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Archive for November, 2011

It seems that every year just after Halloween those emails and Facebook posts start to appear demanding that we put the “Christ” back in Christmas and that “Christ is the Reason for the Season.”

Apparently there is a “War on Christmas” and one can no longer wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” but instead is obligated to say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings,” just in case offense is taken by someone who did not happen to be born within a dominant culture that conquered the rest of the known world centuries ago.

Maybe I’ve been living in a bubble, but I beg to differ. Christmas is very much alive and well and not likely to disappear anytime soon. The cynic in me thinks that there is just too much money in it, but the part of me that believes in the goodness of my fellow inhabitants of this planet, believes that festivals associated with the Winter Solstice are necessary and simply good for the soul. However, the Grinchs out there that spread what is essentially racial hatred, spoil what is supposed to be a magical and happy season for the rest of us by making such an issue about “Happy Holidays.”

What is wrong with saying “Happy Holidays” anyways? For as long as I can remember, Christmas cards said many things: “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas” and even “Happy Xmas.” It never seemed to be an issue back then and I think it would be rather boring if “Merry Christmas” was the only way to give best wishes of the season to someone. Incidentally, Xmas is not taking the “Christ” out of Christmas as according to Wikipedia: “The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for “Mass“,[1] while the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ“.[2]

“Happy Holidays” is broad and inclusive and retailers that have chosen to use the term are attempting to broaden their market beyond  Christmas shoppers. Are not New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day part of the “Holiday Season”? Do we also not spend our hard-earned cash (usually in the Boxing Day sales) preparing for New Year’s Eve? Lots of business also in a multicultural society where other traditions also give gifts as part of their festival of lights (there’s that cynic again!). In that regard, why can’t it be a considered a good, progressive thing that “Happy Holidays” could also embrace Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali (if it falls in the season), Yule, Festivus and other festivals of light that fall at this time of year. Christmas is essentially a Festival of Light and it is no coincidence that “Christ was born on Christmas Day.” In this regard, I fail to see how “Happy Holidays” can be considered offensive as the Grinchs pushing the war on Christmas would lead us to believe.

I am not entirely sure how many retailers insist their staff use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I am certain that an employer cannot force an employee to not say “Merry Christmas.” I have worked in many industries including retail and hospitality and have never been told to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. I’ve been to many Christmas parties and many holiday parties. There really is no difference and I never thought anything of it. To be quite honest a company Christmas or holiday party could not be further from religious observance of Christmas. Once again the intent of the terms “holiday party” and “Happy Holidays,” though politically correct, I truly think is to be more inclusive than to silence Christmas or downplay the Christian importance of Christmas.

Many aspects of Christmas as we know them actually pre-date Christ. It is actually very fascinating and the more I study Winter Solstice traditions, the more I appreciate the diversity of how the Winter Solstice is celebrated and shared around the world. It has made me realize that Christianity doesn’t have the monopoly on the season. Christ simply isn’t the reason for the season, but a part of a rich, solstice tapestry.

In regards to Christ himself, his true date of birth can never be known. December 25 was chosen in the 4th Century. This was around the time that the pagan Roman Empire became Christian and to simplify it (I simply don’t have time to write an in-depth history here) it made sense to put the new Christian feasts at the same time as the old pagan feasts, in order to easily convert the pagan people over to the new religion in my opinion. (I wonder if in Roman times there was a “Put the Saturn Back in Saturnalia” controversy.) December 25 used to be the date of the Winter Solstice until the calendar was corrected, putting the Winter Solstice on December 21. The Solstice is why there are so many festivals of light at this time of year. The human race has always felt a need to “bring back the sun” at this time of year and celebrate the longest night, probably for fear that the sun will not return. In regards to the Christmas festival, Christ is essentially a sun-god and there are actually many similarities between Jesus and the Egyptian god, Horus, a leading figure in Egyptian mythology for centuries before the birth of Christ. Check out http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5b.htm to read more about Horus and Jesus.

There are many things associated with Christmas, some of which are to do with the birth of Christ, many of which are not. Some Christian groups do not celebrate Christmas as we know it because of its pagan roots (I always felt sorry for those kids I encountered in school that were not allowed to receive Christmas cards or participate in our Christmas activities for this very reason) – indeed controversy in regards to Christmas celebrations has been around for centuries and in Puritan times, Christmas celebrations were banned by the English parliament because it was consider “a popish festival with no biblical justification”, and a time of wasteful and immoral behavior. (From Wikipedia.) Christmas as we know it went through a revival, spearheaded by Charles Dickens, in the mid-Victorian times (From Wikipedia) and we have Coca-Cola to thank for the Santa Claus we know and love. Christmas only became a holiday in the US in 1870 and a legal holiday in Scotland in 1967.

Christmas as we know it, has not been around that long and Christmas controversy is nothing new. It is too pagan, too secular, too commercial, exclusively Christian, offensive to non-Christians, offensive to Christians, immoral, wasteful, expensive…the list goes on! Poor Christmas – it can’t win!

Perhaps instead of finding issue with certain aspects of the season, it is time to reconsider what this time of year means to us personally. This season can have many meanings. For some people it is about celebrating the birth of Christ, for others a chance to reconnect with family and friends, a time to eat, drink or be merry, receive and give gifts, have time off from work, and a time to think of those less fortunate that ourselves. Perhaps none of the above, perhaps all or some of the above.

Most importantly, for those of us who do celebrate at this time of year, in whatever way we choose, by whatever name we choose, the holiday season should be a time of happiness and warmth as we close out the year and get ready to ring in the new. The War on Christmas throws water on the Yule log and fuels the fire of cultural tension that probably wasn’t even there to begin with.

Folks it is time to put the happy back into the holidays, the sol back into solstice by thinking about what the reason for the season is for you whatever your beliefs. Put the you back into Yule and enjoy the Christmas season.

 

 

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