In their observances of Christmas, Americans had begun to create a symbol of non-denominational Protestantism that fit well into the pluralist culture in which they lived. The festive air of churches, draped with nature's greenery, shining with candles, and filled with music, invited wary strangers to enter. Inside, they could imagine a haven in which old and cherished values survived, a world removed from an ever more complex and confusing temporal one. Church visitors and members alike could bypass the theological questions that divided them along sectarian lines and participate together in the pomp and ritual of the services. Synthetic, short-lived, and to some degree superficial, this association of believers at Christmas helped satisfy a vague but growing need to identify and solidify a sense of community that went beyond the confines of church walls.Penne L. Restad, Christmas in America. New York: Oxford University Press 1995, p. 33.
Ms. Restad is writing about America in the early 19th century, not America in the early 21st century. I thought the context might need that much explanation.
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