Last year at this time I wrote a post about Christmas that asserted-if I can compress it just a bit-that Christmas is at once a holiday in the Christian calendar and in the consumerist system that defines many of our most important values (like the value of material wealth). Discussions about "the true meaning of Christmas" miss the point. The fact is that in our society the true meaning of Christmas is two somewhat contradictory things at the same time: Christmas is the central ritual of consumerism and the celebration of a religious figure who, according to the inherited sacred texts, was rather skeptical about the value of wealth.
In fact, lots of ideas in our society do two somewhat opposite things at the same time. Take, for example, Sarah Palin. Palin is loved by many conservatives in part because she advocates strong conservative values: she thinks abortion should be illegal, that taxes should be low and government limited in its powers, she abhors gun control, and so on. However, many people endorse these values without getting much attention. Palin also happens to be very good looking, charismatic, and media-savvy. In short, Palin is both very conservative and very entertaining. These may not be her only virtues, but surely both her supporters and her detractors would agree that these are an important part of her appeal.