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Dec 23 2012

Making a better Christmas

For all my joking around about waging war on Christmas, I actually enjoy the holiday, apart from the commercialism and the insane shopping sprees that people seem to indulge in. Despite all the attempts of Fox News, Christmas is becoming irreversibly secularized and thus gone back to its pagan roots. They may be able to intimidate come commercial establishments to have employees say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” but does “Merry Christmas” really conjure up an image of Jesus in the manger when people say or hear it? I doubt it. It has become synonymous with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”, drained of almost all religious significance. The war on Christmas is pretty much over.

There is much to like about Christmas, once you get beyond its religious overtones. It is an occasion when people get together with friends and families and renew contact with them by exchanging greetings via phone calls, cards, letters, and emails. I also like the music, though this requires a qualifier. I love the traditional carols sung a cappella by choirs but hate the Christmas songs that flood the airways and public spaces. I would be overjoyed if I never hear ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ again. Making homes look cheery and welcoming with lights is great and what is there not to like about the message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all? Is it any wonder that other quasi-Christmas celebrations like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa have sprung up at the same time of year?

The focus on children is the best part. Given that Christmas has become largely a secular holiday, we could make it better. What I would like to see is have a day (December 25th or thereabouts) become known as International Children’s Day, with all the non-religious trappings of Christmas included, except that gifts (preferably just one) would be given only to children aged 12 or younger. The focus should be on getting together with friends and family, like Thanksgiving in the US. The whole world can enjoy a common holiday and feel a sense of unity and solidarity, however fragile and temporary, and people can add on whatever religious observances they like. It does not have to be around December 25th. Other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism also have festivals of lights at different times of the year. But December 25th is the holiday that seems to be the most nearly universally observed and thus most easily adapted to this purpose.

We celebrate Christmas at our home with a decorated tree and special food. During the holiday season we visit friends and invite them visit us. Our children are grown and so we do not exchange any gifts with anyone and that makes the whole thing very stress-free and joyful.

3 comments

  1. 1
    stonyground

    We still say ‘Merry Christmas’ in the UK, the greeting has pretty much lost any religious content for the Brits. Some Bible society has recently accused retailers of airbrushing Jesus out of Christmas because they only provide a small number of religiously themed Christmas cards. The simple fact is that only a tiny minority buy religious cards, most people prefer snow scenes, holly & robins, and the religious cards are still there if you do want to buy them.

    I don’t actually have a problem with the commercial part of Christmas, providing that people are sensible and don’t get themselves over their heads in debt, I don’t see the harm. The whole thing provides a lot of employement for manufacturers and retailers after all.

    It appears that the UK has much better festive pop music than the US. Although you do tend to hear even the best of them a little too often at this time of year. Carols are OK, the tunes are good but the lyrics are often terrible. “Lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb” FFS.

  2. 2
    left0ver1under

    I’m a Canadian living in Taiwan where christmas is meainingless. I’m scheduled to go to work on Tuesday and don’t mind it in the least.

    The only dates on my mind are the winter solstice and New Year’s day. The solstice means the next month is the coldest of the year, but now the days will gradually get longer. And New Year’s is a four day weekend which is like a mini vacation before the big one at Chinese New Year.

  3. 3
    catlover

    Kinda hard to get away from goddy greetings, as was pointed out in
    a FaceBook post I saw today. “Holiday” derives etymologically from
    “holy day”. I liked “wintermas”, and used it this year in my Xmas letter
    (I know, I know…”X” means “Christ”), but “mas” at the end means “Mass”,
    as in “Holy Communion”. What to do? How about “Happy Feast of Lights”?
    (Or something like that.)

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