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December 2, 2005

Get a Frickin' Grip, People!

The Jawa Report has a horrible point that I'm not even sure they realize: everyone needs to get a frickin' grip on the whole Christmas/holiday thing. Let's take it from the top.

This time of the year coincides with several actual holidays involving the giving of presents and the celebration of rebirth. These include not only Christmas, but Chanukah and Yule. In addition, Christmas is also celebrated secularly by many atheists and other non-Christians. (And, for the matter, the racial "holiday" of Kwanzaa, which I still don't get the point of.) Now, it turns out that the religious holidays and the secular celebration of Christmas have a certain number of core similarities, and it is perfectly reasonable for retailers not to want to annoy their non-Christian customers.

So the people who are getting annoyed about calling it a holiday tree in the store, or holiday ornaments, or what have you, need to get a frickin' grip: it's not going to kill you to realize that not everyone is a Christian, and many of those people celebrate holidays at this time of the year as well. Hey, while we're at it, let's take a look at the celebration of Christmas:

  • Christmas tree: Pagan (N. European, to be exact, and the ornaments evolved from hanging apples on the tree to encourage the trees to bear fruit again)
  • festival of lights: Pagan (Scandinavian, IIRC) and Jewish
  • Deck the Halls, and holly/ivy in general: Pagan (Celtic, to be precise)
  • sacrificial god born in the dead of Winter to save his people: Pagan (Mithraism, which was commonly practiced by Roman soldiers, and others; it's a pretty common Pagan theme)
  • eating ham to relieve the mid-Winter fast that happened before we had year-round availability of fresh food: Pagan (Norse, to be precise; go listen to the Boar's Head Carol)

But it's also perfectly reasonable for stores to recognize that 70% or more of Americans are Christians, and most of the rest were raised as Christians. (This includes both my wife and I, who were raised as formless and somewhat non-observant Christians, and who are now Pagans.) Even a lot of non-Christians celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. (This includes us; we celebrate Yule as a religious holiday, with stories and activities talking about the changing of the seasons and the cycle of the Wheel of the Year, and celebrate Christmas with gift-giving and gathering with family and friends.) So people who get all bent out of shape when they see Christmas trees advertised as such in stores need to get a frickin' grip. Let's take a look at the secular celebration of Christmas:

  • Santa Claus: a take on Saint Nicolas, a Christian (priest, if I recall) that did great works of charity in mid-Winter, like feeding those who didn't have enough food (the lumps of coal were fuel, people)
  • gift-giving: related to the idea of Christian charity expressed by Santa Clause, and to laud the coming sacrifice of the Christian god for his people

So let's all show a little Christian charity, Pagan reverence, Jewish joy at simple survival for another year, and secular tolerance. And while we're at it, let's grow up a bit, okay? Surely, that will make everyone more satisfied, no matter how they celebrate (or don't) the mid-Winter festivals, holidays and holy days.

Posted by jeff at December 2, 2005 1:55 PM

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Saint Nicholas was an Orthodox Christian Bishop. He is considered a Saint by both the Orthodox and Roman Churches. His hagiography includes many miracles and wonder workings.

Saint Nicholas is also considered the 'Sailors Saint' for his blessings of ships prior to departing port. His relics may be found in Bari, Italy.

Posted by: SeniorD at December 3, 2005 8:02 AM