Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Midwinter Celebrations*

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Santa, reindeer, stockings, trees with lights and baubles, acquisition of material goods to be had under said tree, turkeys, honey-roast parsnips, brussels sprouts, mince pies, dense dried-fruit puddings with rich brandy cream, roasted chestnuts, advent calendars with chocolates, eating to excess, snow, mid-winter, robins, tinsel, cards and exchanges of gifts.

I have, in fact, read the bible from cover to cover and none of these things are mentioned anywhere in relation to Christ, his birth or his teachings. Oh, I know he was given gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was born, but he didn’t hand the 3 wise men an X-Box, a pair of slippers and a DVD of High School Musical 3 in return.

With the exception of the obligatory primary school Nativity Play, and the name of the festival, Christmas has very little to do with Christ and/or Christianity.

And I think this is where the embarrassment and confusion for non-Christians, agnostics, Christened-but-only-go-to-church-for-weddings-and-funerals and other never-really-thought-about-it pseudo Christians comes in: how to celebrate it without causing offence to people of other faiths.

“Season’s Greetings!” “Happy Holidays!” and “Mine’s a sherry!” we say, worried about how anyone who is not Christian but cares about their religion might take it if Xmas is mentioned (and isn’t X-mas a great get-out of mentioning Christ too?).

Alternatively we might feel a tad hypocritical yelling, “Merry Christmas!” if we’re not actually Christians ourselves. I mean, how comfortable would I be saying, “Happy Hanukah!” to Jews, “Merry Ramadan!” to Muslims or “May your chalk circles keep your demons in check!” to Satanists?

As non-Christians it wouldn’t matter to us what it was called. The reality is we enjoy this time of year as a family, with it’s little rituals, sparkling lights, excited children and tasty food all happening when the nights are long and the sun is rarely seen. In fact, life would be a great deal easier, and certainly less hypocritical if the Christ bit was dropped.

I can fully understand why more committed Christians bemoan the fact their celebration of the birth of their saviour has been hijacked and turned into something nothing to do with His teachings, because it has (even if the early Christians hijacked the pagan mid-winter festivals in order to assist the spread of their own religion).

But I can also sympathise with everyone who wants to have a warm cosy family time with gifts, comfortable rituals and a bit of excess, without having to worry about religious overtones.

Given the real heart of Christianity lies not in the birth of Jesus, but his resurrection from death on the cross, perhaps the big Christian festival of the year ought to be Easter, rather than Christmas, and December 25th ought to be abandoned to the revellers.

However, that particular Spring festival seems to have been hijacked by chocolate eggs and bunnies…



*Or Happy Midsummer Celebrations to our friends south of the equator
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21 comments:

Restaurant Gal said...

Tonight is a festival of lights on the water--the annual boat parade. It is all about fun and festivities and a glittering rainbow winding its way up the Intracoastal Waterway. I can see it all from where I currently live. In a land where the sun shines and the air is always warm, it's hard to conjure up a holiday season according to the traditions in which I grew up. And as my traditional past life fades from my reality a little more each day, I welcome these boats.

debra said...

You're looking dapper with the red hat, Kim. The Ramanukamas solstice hat.....

Jeff said...

Kim, great post and as usual you make us all think. This time of year I always think back to my time in the UK and the village of Uppingham and it's annual late night shopping event. With all in Dickens era clothing, street vendors and singing groups roaming the streets. And it always ended at The Vaults for a few pints. Now there is a holiday memory. Well my friend have a great December with the family and friends.

Peace Dude!

Sayre said...

Funny... we were working on putting up our Christmas decorations (sans anything nativity-like) today and had a very similar discussion. It's hard to define exactly WHAT we are - we do not go to church (but have on occasion). We still somehow consider ourselves Christian - mostly because that's how we were raised.

PI said...

With my own cynicism about Christmas as it is treated today I still love to see crib scenes - it reminds me of a happy childhood and Sunday School. At some stage I will hear carols and be swept by a wave of nostalgia remembering Christmases past and loved ones no longer here. You don't have to be a 'Jesus freak' to see beyond the commercialisation of the holiday and to celebrate family, goodness and all the beauty in the world.
Happy Christmas Kim to you and the family.xox

Conan Drumm said...

I'm all for the Solstice, and Christmas, and whateveryou'rehavingyourself!

Here we've got a 5,000 year-old monument at Newgrange that's constructed to let in the rising mid-winter sun. Christianity's got a lot of catching up to do.

michael greenwell said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guLKl3v7XFI

Kim Ayres said...

Restaurant Gal - sounds wonderful :)

Debra - I was about to look up Ramanukamas on Google, then got it :) Then I did look it up and there were no other references in the world, so that's a first for you :)

Jeff - Well Christmas as we know it seems far more invented by the Victorians than anyone else.

Why I barely feel the season has started until some dirt-covered young scamp dressed in rags comes up and asks for a penny for his ailing mother and then steals my wallet...

Sayre - Ah, "Default Christians" - I think there are a lot about

Pat - it's very easy to be cynical. However, I've found since I got this Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it takes too much energy out of me to be too cynical so I've become much more laid back about the whole thing. "Righteous Indignation" is just too tiring :)

Conan - 5,000 years? do you think the brussels spouts will be ready yet?

Michael - I see you still do have the energy for Righteous Indignation :)

Fat Lazy Guy said...

Fantastic post. And cheers for that little shoutout to us southern hemisphere folk :D

savannah said...

i'm all about my birthday, sugar! december is all about me, me, me...i consider everyone's celebrations part of mine! ;) xoxox

(last night was luminarias night here on the plantation. we put ours out along with the rest of our neighbors. i have fun with all the festivities!)

Mary Witzl said...

I love what Pat said -- that is pretty much how I feel too. I try to ignore all the glitz and advertising hype of Christmas and concentrate on the joy. I might not be a traditional Christian, but I like to think of Christmas as a celebration of unselfish generosity. I'll take rustic creches over disco Christmas songs and expensive gifts any day. And Christmas cookies -- you can't have Christmas (or any mid-winter festival) without those.

Mary Witzl said...

And I love the way your posts always make me think...

Kim Ayres said...

FLG - I had you specifically in mind when I wrote that footnote :)

Savannah - with your birthday on the last day of the year, I guess the entire 12 months has been leading up to it :)

Mary - Christmas cookies... mmmMMMmmm... Maggie made some wee mouthwatering morsels yesterday - take your dried-fruit mincemeat, mix it half and half with chocolate, add a large splash of cointreau. Roll into wee balls, pour a wee blob of melted white chocolate on top of each ball and top with a piece of glace cherry.

Aaaarrrgggglllle, slobber, drool

Phil said...

Hi Kim. I keep seeing your name on Mary's blog so I thought I'd come and have a look.

Good reflective writing.

(Had a look at your stuff on You Tube too - enjoyed.)

Don't worry - I don't have time to stalk!

Phil

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Phil - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment. Do you have a blog of your own?

Phil said...

Hi Kim. No, I don't have a blog - just dip into Mary's. Like the idea, don't have the time to do it justice at the moment. Maybe in the future.

I do write and post on Great Writing. That's where I 'met' Mary - a couple of years or more ago.

All the best.

Phil

Kim Ayres said...

Well I'll take that as a compliment then :)

Lisa said...

Loved this entry! Your humor is so true and had me chuckling and smiling--especially on that very last line. Great blog!
Lisa in Kentucky

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Lisa :)

carlie_star said...

i'm sure jc would have been keen on party times that bring friends and families together he wasn't really big on rules and religion anyway

Kim Ayres said...

He wasn't, but the vast majority of the churches built in his name are very big on rules