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Merry Christmas?

Entry 1256, on 2010-12-24 at 14:45:11 (Rating 3, Comments)

There are various topics which the more conservative members of society like to spend time complaining about. Some of them are genuine issues and others are primarily invented issues which seem to be designed just to provide an excuse to cause trouble.

Around this time of year there is one which is almost certain to appear in conservative emails lists and discussion forums. It's the old issue of what the name of the celebration which occurs at this time should be. Traditionally it has been called Christmas, of course, and that is the name most people use, but the conservatives seem to be under the illusion that there is a conspiracy to remove Christmas from our modern vocabulary, presumably to deny the Christian element associated with it.

So there are stories circulating saying that the US president has demanded that traditional Christmas symbols should be banned from the White House (untrue) or that liberal politicians are working secretly to remove Christmas as an official holiday (untrue) or that various other seemingly outrageous acts are happening (all of which are untrue as far as I know).

And these same people seem to get extremely upset if other people use alternative greetings such as "happy holidays" instead of the traditional greeting "Merry Christmas". But I have never yet come across anyone with more liberal attitudes who really cares. For example, I use several different versions of the greeting and I accept them all from others without any problems. So it's only the conservatives who seem to be even making a fuss about this!

The fact is that the word Christmas has clear Christian connections but the actual event has lost that meaning in many places and for many people so that it has become a more generic holiday. Surveys have indicated that people see Christmas as a time to take a break from work, or to eat and drink a lot, or to spend time with friends and family, but far fewer think of it primarily in the religious sense.

And as I have pointed out on many occasions, the celebration of Christmas comes originally from solstice celebrations and the Christian meaning was just used in place of much older pagan ones. So whether this time of year represents a celebration of mid (southern) summer, or the end of the year, or of the alleged birth of some religious figure it doesn't really matter.

While I would prefer to use the term "solstice" instead of Christmas I understand that most people wouldn't know what I'm talking about and I am happy to continue using the traditional word instead because let's get real and admit that Christianity was a very important part of the history of western civilisation.

So use merry Christmas, or happy holidays, or sunny solstice or whatever. It's all fine with me. And to all of those grumpy old conservatives out there: get over it!

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Comment 1 (2848) by SBFL on 2010-12-25 at 08:46:11:

I never heard such complaints, not in the mainstream anyway. Maybe it's you with the chip on the shoulder looking for a topic to blog about... But then again, you have a rare trip into the rational with this comment:

"...and I am happy to continue using the traditional word [Christmas] instead because let's get real and admit that Christianity was a very important part of the history of western civilisation."

Christmas has long become the mainstream even though the mainstream aren't all Christian. Yet is still survives in the form it has been for centuries. But what is the problem for non-believers exactly? Surely there is none. They don't complain when they go to Thailand and see influence of Buddhism, or go to India and see influences of Hinduism, or go to Indonesia and see influences of Islam. It's part of their culture. I can go to those countries, engage with the people and while not believing their religion, at least respecting their faith, their culture, without moaning. Christianity is part of Western culture, and still is today. It's the way it is. Like OJB said, "let's get real".

PS Merry Christmas.

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Comment 2 (2849) by OJB on 2010-12-25 at 21:22:35:

No, as I said, it's not the mainstream media but "conservative emails lists and discussion forums" which are the source of these complaints. I like to visit those scary places to check the latest issues my political opponents are interested in!

I don't know if I agree that Christmas really survives in the same form it has had for centuries as you suggest. Surely the increasing commercialisation and decreased religiosity has changed it significantly.

I fully accept Christianity is an important part of our culture. Of course whether it's true and whether it's an overall positive influence are different questions!

PS happy holidays and sunny solstice!

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Comment 3 (2850) by SBFL on 2011-01-01 at 07:11:33:

Oh, those secret "conservative emails lists and discussion forums". Seems you have moe access than I !!

Well it's still about the birth of Christ and still a Christian celebration, but agree there has been increased commercialisation in the past few deades. If non-Christians want to focus on buying presents, buying Chistmas Trees and taking their kids to Santa Claus at the mall, then so be it. I have no beef with that.

Funnily enough I am in Israel right now (Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, for New Years Eve), visiting all the religous, historical and geographical sites (over 12 days, currently completed 4). Even came across some of your mates as tour groups - the American fundies! Nice people I have to say, even if I consider my self more moderate. Rest assured these are more normal everyday folk, not the zealots you speak of in your Internet travels!

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Comment 4 (2851) by OJB on 2011-01-02 at 12:03:27:

Are you saying there are no extreme conservative groups who hold these views? Surely you wouldn't suggest that. I'm not saying all conservatives believe this stuff, just some of those who are bit more prone to conspiracies.

It's not all about Christ at all. It was originally about pagan festivals centered around the solstice. Then it was almost entirely about the (alleged) birth of Christ. Now it is about commercialism, holidays, and the Christian meaning, as well as other things.

Wow, Christmas in Israel. Sounds great (even without the religious connotations). Fundies vary greatly and sometimes it takes a while to realise what they are really like. There's only one common factor: they believe a load of crap that no reasonable person would consider credible.

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