« Early Christmas Pressie | Main | I Have Provided The Definitive, Unabridged Guide To Why You Don't Matter At All To Me. »

December 22, 2004

Comments

The reason this happens is because Christianity is a religion of aggression, you are supposed to preach and convert others which is one of the things i don't like about others who share my faith as it is anti Christ in my opinion. He wants us to walk the walk but fundamentalists just want to talk the talk, i.e. be pushy with people about conversion and acting self-righteous in gereral on top of forcing people legally to adopt your idea of what the rules should be (like anti-gay legislation). The worst part of all of this is those pushy people are for the most part hypocrites. A great example is they support this war of lies and aggression in Iraq and call themselves followers of Christ, the most radically peaceful and loving being imaginable. He said to turn the other cheek when we are offended but we bomb, maim and occupy instead while saying God Bless America, as if God wouldn't think Iraq needed alot more help at this point than we do.

I share Edward's mixed feelings. I grew up not Christian but in a family that made a very big deal out of Christmas. I sang the Christian Christmas carols and school and even made a faux stained glass nativity scene for my elementary school window. I knew all the religious stuff wasn't my religion but I don't remember being fussed about it. Still there is an element of arrogance in the majority's assumption that their symbols belong in the public eye. Why can't Christians enjoy the Christian aspects of Christmas at home and at church without insisting that the Christian symbols be all over the mall and town hall as well?
On the other hand, at least in the context of the public schools, I agree that the elimenate-all-Christian-references thing has gone too far. I am a public school teacher, still not a Christian, but I miss the beautiful traditional carols. The Jingle Bell/happy holidy assemblies do seem sterile to me.
I like what my school did this year. We had an assembly half way between Christmas and Thanksgiving. It was called a winter season assembly. Music was featured between testimonials and poetry. It was very ecletic and included student recitations about the Ba'hai faith, Hannukah, Rammadan, and yes even the birth of Christ. There were a few traditional carols plus a jewish folk song, an East Indian dance, a Samoan dance ceremony, and a Kwanza candle lighting ceremony. It was an overtly religious assembly but the religious expression was personal, respectful, and reflective of the diversity of our school. Atheist that I am, I loved it.

I have always wished people Happy Holidays, since it seems to me polite to acknowledge that not all of them celebrate Christmas, and moreover that just assuming they do is presumptuous (like having people make assumptions about the status of, say, your relationship with someone.) I mean no slight to Christmas, or Christ, when I do this, and I think that if he's watching, he'll take it the right way. He was, after all, quite explicit about preferring those with a compassionate and generous heart to those who endlessly say 'Lord, Lord', as if making a big deal about one's religiosity were the point.

I'm not a Catholic, but every year on Christmas Eve I go to midnight mass. I started doing this in memory of a dear friend who died not long before Christmas (12 years ago this November past) who was a regular attender at the church I go to, but it's become a marker of the holiday season to me.

The 25th of December is traditionally "Jesus's birthday" because the religion of Mithras believed their God was born at the winter solstice, in a stable, under a star: and the early Christians, never averse to borrowing a good story, went ahead and borrowed it. In point of fact, as Julie West ought to know, it's not a matter of faith or doctrine to believe that Jesus was born on December 25th: it's only a lovely and ancient tradition. But many of the things we regard as traditionally Christmassy are survivals from non-Christian faiths that adhered to the winter solstice - just as the story of the birth of Jesus adhered to the winter solstice.

I have no problem with people who want to celebrate lovely and ancient traditions. I have a major problem with people who want to privilege their traditions above everyone else's. And that's what these complaints are all about - notice, too, that they're not directed at the corporations who make their millions out of selling toys and gifts and cards at this time of year, though that, to me, is the worst part of the "secularisation of Christmas".

When I see a conservative Christian complain that the only reason Santa Claus wears red is because Coca-Cola wanted to use Saint Nick to advertise it's soft drink, and true Christians ought to boycott Coke until Santa comes out in his original green...

With regards to whether it's better to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" in social contexts, this seems like a manufactured slight to me, a sign of oversensitivity all the way around.

Agreed. Who cares why people are wishing you happiness?

The howling about aggression against Christmas is, for the most part, a phony victimization campaign.

Why spend time writing further when I can just link to Wolcott's Christmas Kvetchers.

