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Santa Clausmas

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"What does Jesus have to do with you?
You've got as much to do with Jesus as you do with Scooby-Doo
What do you have to do with Jesus?
You have as much to do with him as you do your mother's penis"

A depiction of a religious holiday which centers entirely around its secular trappings, with the actual religion in question not even cropping up casually. In Western media this is primarily applied to the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, and occasionally to such Jewish holidays as Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Hashanah (as is seen in Shalom Sesame, the Jewish American version of Sesame Street).

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This does reflect Truth in Television, as nowadays there are plenty of people from Christian cultural backgrounds who are not particularly religious but still celebrate Christmas and Easter with parties and dinners and gifts and candy and decorations, and even some from non-Christian backgrounds who do the same. As you might expect, this secularized version of holiday observance can come in for occasional backlash, both from those Christians who see it as undermining the True Meaning of Christmas and from those non-Christians who view it as perpetuating Christian cultural hegemony.

In Japan, Christmas was imported as an excuse for local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises to sell their product as an "authentic" American-style seasonal tradition. It worked spectacularly, and now a country that is 2% Christian has a robust Christmas-based economy, which inevitably means a bevy of Christmas-themed works in Japanese media that have nothing whatsoever to do with the religious aspects of the holiday. This can be the case even when the characters are Christian-style devils, or the setting involves explicitly non-Christian spirituality.

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Contrast with Do They Know It's Christmas Time?. Also compare and contrast Everyone Is Christian at Christmas, in which characters who haven't shown any Christian tendencies the rest of the year suddenly celebrate a Christian holiday. Compare You Mean "Xmas", where this is done by addressing a holiday indirectly by having it play out as adapted for a setting that wouldn't celebrate it rather than by portraying it without its religious elements.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Kamigami no Asobi, the Gods have a Christmas market. Yes, you read that right - the series' Crossover Cosmology cast puts together a Christmas market. Apollo makes melting Santa candles. Yeah.
  • Gabriel DropOut: Vignette, a demon, celebrates Christmas with her friend Raphael, an angel. Raphi reassures her it's okay to celebrate Christ's birth because in Japan it's just a commercial holiday. Satania, another demon, rushes over to Vigne's place for aid in carrying out one of her asinine schemes on the holy day, but they manage to brainwash her into forgetting about it by tempting her with melon bread.

    Fan Works 
  • Bait and Switch (STO):
    • USS Bajor, commanded by Captain Kanril Eleya, has a 15% Bajoran crew, but even the non-Bajoran crew members are seen taking part in Bajoran religious holidays such as the Day of Remembrance in "To Absent Friends". Also used with Christmas in "Mistletoe On Mirhassa": LTJG. Kate McMillan's father is Reform Baptist, her mother was raised Neo-Norse, and she herself is an atheist; Christmas for her was a way to get her divorced parents to both spend time with her.
    • Discussed in passing in "Solaere ssiun Hnaifv'daenn". Jaleh Khoroushi, a Muslim, derisively refers to Christmas as a "Christian holiday that got bastardized by big business centuries ago", and is pleased nobody managed to do that to Ramadan.

    Film 
  • In The Nightmare Before Christmas, all the holidays are in their secular forms, though, interestingly, Jack does refer to God offhandedly twice in "Poor Jack".
  • Averted with The Swan Princess Christmas. It features more references to Jesus, especially in its songs, than most animated Christmas specials despite being set in a fairy tale land.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Both averted and played with in The Vicar of Dibley. The title character is obviously well-aware of what Easter actually means, but one of her parishioners (a Cloudcuckoolander) was never told the truth about the Easter Bunny. When the old woman who usually filled this role dies, the vicar has a lot of explaining to do.
  • Having a Christmas-themed episode is common in Super Sentai seasons (which are usually nearing the end of their runs around this time).
  • Amusingly averted in Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, when Alan attempts to interview the bell-ringers of Norwich Cathedral.
    Alan: Christmas, I imagine, a very busy time for bell-ringers?
    Woman: It is, it's very busy, but it's lovely for us to be able to celebrate, through bell-ringing, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
    Alan: (nonplussed) Fair enough.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Christmas strips of Calvin and Hobbes concentrate on Calvin's attempts to behave so that he gets all the presents he asked for. Semi-averted in one strip that has Calvin doubting the existence of Santa Claus:
    Calvin: Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists, why doesn't he ever show himself and prove it? And if he doesn't exist, what's the meaning of all this?
    Hobbes: I dunno... Isn't this a religious holiday?
    Calvin: Yeah, but actually, I've got the same questions about God.
    • It should be noted that, while God is mentioned by Calvin quite often throughout the strip, Jesus isn't.
  • Besides A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Peanuts newspaper comic averts this on at least one occasion, in a Sunday strip where Linus once again reads the Nativity account from Luke (this time using the Revised Standard translation).
    Linus: Like I've said before, that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!
    Charlie Brown: You're right.
    Linus: So who needs Santa Claus?!

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner has Decemberween, which is basically Christmas combined with every sort of other winter holiday rolled up into one absurdist ball, with Halloween added for good measure. Just what it even entails is largely unknown, but it's said that it becomes a "Dethemberween" when the Decemberween Thnikkaman says "Shut up" to you, and to a lesser extent, gives you a vast variety of presents, from blank media to discount travel packages.

    Webcomics 
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • When Bun-Bun sets out to become the King of All Holidays, he has to kill the previous leaders of the holidays to gain their titles and powers. To gain control of Christmas and Easter, he kills Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, not Jesus.
    • A later arc implied that Santa, Father Time, and one of Halloween's former patrons were originally gods of the ancient civilization of Mohkadun. As was Bun-Bun.

