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« Skeptics' Circle #50 - For Carl The RantsPat Robertson's Latest Round of Woo »

The Reason for the Season?
2006.12.23 (Sat) 14:43

As we said last week, the vacuous rhetoric about the imaginary War on Christmas seems to be greatly diminished this year. That's not to say that no one is beating that particular drum, just that the fever pitch of the last two years is, thankfully, absent to a large extent. And that's a good thing.

However, this year more than ever it seems that we can't so much as drive around the block without seeing a sign like the one below:

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season

Jesus is the Reason for the Season? Um, no, sorry. As we've mentioned in the past, a subset of our members was raised Catholic, and quite frankly Jesus was never the reason for their Christmas season. Not remotely. Not ever. As children, it was abundantly clear to us that Santa was the reason for the season. The holiday — and in fact the entire month leading up to Christmas Day — revolved around a jolly fat man, not a bearded hippie or a baby in a manger. Later, as the parent-encouraged delusions of childhood faded, the reason for the season simply became family and friends, food and drink, and the quiet enjoyment of the holidays. The point is: never once was Jesus the reason for our Christmas season.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Those of you who do celebrate Christmas in some form may have different reasons for your season. Perhaps it's a break from work or school. Perhaps it's raucous Christmas partying. Perhaps it's giving or — a personal favorite around here — receiving presents, or a time to help those who are less fortunate.

The bottom line here is that Jesus simply isn't the reason for the Christmas season. Some may see it that way, but that statement just isn't true universally. We wrote about something similar to this two years ago, around Christmas 2004, and we thought we'd dust off that old post in response to the misguided "Reason for the Season" signage that we've seen so much of this year. If you haven't read it, please feel free to take a gander — we've pasted it below.

Now, as is the tradition for our Christmas season, we're about ready to wind down for the year. In all likelihood this will be our last post until the new year, as some of us plan to spend the coming long weekend (and then some) with family and friends, eating and drinking and exchanging gifts. Not once will Jesus' name be mentioned, but believe us when we say that it will still very much be Christmas.

So to all our readers, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Cheerful Kwanzaa, and a very solemn Ramadan. (We won't wish you a Joyous Fucking Reacharound Day this time; those are joyous enough without our help.) Happy Holidays, folks; we'll see you next year.

— • —

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: % Religion  ]

Comments (8)

Darthcynic, 2006.12.23 (Sat) 21:50 [Link] »

Merry christmas folks, looking forward to a new year of rants :).

Bagheera, 2006.12.25 (Mon) 11:34 [Link] »

Nicely said, guys.

Happy (pick your appropriate) holidays.

Infophile, 2006.12.25 (Mon) 14:33 [Link] »

Here's how I generally break it down:

The reason for the season: The tilt of Earth's axis, causing our hemisphere to be colder when it's tilted away, as the sun's rays hit at a shallower angle. (No, it's not the distance that causes this; we're actually closer to the sun in winter than in summer.)

The reason for the "holiday season": The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. After this, the days get longer again. To ancient peoples, this was a sign of hope. Of course they'd celebrate it.

The reason for the specific date of December 25th: Back when Mithraism was huge, its winter-solstice celebration was Mithra's birthday: December 25th. This was later adopted by Christians to make Christianity appeal more to Mithrans.

The reason for calling it Christmas: Now we get to Jesus.

But anyways, whether you look at "the reason for the season" in the sense of the season of winter or the holiday season, the reason is purely secular. Or, as I like to say: If Jesus were the reason for the season, Canada would turn atheistic overnight.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2006.12.25 (Mon) 18:22 [Link] »

Man, Infophile, you're really easy to shop for.

geronimo, 2006.12.26 (Tue) 10:34 [Link] »

Jesus is the Reason
for the Lesion

(maybe you should get that checked)

bernie, 2006.12.31 (Sun) 11:51 [Link] »

Happy New Year.

dikkii, 2007.01.03 (Wed) 08:27 [Link] »

Happy new year folks.

It was nearly a year ago that I began blogging again, and it was all your fault.

Thanks for a year of excellent reading.

The Two Percent Company, 2007.01.04 (Thu) 22:13 [Link] »

Thanks, all, and Happy New Year.

— • —

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