As a Jew, I have no objection to being wished a Merry Christmas.

First of all, December 25 is Christmas, whether I celebrate it or not. Should I be offended because someone hopes the day is merry for me?

Second, in a country where the vast majority are Christian, I think it is unreasonable to impute base, inquisitorial motives to a friendly greeting just because its wording is not meticuously inclusive of all faiths.

Third, it seems more than a little prickly to be offended when someone offers good wishes. Quite out of keeping with the Christmas spirit, one might say.

I will even say I have no problem wishing Christian friends a Merry Christmas. If I wish you a Happy Birthday, it will be on your birthday, not mine. So wishing Christians a Merry Christmas seems wholly appropriate. (One does need to be a touch careful about this sort of thing, though. I have occasionally been wished a happy Yom Kippur).

Do we really need to put the Christ back into Christmas or do we need to put Christ back into Christianity?

Also, it is estimated that only 3/4 of Americans are Christians, the rest are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or agnostic etc. and I wonder how many of those 3/4 are lapsed or non-practicing Christians.

Sorry to be so ignorant Bernard, but what would be (if anything) an appropriate acknowldegement of Yom Kippur?

I like the approach at your school Lily, but am curious about some of the more regionally obscure religions. Did you have students who practice all those faiths or were some included despite an absense of a practitioner?

Not sure what difference that makes, really, just curious.

Edward, Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement, when one must make amends for sins against God and one's neighbors. (And when, during the time the temple stood, the priests cast the community's sins on the scapegoat.) Wishing someone a "happy" one is a little . . . off.

The funniest thing, by the way -- over and above Jes's can't-mention-it-enough explanation of Christianity's . . . er, syncretic adoption of Dec. 25 for the Christmas holiday -- is that Christmas isn't even the central, most important feast day in Christianity. Easter is. Everyone could stand to lighten up about all this a bit more.

Bah humbug. Gonna watch Blackadder's Christmas Carol and dream of sugar plums and breaking Tiny Tims's good leg.

The holidays bring out my depressive misanthropy, and just because I have survived 53 seasons of Hallmark uplifting treacle doesn't mean that this isn't the year that the Waltons, or Muppet, or Spongebob Squarepants Christmas drives me postal. Best to avoid Dallas shopping malls.

Edward: me, I'd wish someone an easy fast.

Edward: me, I'd wish someone an easy fast.

Thanks, Mark. Good to know.

Edward asked: what would be (if anything) an appropriate acknowldegement of Yom Kippur?

In our (reform) community "Good Yom Tov" was the catch-all salutation to acknowledge any Jewish holiday. Yom tov literally means good (or blessed) day, aka holiday, so good yom tov is (or was for us anyway) simply Good or Happy Holiday (even on Yom Kippur - holy day).

Edward asked: what would be (if anything) an appropriate acknowldegement of Yom Kippur?

In our (reform) community "Good Yom Tov" was the catch-all salutation to acknowledge any Jewish holiday. Yom tov literally means good (or blessed) day, aka holiday, so good yom tov is (or was for us anyway) simply Good or Happy Holiday (even on Yom Kippur - holy day).

Xanax

Would "Good Yom Tov" sound appropriate (hopefully charming) coming from a Gentile, or pretensious?

Edward: I can only speak for myself but I would be charmed. Also, to those Jewish friends of yours who take the sabbath day seriously, Shabbat Shalom (happy, good or peaceful sabbath) is a nice traditional acknowledgement of the day and its significance.

Wilfred comes close to some of the reasons why I get prickly about being wished a Merry Christmas. To be honest, it has less to do with the individual doing the wishing than it has to do with the oppressive weight of Christmas /in general/ that I simply can't get away from.

I'm not Christian. I don't particular like Christianity or even religion in general, although I'm appreciative of the people who are capable of taking the good in it and leaving the bad, and who use it to enrich the world around them. But for someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, resents the growing encroachment of religion on secular life, and for that matter finds Christmas music awful and the excess of consumption (all that energy used on Christmas lights!) repulsive, having Christmas shoved in your face from Thanksgiving until New Year's gets very old very fast. It's everywhere. You can't get away from it unless you ensconse yourself in your home for two months at the end of the year.

