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« ACLU Screws Up - Er, no, wait... The RantsTsunami Death Toll Continues to Rise »

Merry Christmas (Seriously)
2004.12.24 (Fri) 11:56

One thing that many of the fundies don't seem to get is that civil libertarians aren't just a bunch of grinches out to kill Christmas. In fact, some of us are very fond of Christmas, and would never give it up, let alone fight to take it away. This misunderstanding probably stems from the fact that many Christians don't seem to think that there can be any definition of Christmas other than their own religious view. Yes, the Christians got the whole holiday started (pagan origins notwithstanding for the moment), and no, you can't spell "Christmas" without spelling "Christ," but to some people, Christmas simply is not religious anymore.

Let's look at this from a few different angles. First, we have the people who claim that Christmas was never a Christian holiday since they just appropriated it from various pagan traditions. Well, that's a true statement, but it's a red herring. Yes, many cultures had a winter solstice celebration, and yes, many cultures had messiah/savior stories (often extraordinarily similar to the Christ mythos — and often predating it). Some other cultures, such as the Norse, even had Clausian figures, reindeer, gifts for the kiddies, and so on, and plenty of pagan cultures used trees as celebratory icons, or even worshipped them.

But every culture borrows from other cultures, making the resulting new ideas uniquely their own. Christians came up with the whole "Christ" thing (from the Greek χριστος meaning "anointed"), and "Christ's Mass" is obviously a Christian idea. Celebrating Jesus Christ's birthday shortly after the winter solstice is something invented by the Christians; after all, who else would celebrate Christ's birthday?

So, just because the roots of Christmas are pagan doesn't make it any less Christian in this incarnation. Accordingly, non-Christians should lay off the Christians for "not really having invented Christmas," because as far as their particular version of the holiday and their observance of it is concerned, they did.

That said, we can look at this from a different angle using the exact same logic. Just as Christians borrowed from other cultures to "invent" their Christmas holiday, modern civilization has borrowed from Christianity to create a new holiday which is also called "Christmas." To a large and growing part of the population of the planet, Christmas is not a day to celebrate Christ's birth, but a special time of year for charity, love, caring, family, decorations, and presents.

In effect, modern civilization has created a "new" holiday just as the Christians created a "new" holiday when they cobbled together their version of Christmas from past mythologies and rituals. And, in the same way as above, just because the roots of this non-religious Christmas are Christian, it doesn't follow that the new Christmas must retain any religious leanings.

So, in the same way that non-Christians should accept the Christian basis for the Christian Christmas, the Christians need to lay off the "Christmas is our holiday and it's all about Christ" bit. The modern Christmas, which many people observe, just isn't Christian anymore, at least not to everyone.

To be sure, some Christians understand and accept this, and some don't. Also, this certainly doesn't mean that all non-Christians must see Christmas in this same way; if they like, they can absolutely choose not to celebrate what they see as a religious holiday, and that's fine.

To us, and we suspect to many others, this modern view of Christmas has a connotation that is very different from the Christian holiday. To some, it is a time to slow down from the regular fast pace of life, to take time out, and to relax. To some, it is a time to see family and friends, both near and far, some of whom we may not see for much of the rest of the year. Some see it as a time to be together with a small group of people who are near and dear to them, while others prefer to gather as many people together as possible. Many of us will eat more good food than we ought to, and many of us will give and receive various gifts, large and small. Even if no prayers are uttered, and no services are attended, and even if Jesus' name isn't mentioned at all, it is still Christmas.

At the end of the day, Christmas is, to many people, a time to be with the ones we love. To those who can't accept that, well, tough. To everyone else — no matter what your beliefs are, and no matter what you are doing for the rest of this weekend: Merry Christmas. We'll catch up with you next week...

— • —
[  Filed under: % Civil Liberties  % Greatest Hits  % Religion  % Two Percent Company  ]

Comments (3)

% Trackback » 2005.02.05 (Sat) 18:57
"The Progressive Majority" from RealityBuzz.org

This is a blogroll of a who's who of progressive bloggers culled from a list of bloggers -- aka "The Progressive Majority" and "The Indie 500" -- who went on the record to oppose the Alberto Gonzales confirmation. This is, of course, by no means an exh


angus, 2007.06.19 (Tue) 03:21 [Link] »

I might add that in Japan (which does not have a predominantly Christian population, but rather a contemporary culture that often embraces Western social trends), it is not uncommon for upper-middle-class suburban families to celebrate a secular, commercialized version of Christmas, oftentimes complete with gift-giving, the consumption of cake or other delicacies, and the display of a little decorated plastic tree.

The Japanese transliteration of Christmas is pronounced "Kurisumasu," and its adoption in Japan serves nicely to illustrate the point in this thread, which I can identify with personally. I am an atheist, but rather enjoy the whole "get together with your loved ones and eat, drink and be merry" aspect of the winter holidays (and let's not forget boozy eggnog and mistletoe--a winning combination).

Of course, I hardly ever need an excuse to party with my friends and family, so the birth of a carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago (to use Bart Simpson's terminology) is as good a reason as any for me and mine to get our good cheer on. And I'll raise a beer to Santa, too. Love those reindeer.

Charles Go, 2007.07.15 (Sun) 11:35 [Link] »

What a nice rant. I'm Roman Catholic, and I like it! The ideas are well constructed and the whole piece is very convincing. One thing though, I'd like to refer you to...
Might get some ideas there.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2007.07.15 (Sun) 12:56 [Link] »

That was a really funny article, Charles — thanks for the link!

I remember the pre-dawn of the Tickle Me Elmo age, and I remember well that my friend Ken and I had the opportunity to destroy the larval form of that hideous monster, if we'd only realized the horror it would soon unleash. We encountered the Tickle Me Elmo several months before that fateful Christmas marketing boom, and Ken curiously poked at its stomach. The damn thing started giggling and vibrating...and shook itself right off the shelf, smacking Ken in the head. We briefly contemplated suing the Tickle Me Elmo armada...but we were young, we were naïve, and we had no way of foretelling the dreadful future of this smiling, quivering red furball.

It could have all been averted right then and there. On behalf of both Ken and myself, I'd like to apologize to all right-thinking people everywhere.

On another note, while I find Chang Liu's article smart and funny, I'm disturbed that he uses language like "These corporations turn us into mindless beasts that roam around shopping malls..." [my emphasis]. I somehow doubt that Chang Liu, any more than most of the folks we know around here, is really turned into any sort of mindless shop monster by the tawdry tricks of the marketing demons.

Sure, it's an old writers' trick: get the audience on your side by pointing out that you're "one of them." But let's rise above that and lead the sheep to greener pastures by example, rather than grazing on their grass to get them to like us.

Or am I reading a bit too much into what is essentially just a comedy piece? A hazard of the trade, sorry.

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