A church billboard inspires Jon Carroll to clarify something.
Anyway, the billboard on the church currently reads "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." Well, no. Jesus is a reason for the season, no question. But Jesus is not the reason I'm going to take Alice to buy an evergreen tree tomorrow, nor is he the reason Tracy will make pancakes on the morning of Dec. 25, nor is he the reason that we will exchange presents.
I know lots of Jews who have trees and give presents; Jesus is not their reason either. Their reason is cultural; they live in America, and America is a country whose citizens attempt to stave off the drear cold days of winter with festive song, hot, strong drink and tokens of affection.
There's lots of talk about the "war on Christmas," as though the Christians had the holiday first and vile secularists are now trying to steal it with their subversive "season's greetings" and "happy holidays." But the reverse is true - the world had winter festivals and spring festivals and harvest festivals, because we are descended from agriculturalists and we celebrate times associated with crops - and sundry religions (not just Christianity) tried to appropriate them.