Beginning with Thanksgiving this year, there has been a plethora of parties and parades in anticipation of Christmas. Many, if not most, of them have been officially designated by the rather sterile “holiday” appellation. Nevertheless, it remains the reason for these events is the festivities traditionally surrounding the anticipation and celebration of Christmas Day.
The period beginning with Thanksgiving and extending through New Year’s Day, or for some, Twelfth Night, is often referred to generically as the holiday season. Christmas, its centerpiece, has its origin in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and thus gave the season its name. During this time, however, there occur the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which is not a major feast for Jews; and Kwanzaa, which is a recent innovation, ostensibly a sub-Saharan African tradition. Greek, Russian, and other Orthodox Christian denominations actually celebrate Christmas on January 7.
Now I have no trouble with honoring other traditions during this period, but the focus and the real reason there are such celebrations is Christmas, the commemoration of the birth of arguably the most influential man in history. The politically correct crowd seems to believe that terming the season and the parties and the parades as “Christmas” excludes and dishonors the other traditions. Erecting Christmas scenes such as the Nativity in public places is feared as endorsement of a particular religion by government. This notion is poppycock.
Christmas began as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ sometime in the early Christian era. No one knows for sure the day, or even the time of year when the Nativity actually occurred. Around the winter solstice in December is as good a time as any. Christianity took root primarily in Europe. The Western Hemisphere, Australia, and New Zealand after the 16th century became essentially a greater Europe. The European traditions, including those important to celebration of the Christian religion traveled with the European, primarily British, French, and Spanish settlers. Thus, the dominant culture in those areas included Christian practices and traditions. If it were not of this origin, it is doubtful there would be a “holiday” season as significant as it is.
Christmas has evolved into being as much a secular holiday as a religious one. Gift giving, trees, poinsettas, lights, holly berries, egg nog, and so forth are as much a part of the time as church services, creches, and Advent wreathes. Carols are the great crossover between the religious and secular. The great oratorios of Handel and Bach, as well as their less ambitious pieces, are enjoyed by the devout and irreligious alike.
This past week there was an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News titled “This atheist loves Christmas, so stop the war on my favorite holiday.” In that column, Zachary Moore says “because I love Christmas so much … Squabbling over the public square diminishes my enjoyment of the season.” He goes on to propose that “Christmas [should] henceforth be treated as a secular holiday open to the interpretation and enjoyment of all. Christians are welcome to revel in its theological implications, while atheists and others may pick and choose whatever resonates with their own particular values. The Christmas tree in the square will be a malleable and inclusive symbol, able to support the weight of Magi, Menorah and Muhammad, as well as any other marginalized culture that would appreciate a little bit of fun in the darkness of winter (including we joyless atheists),” his parenthetical being a welcome tongue-in-cheek.
So, like this sensible unbeliever, let us all cut out the nonsense, politically correct or not. Christmas should not be a political or culture-war football, but for all a joyous time of some respite from the slings and arrows of daily life, whatever their religious or political persuasion.
Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad to all, and to all good tidings.