Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The War on Christmas


How? What?

Are people in danger of becoming squeezed to death by an animate python of garland? Does the blinking of lights all over town mean an AI has taken over and is systematically plotting humanity's destruction? Are big red, velvet bows carriers of an infectious disease that will eat our three middle toes from our feet, thus making it difficult to walk?

What in the name of cheese and chocolate is going on here?

The war on Christmas indeed. Let us look at Christmas. What are the most common things that we see at Christmas in this country?

Lights. Lots of lights. - Face it. It's dark, dreary and miserable in the winter. Who doesn't like to see something bright, shining, and colorful in the midst of all that? I grew up in a city with a large Jewish community. One guy's dad strung blue lights on the front of the house shaped like the Star of David. I put up lights in the house because it's safer than burning candles. Lights are pretty!

Trees, wreaths, and other greenery. - This practice was absorbed along with the time of jolliness and giving that went along with Yule. At one time Yule, the Roman Winter solstice celebration, and the Christian Natalis Domini were celebrated concurrently. [Look up when the Julian calendar was adopted in Europe.] Here's where I believe the combination of religions and cultures starting forming the modern Christmas.

Santa Claus (with or without reindeer) - Santa came with some of our ancestors when they came over from Europe. Different cultures have different versions. In this country, the ideals of giving to the poor (St. Nicholas) and the bits gleaned from Germanic paganism, Scandinavia, and elsewhere all got mushed together to give us Santa Claus. Again here's the combining of Christian and non-Christian bits into a single something.

Snowmen - Completely secular. It's fun to watch kids play in the snow and remember when we were that young, innocent, and carefree. I think that is why snowmen have really burst onto the scene in the last few years. This is great in my opinion. I have a house full of snowmen, much to FH's dismay.

Big red bows.- I couldn't find anything meaningful or historical about big red bows. As far as I know they just look really nice with the greenery.

The Nativity and other bits connected with the story. i.e. three wise men. - Here's the one major non-secular bit that I could think of that is not seen during the rest of the year. Let us ponder this. This is the symbolism of the birth of Jesus the Christ, the only Son of God, in the Christian tradition. Ok. Should Christians put up the Nativity? Yes. Just as Jews should put up a menorah. Pagans who celebrate Yule put up trees. Muslims have the end of Ramadan, Eid ul-Fitr. All of these practices are worthy of note.

At this point I feel I should mention Kwanzaa. I am unsure if specific members of my family celebrate this holiday alongside Christams. But here is a great example of a cultural tradition that is overlooked in the battles between the big religious traditions this time of year. Like many other cultural holiday tradtions, Kwanzaa is a beautiful thing. Some people say it is a made up holiday and we should ignore it. Umm.. some folks believe Christams is made up too. This just proves that everyone has opinions and other specific anatomy parts.

Take some time to look up various cultural and religious traditions from around the world. It's interesting and perhaps can open your mind a bit more. We're all people on this chunk of rock and we should at least respect each other. But I digress....

Back to the point.

Should a city government with cares for a religiously diverse population put up one without representing the others? No. Should a small city government that has only Christians living there put up a Nativity? If the townsfolk want it, more power to them, but I think the town should educate their children about the other practices and beliefs celebrated in this country.

If we look back at the realligning of Natalis Domini with the Winter Solstice, thus opening the door for Yule traditions to get absorbed into the Christain traditions, we are painted a picture of a religious melting pot. I'm not saying we should all start putting up the Nativity, menorahs or fasting in November. What I'm saying is that the adults in this country need to learn to jolly well get along. We need to get along year round, but especially at this time of year when so many traditions slam into each other with increasing velocity.

Be respectful. Be generous. Be courteous. Be kind.

I don't care who you are or what you believe in. You are my brother or sister in humanity. We can be nice to each other if we all remember to follow the four guidelines above.

I hope and pray everyone has a safe and joyous holiday, whatever it is.



If you really hate the commercialism of the Christmas holiday, teach your kids differently. Eventually it will catch on.


A crusty old phart... said...

The commercialism of christmas is only one of the things I find irritating about this life, but if I got worked up over it what have I solved? You've correctly identified the solution.

Teach your children well - CSN, 1969.

Karen B. said...

Yeah, I don't really get that "war on Christmas" doesn't look like it's happening anywhere in my area. Thanks for this totally informative post. I kind of like knowing my lights and greenery originate with the Roman's winter solstice.

MiniKat said...

Actually it's the Germanic pagans that the greenery came from. The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, which was a celebration of the dedication of the Temple of Saturn. There were feasts, lots of wine, and lots of gambling.

The Christians swooped both cultures up in one fell swoop by moving Natalis Domini to December 25th since both non-Christian cultures had big celebrations at roughly the same time. Very efficient really. Just shows that America was not the first melting-pot.

Ain't history grand? ;-)