Family members who celebrate it--particularly the devout ones--tend to have this expectation that everyone else does too, and that you're rude if you don't get them (or at least their kids) presents. Over the years this has gotten to the point where this assumption deeply offends me--particularly during when I've hit hard financial times, when living up to family's expectations of Christmas turns into a genuine financial hardship. Or try telling your coworkers that you aren't going to participate in the office "Secret Santa" thing.

Sure, the well-wishers don't mean any harm. But for people like me, every "Merry Christmas" comes bearing not holiday cheer, but the cumulative baggage of two months every year where someone else's religion is shoved down my throat day in and day out.

Catsy,

While finding the Christmas decorations in stores the day after Halloween (and sometimes sooner) does annoy me, I don't feel like it's being "shoved down my throat" so I can't relate totally to your righteous rant. But I appreciate that you can see there are people "capable of taking the good in it and leaving the bad."

I found myself singing Christmas songs on the walk home from work yesterday. It was delightful the way a car's horn would beep or the street lights would change on cue, and I found I could sing to the tempo of the street noise around me (as if the whole city were my back-up band). Every now and then someone would overhear me and smile or grimace or smirk...either way, I was happy.

There's so much good in each religion I know soemthing about. It really pays to focus on the good in all of them. At least at certain times of year, if possible.

In our (reform) community "Good Yom Tov" was the catch-all salutation to acknowledge any Jewish holiday.

That's very common. For obvious personal reasons, I tired of this greeting many years ago.

For obvious personal reasons, I tired of this greeting many years ago.

Took me a moment to get that....

I have a slightly similar name problem, in that when I say my nickname and last name together, people always hear "Edwin Coleman"...so I normally resort to a 007-esque repeating of my first name...that's the problem with having a two-letter name that sounds like a grunt to most people..."Eh? Your name is "Eh"?

Edward, My school is blessed with a very diverse student body. We have kids from literally all over the world, many recent immigrants. my understanding, from the itroduction provided, is that the Hindu dance had religious significance but of course nothing to do with Christmas. The young lady who performed adapted the cance to rap music which sounds bizarre, but worked remarkably well. The Samoan dancers explained that their dance told a story that is part of their oral religious tradition. Most Samoans are Christians now but these girls don't see a contradiction between being Christian and dong a traditional non-Chrisian dance. Really the whole thing brought tears to my eyes. i was proud of our school and our students. Thank you for your interest.

""What's the matter with recognizing the reason behind the whole holiday?""

Does she mean the pagan Winter Solstice? That is, in fact, the reason behind the whole holiday, until such time as Pope Julius I chose to drop Jesus' birthday on it in the 4th century in order to borgsorb the holiday.

So 'season's greetings' and 'happy holidays' are arguably more appropriate to the day than 'Merry Christmas' which celebrates the largely arbitrary and aggressive scheduling of Christ's birthday bash.

Edward,

I can't really respond to the bit about religion without giving offense where I desire none. I have some pretty pungent views about its net benefit to the world, and I recognize they're pretty far out of the mainstream.

I apologize for hijacking the thread with that rant, your post just touched on one of my hot buttons that's being jabbed pretty hard daily right now. For me, this season presents a personal challenge every year: to not allow my resentment of commercial Christianity's cultural omnipresence to turn me into a complete bitter asshole.

My point is that New York Jews don't need an elaborate, religious, public campaign to celebrate one their most holy holidays.

I expect, however, that if they were the dominant religion of the US, you would, in fact, have an elaborate, religious, public campaign to celebrate the Passover.

In Israel, for example, on Yom Kippur, the schools close, radio and TV don't broadcast, public transport closes down, etc, etc.

It's not a matter of difference between Christians and non-Christians, but between the dominant and non-dominant religions in the US.

The 25th of December is traditionally "Jesus's birthday" because the religion of Mithras believed their God was born at the winter solstice, in a stable, under a star: and the early Christians, never averse to borrowing a good story, went ahead and borrowed it.

Uh, no. Mithras was born out of a rock. Roman Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25th to counter the Mithraic holiday declared by Aurelian in 274.

"What's the matter with recognizing the reason behind the whole holiday?"

Sidereal: "Does she mean the pagan Winter Solstice? That is, in fact, the reason behind the whole holiday"

No one is getting the day off because the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

"I expect, however, that if they were the dominant religion of the US, you would, in fact, have an elaborate, religious, public campaign to celebrate the Passover.

