December 22, 2008

The Controversy Surrounding Christmas

Season's greetings! Happy holidays! Rather generic, wouldn't you say? Do I say season's greetings in the middle of summer, because it can apply. Summer is a season. Do I say happy holidays when I take time off work? Well yes, because any time off work is happy. But that's not what I mean.

I've been avoiding the retailers as much as possible this year, opting to do most of my shopping online safely in my cave of solitude somewhere in Lloydminster. Also, as I write this, a brutal cold spell has set upon the Border City and area. The wind chill is currently hovering at -50, give or take a few degrees. I'm not going out except for work and to get basic necessities. When I ventured out before this chill, a friend's concern pointed out a curious lack of the word Christmas. Now I'm noticing it everywhere.

I was baptized by the Roman Catholic church, and I have United Church roots as well. I understand that the origins of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Because his mother Mary and his (stepfather?) Joseph couldn't find adequate shelter in Bethlehem, the baby was born in a barn among livestock. Three wise men (the Magi) bearing gifts were guided to him by a star. Angels heralded his birth to a group of shepherds, probably scaring the living daylights out of them. All in all, a fascinating story.

The underlying concept of Christmas is that Christ was a gift from God to the world, bringing in turn the gift of redemption and everlasting life.

It's unknown what the exact month was, but the Catholic Church figures that Christ was born on the 25th. It's likely that December was chosen so the Catholic Church could contend with rival pagan rituals also held at that time of year. The December 21 winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere is a traditional time of celebration among many ancient cultures. Considering the current weather we're experiencing I would have preferred that they decided to have it during the summer solstice.

Symbols such as decorated trees, mistletoe, holly wreaths and yule logs all have non-Christian origins. Christmas only recently adopted these long-standing winter traditions into its own identity. Many non-Christians argue that the most accurate description of this season is the "holiday" season, not the "Christmas" season, which only describes the religious celebration of Christ's birth.

This censorship also includes Easter and Good Friday, where expressions such as "Spring Holiday" are sometimes used to avoid a public mention of these celebrations. Why? Are the groups responsible for the quiet censorship worried about somehow offending people? Surely there are Scrooges out there who say humbug to it, but the majority won't. Whatodds, I say.

I went back to Newfoundland last year, but this year I'll be celebrating Christmas in Lloydminster with some close friends. It's always rough to be so far from home this time of year, but we'll be drawing strength from one another.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. See ye all next year.