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