Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ritual Holiday Rantings

So, it's that time of year again. Yup, now that we've all stuffed ourselves silly on turkey, stuffing and pie, it's onto the next batch of holidays.  The Winter Holidays.  There's lots of them, but typically (and pretty much exclusively here) it is advertised as Christmas.  And it habitually causes me no end of trouble.

There are several arguments that tend to appear. One is about "taking the Christ out of Christmas", and I think it has several variations. In order not to have to decorate for ALL the winter holidays, lots of places justify putting up a tree because "it isn't Christian, really. it's Pagan". Then there is the annoyance from some at being wished "Happy Holidays" instead of a "Merry Christmas".  Both arguments, in my opinion, are trite and, well, pathetic.  A big ol' fir tree, covered in tinsel and shiny lights is a time-honored symbol of, yep, you guessed it, Christmas.  Was it borrowed and adapted from other, older traditions. Of course it was! But it has been incorporated into the celebration of a Christian holiday.  If people choose to put up a tree who aren't Christian, great. They're pretty. It does not mean everyone else accepts it as a symbol of their own holidays.  As for "Happy Holidays", if you're insulted by that, get over yourselves. I can't tell by LOOKING at most people what their faith is, so how am I supposed to know what you celebrate? It isn't meant as an insult, but as a nice way to be generic about the season. Smile, say "thank you".

Oh, but there is more. See, most of you have cottoned on that I am, in fact, not Christian. I don't celebrate it.  Here in the UK I see a LOT of "taking the Christ out of Christmas". It's surpassed being a holiday for a religion, and appears to just be a generic holiday. Buy presents. Put up a tree. Tell your kids about Santa. Cook a turkey, eat mince pies, and drink more than you need to. OK. Fine. Go ahead. Your decision. I don't mind the lights, I abhor the music, but I am offended by the insistence that I should celebrate it "because Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity". Argue and defend all you want, folks. I read. I understand how the holiday came to be. I get it. You can justify it all away as being really a pagan and roman holiday. Hm. Here's my problem. If it WAS pagan, you'd be celebrating the Winter Solstice, which isn't on the 25th, and has no Santa. And often no tree, depending on region.  If it WAS Roman, you'd be celebrating Saturnalia, starting on the 17th of December. And as much as I am aware that many roman traditions weaved their way into Christmas, Christmas is still a Christian holiday. It was created (yes, in part to ease conversions) to celebrate the birth of the Christian Messiah. Um. Most holidays in most religions were invented to celebrate something, so why do the Christian ones somehow get special dispensation as "not really about the religion"?

So please, celebrate what you want. Enjoy yourselves. But don't tell me Christmas isn't about Christianity, because to me, it is. I have my own celebrations, my own traditions and they don't include mince pies or trees. And I am HAPPY. I was fine never believing in Santa, and I don't need or want a stocking of stuff. Feel free to take the "Christ out of Christmas" and celebrate it as a more secular day.  And if you want, wish me a Merry Christmas. That's fine. I'll wish you a Happy Hanukkah right back.

Enjoy whatever winter holiday you celebrate, and may you have the fortune to be with family and/or friends.