In Defense of HolidaybyThistlethorn©
First off, I love Christmas, or I suppose more correctly, the Winter Holidays. But there are two things that I find maddening about them. One, the perhaps heartfelt but stridently expressed view that this time of year belongs to Christians, exclusively to Christians, and none other need apply. There is only one way to enjoy this time of year, and it better well be theirs. I have nothing against Christmas as a religious holiday. If Jesus is the reason for your Season, God bless you and enjoy. I hope you find it uplifting, I really do. What I do not like is the insistence that there can be no other expression but this one. How does my Happy Holidays make someone else's Christmas less Merry? How does the mere existence of other traditions invalidate or take away from Christmas? I don't understand it. Further, in this time of peace and goodwill how can somebody, anybody, decree that only their group in fact deserves it and the rest should simply go away? Not a lot of goodwill to be found in that sentiment. Yet I encounter a distressing amount of the time.
Also on a related note, that there's some sort of war on Christmas. Really? War? Is somebody carpet bombing nativities that I'm unaware of? POW camps of carolers? Green Beret snipers taking out candle-lit processionals? That there are strident voices on both sides I admit. And I have no more patience with the No-Chritmas people. But nobody is engaging in the horrors that are associated with war. Can the hyperbole be toned down, just a bit? When words that are clearly out of proportion with what's going are used, not only does it make the person saying it look histrionic, it cheapens the word itself and lessens its meaning. And war is taken far too casually already, further erosion of it will not help. I realize many Christians are happily going about their season without bothering anybody. And I thank you, I haven't an ax to grind here. At least, not with you. But to the ones that insist that Jesus is the only reason for the season and sneeringly ask "Then whose birthday is it?" let me say, "Mithras, the Sun, the Holly King, Mabon." Or that you made it another year and just want a party. Not to mention the oil in the temple lasting 8 days. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. This season is ancient, far older than Christianity, and expansive enough to incorporate countless traditions if we simply live and let live. With some of the peace, goodwill, and brotherhood we go on so much about.
The second thing is my contemporaries who have nothing but Scrooge-like disdain for the entire enterprise. There is no reason for the season, and we'd be better of without it. First off, let me say that the human race has had a celebration of some sort at this time of year since we first realized the days got shorter and the nights got longer. And I think something in our deepest instincts needs it. Darkness is scary, uncertainty hard to live with. We like a brave face, to celebrate life amidst the season of death. And if we can do it with booze and food and pretty decorations, so much the better. Historically in England, when the Puritans removed the monarchy and replaced it with the Commonwealth Christmas was abolished. Churches were ordered closed and shops kept open. People were fined and imprisoned for observing the holiday. The monarchy was restored partially on the promise to bring back Christmas. Because, as a species, we need to party in the darkness and laugh in the face of death.
Now, I realize that aspects of the holiday party have gotten way out of hand. Macing or shooting somebody at Black Friday is just wrong, and going into debt is foolishness of the highest order. To celebrate the season to some is an excuse for inexcusable behavior, and these folks should not be off the hook for whatever stupidity they engender. But that doesn't mean the celebration or the myriad reasons for it are inherently bad. Even the most secular appearing things can be made sacred if done in a mindful and sacred manner. And I don't necessarily mean religious, though it is normally used in that context. I mean it more as something done with reverence. Take gift giving. A secular, and way over done, aspect of the holiday. But if done mindfully, it can be a sacred act. Purchasing a gift is a sacrifice. Not a large one, but still a sacrifice of time, money, and effort for the happiness of another. It's also a bargain with the universe, or universal powers, however you look at it. You are saying, "I have enough faith in the graciousness of Deity, the universe, whatever, to care for me that I can spare some of what I have." Gifts don't have to be large, expensive, or given with the expectation of reciprocation. They should be heartfelt, freely given, and well meant.
Lastly, there's a mysticism, a magic, to this time of year I find spellbinding. Think about it. The stories that surround this time are filled with magic and wonder. In many ways, Halloween and Christmas are reflections of each other. Both, at their hearts, deal with the interplay of light and darkness and the wonder, beauty, and magic that come from that interplay. I think that is as central and necessary to this time as all the other trappings of this holiday. Perhaps, if any agreement can be reached about the reason for the season it is this: we need hope, light, revelry, wonder, and the possibility of magic.
So I hope your holidays are happy, peaceful, and as secular or sacred as you chose to make them.