    Western Animation 
  • Peanuts specials:
  • The Fairly Oddparents paint the Easter Bunny as a disgruntled "hard-boiled" figure who is envious of the big guy's popularity. The 'big guy' being Santa Claus: One episode revolved around all the other holiday mascots kidnapping Santa.
  • Invader Zim: Christmas is focused on Santa, who is revered as a deity by the population.
  • South Park:
    • South Park plays this straight by making Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo, a Christmas Spirit in the vein of Frosty the Snowman. There is an Easter Episode wherein the secret message behind the Easter Bunny, hidden from you by the eeevul Vatican, is uncovered.
    • Actually averted in the shorts that preceded the actual show, where Santa Claus and Jesus try to kill each other over who's the real Christmas deity, only to be presented with the message of what Christmas is about. Similarly, a couple of episodes in the main series do allude to the schism between religious Christmas and commercial Christmas.
  • In Elmo Saves Christmas, the Easter Bunny sells "Christmas Easter Eggs for Easter". There's nothing religious about any of the episode, whether Christmas or Easter.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee featured "Juniper's Egg-Cellent Adventure". Here Easter is all about eggs.
  • In the Futurama universe, Christmas (officially known as X-Mas in the future) is less about religion and more about finding a good place to hide from the killer robotic Santa who judges everyone (except Zoidberg!) to be naughty due to his standards being set too high.
  • Rugrats' first Christmas special does this, focusing on Santa, but the second averts it: the babies stumble across a nativity scene and don't understand what it is, but decide to give presents to the baby Jesus. (They never refer to him or the scene by name, so arguably this is more Playing with a Trope.)
    • Also Played With during the show's Passover and Hanukkah episodes: the Biblical stories are recounted, but God is never directly mentioned, even though the various miracles occur (non-fatally, in the Passover example—a mysterious force is going to "take away" the firstborn). There was a normal episode of the show based on Noah's Ark that did the same thing, claiming that Noah was just "told by the Heavens" (or something) of the coming Flood.
    • This is justified by the fact that the characters in Rugrats are Jewish; hence why we get retellings of the Biblical stories behind Passover and Hanukkah, but at Christmas we get this trope instead of anything about Jesus.
  • The Tick: The Christmas Episode revolves around Santa and Christmas parties, with all the main characters participating. Later in the series one of the main characters is revealed to be Jewish.
  • On Family Guy, when Lois discovers that she's Jewish and wants to put on a seder, Peter objects because it's Easter.
    "In this house we believe in the Easter Bunny! He died for our sins in that helicopter crash..."
  • Exaggerated with Jazmine from The Boondocks. She is so young and naive that she believes Christianity revolves around Santa instead of Jesus and she thinks that Christmas is exclusively about Santa.
  • The The Powerpuff Girls (2016) celebrated Generic Tree Lighting Day in place of Christmas in "You're a Good Man, Mojo Jojo." Odd as in the original series, they had a proper celebration of the holiday in "'Twas the Fight Before Christmas."
  • The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas: A Christmas parade, toys in a department store and Santa Claus are present in the special but there's no mention of the religious aspects.

    Real Life 
  • Japan at large practices the commercial holiday of Christmas, but only 2 percent of the population is Christian. Of course, they practice it somewhat differently than everyone else; one of their Christmas traditions is eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is treated as something of a "special event" delicacy in Japan thanks to KFC's marketing and Japan's lack of turkeys. Urban Legend has it that the image of Santa Claus nailed to a cross has been witnessed in Japan at Christmastime unironically.
  • In the Soviet Union, the celebration of the New Year absorbed many elements of Christmas due to the Communist Party banning the latter and (in the 1930s, allegedly at the suggestion of Stalin's daughter Svetlana) using the New Year's Eve to fill the vacuum. Ironically, this resulted in Christmas customs spreading even to those parts of the Soviet Union that were not Christian, such as Central Asia or Tuva. This tradition stuck even after the Union collapsed and Christmas was legalized again: in modern-day Russia, Christmas serves as a more solemn, spiritual holiday, while the Christmas tree, the presents and the local version of Santa Claus continue to be associated with the New Year.
  • This NPR story describes American Muslims celebrating Christmas, including an amusing anecdote where Iranian-American podcast host Zahra Noorbakhsh said that as a girl she conflated a description of Santa Claus with images in Iranian textbooks of Ayatollah Khomeini. For the record, Islam considers Jesus a prophet of the same line as Muhammad, and The Qur'an has an entire chapter devoted to Mary that includes the nativity narrative. However, Muslims believe that Jesus was a man and do not place a particular importance on his birth, hence the lack of a Christmas tradition.note 
  • As noted in the trope description, some nonobservant Jewish families celebrate a family gift-giving and love-sharing holiday on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day instead of during Hanukkah, the logic being that one holiday night is easier to arrange than eight—and if you're not religious, which day you do it is moot anyway. These celebrations may often include Christmas trees and ornaments, Christmas wrapping paper, a turkey feast, and other festive touches that are essentially evoking this trope.
  • While some Christian fundamentalists can be heard complaining about Christ being omitted from Christmas, there are also a variety of strict Biblicist churches which reject the religious observance of holidays. Some (such as the Jehovah's Witnesses) don't celebrate them at all, while others celebrate Christmas (and Easter, and a few others) as purely secular holidays.

Alternative Title(s): Santamas

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