This year is my first Christmas away from home, as it is my first Christmas with my husband. We will still be going home to see both of our parents, but we will be spending Christmas eve, day, and most of the holiday in Calgary. I'm really looking forward to it. I am excited to see my parents, my husband's parents, and I am excited for cozy days watching movies, reading books, and baking up a storm. I've been thinking about Christmas. Mostly in terms of looking outwards to other people. Christmas gets a lot of flack, and I don't understand. I've never been able to understand. People say such negative things, and focus on the bad, on the "consumerism", the Christian-ness, and so on. It's almost as if most people have this idea that Christmas shouldn't be anything that it is, or ever has been. I'm not sure what they think it should be, really. I've decided to discuss my beliefs, thoughts, and responses to all of these "issues" that people bring up.
Now, before I get started, I'm going to say that I am writing this only to collect my own thoughts, and maybe give people something to think about. I am not trying to convince anyone to see things my way, or believe what I believe. That would be ridiculous. But maybe, just maybe, I'll encourage people to think about why people do enjoy Christmas, and why it can hurt or be upsetting when people try to destroy it.
1. Christmas is a Christian holiday.
Yes, yes, yes. I know that Jesus wasn't born in the winter. I know the early Christians chose to place the celebration of it around the same time of the year as the Yule, to encourage Pagans to become Christian. Now, this was a long, long, long time ago. The same people who criticize Christmas for being at a different time than when Jesus would have been born are the same people who don't think that Jesus was even a real person. If He never existed, then why does it matter when the holiday is? Not to mention the fact that it's interesting that early Christians adopted Pagan traditions in the hope to create unity. Sure, it's to try to convert people, but the sharing and adopting of traditions is something to be appreciated. Now, while the holiday is around the same time as Yule, and the Winter Solstice, Christmas has been celebrated at this time for thousands of years. At this point, what does anyone expect to happen by saying that Christmas isn't at the time of year that it "should be"? I mean, in the Spring when Jesus would have been born, we have Easter, and it seems odd for a religion to celebrate their Messiah's birth and observe the Messiah's death within the same month or so.
2. Replacing "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Holidays".
This one has always simultaneously made me laugh, and made me angry. Whenever people try to tell people not to say Merry Christmas, it's like saying that no religious person should wish someone specific blessings. At the same time, people generally want to replace Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays to make it non-denominational, and make it non-religious. Yet, the word 'holiday' comes from 'holy day'. If that's not religious, I don't know what is.
I just don't think that anyone should try to tell people what to say and what not to say. If someone wants to wish you a Merry Christmas, let them. They are sharing their joy with you, and are wishing that you have a happy time of this year. Why would you reject that? How many other times of the year do people wish blessings upon you, or genuinely wish joy upon you? That shouldn't be shunned, that should be embraced.
3. Declaring how consumerist the season is.
I can't disagree, but I don't think it's much more consumerist than any other time of the year. We always buy stuff that we don't need. I think the difference is that we buy for other people, to try to bring joy. At least, that's the dream. For anyone who is so annoyed at how consumerist the season is, just focus on something else. Instead of buying gifts, just make, create, offer something else. It doesn't have to be about stuff. It isn't about stuff. For me, personally, Christmas is my favourite time of year, because I like giving, and I like making. Nothing makes me feel happier than giving to other people. Material things aren't for everyone, but it shouldn't be trod on. Christmas is the craziest, but a lot of people buy $5 coffee every day of the year.
4. Guilt-provoking adverts on T.V.
This is a pet peeve of mine, and a lot of people share my thoughts. You know all of those ads on TV for giving money to third world countries? I don't like them. Part of this comes from the fact that they are only shown around Christmas time, and they are designed to guilt. It is not charity if you are doing it out of guilt, and you only give once a year. This is completely separate from the other topics I've been covering, but it bothers me.
5. Changing lyrics in Christmas songs to be non-denominational and non-religious.
I am part of a steampunk group, and they were organizing to do Christmas caroling while in Victorian garb. I wanted to do it, but I couldn't do it, because some people wanted to change the words, and only have Yule and non-religious based songs. Fine. Whatever. But in Victorian clothing, guess what makes the most sense? Singing Victorian Christmas carols. Those carols are the ones that you can find in Church hymnals. Victorians would have been singing about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and good King Wenceslas. I think it's a bit insensitive and flat out pointless to change the words of hymns. Especially when the hymns carry far more meaning than any other songs.
6. Keeping Christ in Christmas.
There is always the whole thing with the true meaning of Christmas, and all that jazz. I think that it is most articulately put at the end of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. "That is the Christmas star. It means something different to everyone. And now I know what it means for me" (paraphrased). While Christmas is a Christian holiday, that doesn't mean that other people can't find their own meaning in it. For some, that is Christ. For others, it is spreading joy and good will. Whatever Christmas means to you, celebrate it. Don't give it a different name. Don't try to change it. Christ taught of good will, treating others well, and bringing peace. It doesn't matter who tells you to believe in those things. Hold on to it. That is what Christmas is about. Don't get caught up in being negative about imperfection, bad memories, or consumerism. Move past it. Christmas is what you make it. Even if it is not celebrating Christmas at all. Christmas can be the most important date on the calendar, or just another day to check off. If you don't celebrate Christmas, don't try to stop other people from celebrating it. You never know what it means to someone. Just remember that every time someone wishes you Merry Christmas, they are trying to share joy. It does go beyond all the packages and sparkling decorations. In writing this last paragraph, I am rendering some of my previous statements obsolete. I realize that. Like I said, I'm mostly writing this to think through some things, and get it out into the world. Maybe other people are having the same questions as I am. I guess to boil everything down... Christmas is a beautiful time of year. If you don't like it, don't stop other people from loving it. Let's all share the fact that people of so many cultures, faiths, and beliefs can share in celebration during the Winter, particularly December. This was a ramble. I think I've lost sight of what I was aiming to do in this writing. Whatever the case... I know what matters to me. I am excited for Christmas. For sharing with my loved ones, with my friends. I hope that you are too.