Let's suppose that Shrek's famous maxim about the parallel qualities of ogres and onions is also true for Christmas. I’m not suggesting that ogres are like Christmas, but rather Christmas and onions both have layers. Next, let us accept that those layers are composed of a variety of non-Biblical (sometimes downright pagan), sources. Suppose we could strip away all those yucky layers - what would we have left? Specifically, what would we be doing on December 25 (if we did it on December 25 at all)?

Let’s peel back the many layers of Christmas, and decide what to keep[2] (please note, although my attempt to provide the reader with historical facts will be genuine, my tone will be a bit playful).

LAYER ONE – Modern Commercialism

This layer is easy both to identify and to pick on.

The commercialization of Christmas has received a lot of attention. Dave Ramsey warns against going into debt for Christmas gifts.[3] National Public Radio warns about the dangers of Black Friday.[4] Our consumer Christmas is still religious, but in the wrong ways. Some have called modern Christmas “the civil religion of capitalism.”[5] The real danger of a consumer Christmas is not in being pepper-sprayed for $2.00 waffle irons or assuming mountains of debt. The real danger is spiritual: we emphasize “the materials that claim to be good instead of the Good that claims to be material [Christ’s incarnation].”[6]

So let’s shed that layer like a gaudy Christmas sweater.

LAYER TWO – The 19th Century

This layer will also be fun to toss (if you think it’s fun to make kids cry).

Christmas transformed into a children’s holiday in the nineteenth century. Christmas trees became ubiquitous. Here we also find the invention of our modern Santa Claus character (thankfully, a 1980’s Saturday Night Live skit warned me that if I rearranged the letters in Santa’s name I got “Satan,”[7] so I’ve kept my distance from the man in red ever since). We also find roots for Christmas’s modern commercialization in the blossoming 19th-century consumer economy.

Let’s trash ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas because it has all that Santa stuff (as well as some creepy, dancing sugar plums that are nowhere in the Bible).

LAYER THREE – The Puritans

As we peel back the layers, suddenly our onion has a sort of air bubble. Christmas celebrations disappear. The American and English Puritans actually outlawed Christmas during the seventeenth century. The way they purged the non-Biblical detritus was to toss out the whole thing. We hopefully won’t have to be quite that extreme. Besides, their efforts eventually failed, as the modern popularity of Christmas attests.[8]