Alien Newsletter #15: The Interstellar War on Christmas
In which our alien considers the never-ending battles waged around the holiday season, and suggests a unique escalation of the conflict
Network Note: As humanity furtively emerges from its cocoon in various areas of the world to regain its Yuletide traditions from the previous year’s depredations, our alien has noted a deep ambivalence amongst its citizenry. As always, some would rather the holiday and its commercial trappings be done away with once and for all, while others insist that some respect be put on its Christian name. Such is the eternal War on Christmas, and from what our intrepid alien has recently discovered, this war has been a cultural running constant ever since its foundation. However, our alien, in its latest transmission to its home race, feels that rather than bringing peace, it just may be the revival of a long-forgotten ritual combat between the humans that must be revived in order for a larger peace to be sustained amongst them. It is worth hearing the alien’s rationale on its own merits, such as they are.
I make this transmission upon a specific moment in time referred to by the Greatest Apes as Black Friday. I presume the name of this day may have something to do with a disease the GAs call gangrene, and the final hue an infected gangrenous organ turns before it shrivels up and falls off. Yet for some reason, should you visit the various shops or peruse the virtual storefronts the GAs erect upon their digital folkways, we merely see holly and pine trees and endless pictures of the formerly-enslaved Mr. Claus (Network Note: the alien refers to a previous transmission wherein he revealed the decades-long fate of the apparently non-mythological Santa. More is discussed of his current whereabouts later in the newsletter.). No cries of agony. No oozing pus. No mortal remains clinging weakly to recently purchased food processors or Tickle Me Elmos. It would make great sense for the merchants behind Black Friday to change this name, but like most traditions surrounding the annual solstice festival, commonly known amongst a very loud tribe of GAs as Christmas, it is clung to most fiercely.
Still, for a tradition that the Greatest Apes maintain even within the least hospitable of environments and cruelest of times, a subset of them continue to maintain that it may somehow be seized from them, absent constant vigilance. Since the dawn of the 21st century, discussion of a War on Christmas has taken root amongst a more aggressively traditionalist subgenus of the GAs, and one of their momentarily exiled leaders continually comforted it during his reign by coercing recalcitrant merchants to actually say “Merry Christmas.” Especially within Northern Hemisphere Plate #2, the steady proliferation of GAs who do not believe in the foundational Christ-child myth, where a boy is born by virgin birth and proceeds to develop the core tenets of the Greatest Apes’ core explanatory ur-narratives in his early manhood, has necessitated amongst various local governments and businesses to refer to this period as “the holidays” instead. This tension between the religious rite and the secular celebration has served as a low-level culture skirmish ever since, good for creating amusing viral video campaigns and tedious jokes, but precious little else.
However, I have discovered something quite interesting about this time period. Apparently, there has ALWAYS been low-level warfare around Christmas, perhaps ever since the assignation of December 25th to the holiday on Christ’s 336th birthday. There is no record of Christ’s exact birth; all accounts point to a form of cultural expediency upon the Church’s founders for placing it around the time of the winter solstice, often amongst the shortest and coldest days of the year within much of earth’s western hemisphere. Pagan festivals were already positioned around this time period; the church fathers merely had to graft theirs onto them, rather than excise them outright. However, there has been a tension between the Christian and non-Christian elements of the holiday which were enfolded into it upon its creation.
Most surprisingly, in the Northern Hemisphere Plate #2’s United States, Christmas was not made a national holiday until Christ’s 1870th birthday year, and earlier on, a particularly unhappy sect of Christ’s followers called the Puritans banned it outright on the portion of the Plate where they held dominion. For apparently, according to the historical tome The Battle for Christmas, those who did celebrate Christmas back then tended to do so in an extremely boorish and aggressive way. The tradition of “wassailing,” for instance, involved various greatest apes of a lower social caste forcing their way into the houses of better-off apes, singing songs to their captives demanding their hosts’ finest food and liquor and threatening vandalism upon their property should they not get it. Amazingly enough, for a period of time, they received it, and in exchange, the lesser GAs would extend to their social superiors “goodwill.” It is described the the GA historian Stephen Nissembaum as an “inversion of the social order,”and other elements of the former festivities involved mumming, or the switching of gender roles and dress amongst male/female Greatest Apes, gambling and overall carousing. While there are no mentions of gangrene that I could find, I’m sure it was a likely outcome of such shenanigans.
It was only later, through the creative machinations of a landed and wealthy gentry, that the Christmas holiday was finally tied to domestic gift-giving, care of the former convict Santa Claus, who prior to his imprisonment crept into people’s houses on Christmas Eve to eat their milk and cookies and reward well-behaved children with toys and presents. Much of it was constructed in large part by the poet Clement Clark Moore, whose maternal grandfather’s estate once spanned all of Manhattan’s Chelsea district (which he named). Transforming the culture of the holiday was of supreme importance to the city’s “knickerbocker” caste, and Moore was able to do this through a unique quasi-mystical incantation commonly referred to by the Greatest Apes as “The Night Before Christmas.” As you may know, this poem was also inspired by a visitation we ourselves made unto Moore, whereupon we bestowed unto him what may have been the first official modern Christmas gift — a steady and gradual move from periodic class warfare to the consumerist ritual celebrated by Greatest Apes the world over.
Of course, chaotic remnants of the festival’s past continue to break through. The tragic ramming of parade participants in the Plate #2 terrain of Wisconsin and the drunken bacchanalia of Santacon shows that chaos and lawlessness continue to bubble up from the surface once in a while. I would like to remind you all, however, that our agreement with Moore was conditional, and that we could always elect to return the festival to its earlier, more chaotic roots should we so choose it. Considering the extraordinary class stressors befouling the GA societies, I believe it is time we revisited this compact.
We would have to consult with Mr. Claus, whom, after we freed him, has been spending most of his time trying to keep himself and his reindeer from being captured by Russian scouts exploring the terrain of his former workshop for pockets of oil. I propose we launch a new countermeasure in the War on Christmas, which I call Operation Secret Santa:
On December 25th, confuse NORAD by sending up a Tesla Self-driving Model X (for Xmas) in place of Santa’s sleigh.
Send texts, emails, voicemails, etc. to all the world’s debtors to meet Santa Claus at Devil’s Tower. (Yes, I am as nostalgic as the next interstellar entity.)
Santa instructs all attendees to accompany him via flying saucer shuttle to the doorsteps of the world’s wealthy.
A rapidly distributed populace demands entry into the inner sanctums of the world’s wealthy and access to their resources, who, outnumbered, will have no choice but to comply to their needs.
Wait one year, then repeat steps 2-5
I am fairly certain Santa will play ball, Donner and Cupid less so, but I am working on it. He as well as I know that it is once again time to make Christmas confrontational again and as long as he is not cut out of the deal, he can live with it.
After all, no matter what the Greatest Apes may think, their own most cherished rituals and institutions are hardly as impregnable as they may think. Even traditions as anodyne as their holiday seasons have undergone extraordinary transformation over time, and encode generations of conflict within them. So if there has always been a war on Christmas, maybe it’s time for them to express it as directly as possible. It may just so help them to keep the peace every other time of the year. My two terrestrial cents.
The US’s Kristen Gillibrand revives the hunt for our presence, and becomes a Cool Mom in the process.
The US Greatest Apes attempt, perhaps vainly, to prevent its current frenemy from achieving a bigger brain, amongst other attributes.
Finally, one of our own is trapped in this showcase and we must get them out.