same country shepherds….”

It’s what I grew up with, and I like it. I also like “Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock…” from today’s “The New American Bible, Revised Edition.”

Either way, the angel has the same message. Our savior, Messiah, and Lord has been born. It’s “…good news of great joy that will be for all the people….”

As Linus said — “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Linus didn’t include the last phrase in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

That wasn’t, and isn’t, unusual: even in more ‘religious’ specials. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because folks aren’t comfortable with “…peace to those on whom his favor rests.” God’s peace isn’t about the Almighty playing favorites.

God loves each of us, but Luke 2:14’s peace won’t happen unless we let it. That’s another topic, for another post.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas:” Breaking Traditions

Folks at the network thought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would be a disaster. I think they had a point.

Audiences arguably expect particular styles for different sorts of shows.

This one broke the rules.

Its tone, pacing, music and animation were ‘wrong’ for a Christmas special. It didn’t even have a laugh track.

The network folks apparently didn’t mind Linus reciting from Luke 2.

The show’s producers were the ones who felt having someone quote the Bible might be too controversial for television. This was in the mid-1960s, so I think they had a point, too.

Biblese-laden epics very loosely based on Old Testament stories were on their way out. That wasn’t the only change in progress. (August 14, 2017)

I think quite a few Americans were tired of Christians cherry-picking Biblical snippets to bolster their opinions. I certainly was. (July 4, 2017; November 15, 2016)

The ‘God agrees with me’ attitude wasn’t new. And it’s not limited to Christianity. Variations on the ‘Mother Nature agrees with me’ viewpoints may be more fashionable these days.

I think both are silly, at best. (September 22, 2017; September 10, 2017; August 4, 2017; July 21, 2017)

Despite network and production concerns, viewers liked “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” A lot. It’s been a holiday tradition ever since.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol” may become another viewing tradition, or not. It did a pretty good job of following the original’s story. So did “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol.”

Scrooge had a Point — Nietzsche, Too

‘Christmas Carol’ television specials don’t consistently stick to the original story or dialogue. But some do. Particularly Scrooge’s “bah! Humbug!”

“…’A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’…

“…’Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’ …

“…’Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

“…’I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.’

“‘Come, then,’ returned the nephew gaily. ‘What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.’

“Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ‘Bah!’ again; and followed it up with ‘Humbug.’

“‘Don’t be cross, uncle!’ said the nephew.

“‘What else can I be,’ returned the uncle, ‘when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’…”
(“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens (1843) via Project Gutenberg)

“Humbug” goes back at least to the 1700s. It’s almost certainly from some European language: maybe Italian, but my guess is that it’s from a Germanic language. It means deceptive talk or behavior, or hypocrites.1

I think Scrooge had a point, that we live in “a world of fools.” I don’t have his attitude, partly because I can’t love my neighbor and want to boil him in his own pudding. I’ll get back to that.

I think Nietzsche had a point, too. Sometimes the “monsters” aren’t the only threat:

“Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird….”

“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster….”
(“Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146; Friedrich Nietzsche)

I think Nietzsche’s view of Christianity wasn’t entirely accurate. But what I’m learning about his era helps me sympathize with him, a bit. (June 30, 2017; May 12, 2017)

I like to think that some venom-spitting folks, Christian and otherwise, mean well. But it’s a bad idea. (October 29, 2017; June 18, 2017; May 7, 2017)

Good intentions won’t make bad behavior okay. They can make personal long-term consequences less severe, but “the end does not justify the means.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1750, 1752, 1759)

Like Nietzche, Dickens saw a serious disconnect between what Christianity should be about, and how Christians are. He also didn’t think organized religion was a good idea.

I don’t agree, but living in 19th-century England wouldn’t have helped his attitude. That was not one of Western civilization’s shining hours.

“The Whole Law and the Prophets”

Dickens certainly wasn’t Catholic. But his views of personal and social responsibility weren’t far from what the Church says.

“‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!'”
(“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens (1843))

He apparently also understood that each of us have limited opportunities to do good. Or not. (Catechism, 1007, 10211037)

Jesus told us that loving God and neighbors is “the whole law and the prophets.” So is seeing everyone as a neighbor. (Matthew 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; Matthew 5:4344; Mark 12:2831; Luke 10:2530; Catechism, 1825)

Social justice, the Catholic version, means acting like what Jesus said matters. (Catechism, 19281942)

More, mostly Christmas and being Catholic:


1 About deceptive nonsense, dishonest gibberish, a hoax, or something like that:

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
This entry was posted in being Catholic and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bah! Humbug?

  1. irishbrigid says:

    Odd use of ‘about’: “About God’s peace isn’t about the Almighty playing favorites.”

    Repeated line: ““…’I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.’”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Thanks for taking time to comment!