The highbrow approves of Christmas in general, and feasting in theory, and has a certain distant appreciation of historic festive rituals, but has a difficult time loosening his own collar and joining in.
This Christmas, some of us will again begin clucking our tongues and wagging our heads in disgust at the vulgar accouterments which have attached themselves to the Feast of the Nativity. Complaining about the excesses will become a favorite way to begin conversation in certain societies. We will note that the window displays are even gaudier this year; we will remember when stores used to wait until after Thanksgiving to begin advertising; some might suggest putting Christ back in Christmas. This caviling will be variously inspired; I can think of three. First, the temperate person will think the feasting and drinking has gotten out of hand; second, highbrows will think it preferable to give a nod of approval to the idea behind the feast, but not slump into actual participation; and third, some puritans will object that the theology of the Christmas feast could be better preserved without pollution by pagan profanities. However, on the basis of remarks Chesterton makes about Christmas, I’m inclined to believe that instead of joining any of these three types of nigglers, we would instead find him stringing the garland and basting the goose.
The temperate spirit strives for moderation, acting to avoid both want and excess; it therefore finds both the Christmas feast and the Lenten fast puzzling. Chesterton believes such puzzlement might serve as an expansive stumbling block for that soul, so leaves the conundrum untouched.
The Thing Why I am Catholic)
Chesterton makes no attempt to explain matters until the temperate mind has been sufficiently dilated to see that human well-being is served by both conditions.
The highbrow approves of Christmas in general, and feasting in theory, and has a certain distant appreciation of historic festive rituals, but has a difficult time loosening his own collar and joining in. Chesterton was surrounded by such people in his day. They liked to talk about the glories of ancient festivals, but…
To sophisticates, the word ‘vulgar’ means deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement; marked by a lack of good breeding; boorish. To Chesterton, the word means what it originally meant – belonging to the common people – whose company he enjoyed very much.