In Israel, for example, on Yom Kippur, the schools close, radio and TV don't broadcast, public transport closes down, etc, etc."

Don't be so fast to assume that. There's a world of difference between declaring Dec. 25 a public holiday and all the meshugas that goes on in this country from Thanksgiving through the end of December.

By the way, is there a good explanation why making Christmas a federal holiday isn't the "establishment" of religion? Would the government have to force us to go to midnight mass to "establish" the religion?

By emplacing a federal holiday at this time of the year, what religion has been established? Is this an argument against federal holidays, or for moving the yearly federal holiday to some time in the year that's not associated with any religious observance?

I'd rather see the fed go to floating holidays, FTR, so that the whole government doesn't stop working on Washington's Birthday, for example.

Is this an argument against federal holidays, or for moving the yearly federal holiday to some time in the year that's not associated with any religious observance?

Well, personally I find federally observed holidays to be more of a nuisance than anything else--they're almost invariably observing something I either don't care about or see no reason to shut down the country over. And most of the time, if you work in a job that pays an hourly wage (but, like most, doesn't provide paid holidays), it means losing wages a lot of people can't afford to lose.

But there's something in the way you formulated that which doesn't quite sit right with me. You mentioned moving "the yearly federal holiday". This makes it sound like there's a specific requirement for such a thing to exist, and the only question is when to have it.

No. The question tried to address a couple of things I thought you might mean by your dislike for the holiday. It appears that you're in the former camp of:

Is this an argument against federal holidays, or for moving the yearly federal holiday to some time in the year that's not associated with any religious observance?

But more specifically, against the end-of year shutdown, correct? I'm of two minds, here. Mind number one, the more time the government is kept from doing anything at all, the less damage they're doing. Mind number two, something along the lines of why shut down the country for any reason?

Not that the country is in fact being shut down, mind you. The rest of us do just fine without the government being hard at work.

"No one is getting the day off because the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn."

Yes, actually they are.

It works like this. Because the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn (which I'll take your word on. I never got it straight with Cancer), the day (or set of days thereabouts) was considered holy by the agrarian pagans. Because that day was holy it was introduced into myths and celebrations. Because there were pre-existing myths and celebrations regarding that day, Pope Julius I integrated it into a Christian myth, as was the want of Christian leaders in that day. Therefore we get the day off because it's the solstice, and all of the complications that ensued therefrom.

But many of the things we regard as traditionally Christmassy are survivals from non-Christian faiths that adhered to the winter solstice - just as the story of the birth of Jesus adhered to the winter solstice.

IIRC, the vast majority of things we regard as "traditionally Christmassy" spring directly from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Prior to that, there isn't any kind of cult of Christmas in Europe that I know of.

the vast majority of things we regard as "traditionally Christmassy" spring directly from Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Actually, I thought that most of them came from Queen Victoria, who was raised by her German mother in England, but with all the German traditions, and when she ascended to the throne (and married her Coburg cousin Albert), the royal family popularized the German holiday traditions that became the basis for commercialization. Link here

the vast majority of things we regard as "traditionally Christmassy" spring directly from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

XMas as we know it is the result of the media; specifically, Clement Clark Moore (with cartoons by Thomas Nast)and the NY Sun's "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus..."

I think our Christian churches are upset they didn't think of it.

"What's the matter with recognizing the reason behind the whole holiday?"

Sidereal: "Does she mean the pagan Winter Solstice? That is, in fact, the reason behind the whole holiday"

That's the reason that the holiday is celebrated on Dec 25, but it's hardly "the reason behind the whole holiday". No one knows the day of Jesus' birth, so a day had to be picked, and one way or another, the selection was going to be arbitrary. That doesn't change the fact that what's being celebrated in Christian churches and (some) homes is Christ's birth. I suspect the little tidbits of information about Christmas's history offered in this thread are generally much better known to observant Christians than to others, so please don't anyone imagine they've pulled the rug out from under all those religious simpletons.

Good point KenB, but the overarching point remains that one should not need plastic nativity scenes or Christ's name plastered all over shopping malls to be able to reflect on the reason behind the holiday. Boil it down and you'll see that the essence of insisting on such things is a call for dominance and acknowledgement of majority status, nothing else.

Ironically those thing makes it infinitely more difficult to reflect on the reason behind the holiday in my opinion.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad