Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christms, Xmas, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, & other Holiday Issues...

First off, I want to say that I don't want to make it a habit of mine to post political or religious material on a regular basis. I want those posting to only be a rare occurrence. This is because there are so many other blogs dealing with those issues, and I doubt that I have any more insight than others out there. That being said, here is my take on this holiday season & the controversies that seem to come up more frequently each year.

I totally enjoy Christmas. That may surprise many who know that I'm very agnostic in my religious views. In many ways, I'm probably an atheist; however, considering that I don't know everything, I think it's safer (and more accurate) to say that I don't think there is a God (or higher power) rather than say, "There is no God."

I enjoy the Holiday or Christmas season because it's meant to be an inclusive time for everyone. Even from it's pagan beginnings in the Scandinavian/German areas, it was meant to be a time to gather with friend & family. A time to look forward to better, warmer times that were on the horizon. In the Norse traditions, strangers would be given refuge from the bitter cold at this time. This kind of tradition was eventually adopted by Christians when they came later.

However, there is one part of the Holidays that I've come to loathe within the last 15 years or so. That is all the harping, groaning, & bitching about "The salesclerk said, 'Happy Holidays' to me instead of 'Merry Christmas.'; 'The liberals are waging war on Christmas!'; 'Remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.'" I just don't get why this is suddenly an issue as of 1990 when I didn't remember it being a big deal in the years before that.

Back when I lived in Alabama, I could always count on several Letters to the Editor of newspapers, from people who are 'insulted' that someone dared say, "Happy Holidays" to them instead of "Merry Christmas." They act like this is a new thing. They act like this is some liberal atheistic plot to diminish or banish Christmas. It's none of that. Just watch the old Warner Bros. cartoons from the '40s. Happy Holidays, Xmas, & Merry Christmas are used fairly equally throughout them. It's been that way since before I was born.

As to sales clerks using Happy Holidays, I'm all for that. I was a sales clerk at one time. I also remember that I started using Happy Holidays exclusively after wishing a customer Merry Christmas. The customer was a bit put-off, and she informed me that she was, "Jehovah's Witness and [did] not celebrate or believe in Christmas" (her words to me). I then realized that this time was also Hanukkah, so Happy Holidays would be more appropriate & more inclusive of everyone.

When it comes to "Jesus is the reason for the season," nothing can be further from the truth. The time of year was used, as I mentioned before, by the Scandinavians for their Winter Solstice celebrations. This was done thousands of years before Jesus was born. Also, the Romans celebrated a festival around the same time called Saturnalia to celebrate the Roman god Saturn. Again, the Roman festival was a regular event long before Jesus was born. However, there's another reason why that adage isn't correct. That's because, if you go by the Biblical account, Jesus was born in a time of warmer temperatures. This is born out by passage stating shepherds were with their flocks at night, outside. This is a practice done during the 'lambing' season in which lambs are born. The shepherds used to (and still do in some cases today) to protect the new lambs from predators at night. Lambs are normally born in the spring, which is a much better climate to sleep outside at night than in December.

The December 25th celebration date for Jesus' birth was taken by early Christians from these pagan holidays. That's because the pagans were not about to give up their celebrations that had been going on for centuries. The Christians wanted their holiday celebrated too, so a white lie was done in order to put the birthday celebration in the forefront to those they wanted to convert.

Okay, now that I've raked the Christians over the coals, it's time for equal treatment. Another thing I dislike seeing at this time of year is the humbugging of the holiday by non-Christians. I'm a non-Christian myself, and I think this is a time of year to come together, not tear apart.

Here in Washington, a group of atheists posted a placard in the statehouse next to the state Christmas tree, Menorah, and other symbols of the season. I don't have a problem with this. I think everyone should be represented at this time as I've already stated. What I didn't agree with was the language that was used on the atheist plaque. It brutally said something like, "There is no God, angels, Jesus, or such. Religion is a myth. Celebrate the holiday with reason." I can get behind the last part; it's always best, in my opinion, to use reason in all things. I do take exception to how they worded the rest of their plaque. I think they could've stated their beliefs without ripping apart or insulting the beliefs of others. If nothing else, it's just not polite, and it's certainly not a reasoned approach. Had they used more reason, maybe they would've gotten the message across without so much acrimony.

By the way, Xmas is not an atheistic attempt to get Christ out of Christmas. It's a legitimate short-hand for Christmas. The early Christians were Jewish & Greeks. In the Greek alphabet the C equivalent is X, and the Greek Christians used X as a short-hand for themselves. So they would refer to themselves as Xians. It's not a giant leap to then get Xmas using this rational.

The bottom line is that this time of year is one of forgiveness & inclusion. We shouldn't worry about what others are doing, and just try to make the world a better place.

I hope you all have a Great Holiday or Non-Holiday whichever you prefer. :)