Yes, this is a rant post. Consider yourself warned!!
I can't stand it.
I was really hoping that since 25 December has come and gone, the topic of Christmas would be packed away with the decorations for another year.
We are still inundated with the arguments for and against Christmas.
We are still inundated with the arguments whether Christmas is a religious or a secular holiday.
We are still inundated with arguments about the appropriate form of seasonal well-wishing. (Damn. That was an exceptionally good PC line, if I do say so myself.)
For a "joyous" holiday, there sure seems to be a lot of bitching and moaning.
Okay. So lets take a good look at the whole mess.
Let's look at the "It's Jesus' Birthday" issue:
December 25th is the birthday of Jesus Christ and therefore it is a Christian holiday.
Um. Well. No.
First off, nowhere in the Bible will you find December 25th listed as the day Jesus Christ was born. Sorry.
Second, a little research will show that according to the Bible, Jesus really could NOT have been born in December on any day. Sorry again.
The most telling evidence from the Bible itself is that it clearly states at the time of Jesus' birth the shepherds were watching their flocks of sheep in the fields at night. Being very concerned over the health and well-being of their food/wool/offering animals, shepherds in that part of the world didn't have their flocks out in the fields at night after mid-to-late October. Ergo, if the Bible is correct, Jesus could not have been born during the "winter season".
Third, prior to the reign of Emperor Constantine, beginning ca.320 CE + or - a few years depending on source used, there was NO tradition linking 25 December to the birth of Jesus Christ. Sorry, once more.
So, why 25 December?
Ohhh. Now THAT is the Big Money Question!
Let your mind, Gentle Reader, drift back to the interesting period of about 100 to say... 600 CE. On both the secular and religious fronts, wars for increased territory and influence were the norm. Kings and emperors wanted more land and subjects (gotta keep that tax revenue coming in, and the demand for slaves and foreign goods to keep the masses happy was a constant drain.); while those who would become "Princes of the Church" (mind you, there really WAS only one predominant Christian "church"/sect in those far-off days.) wanted converts any way they could get them-- converts meant increase in church revenues, and converting a king or emperor was like hitting a multi-million dollar lottery in terms of gained wealth and political power. One large problem loomed on their bright and shining horizon though.
Those Pesky Pagans.
The early Christian religious leaders had more than a few problems, but I'll mention only two that matter to this topic. On the one hand, the Christian-ized peasants were clamoring for a day to celebrate Jesus' birth; on the other hand, a multitude of pesky pagans weren't buying Christianity at all-- they were even killing off the missionary-types sent to enlighten them!
So, some bright fellow thought up a way to fix the problem: tell everyone that the day those stubborn pagans were having their large mid-winter celebration on was REALLY the day Christ was born! Yep. Replace "bad" celebrations with "good" ones. Worked too. In fact, it worked so well that monks sent out as missionaries were told to do something similar to any pagan "holidays" or any pagan "holy" sites they found. A little research turns up example after example of this policy. Don't take my word for it, go do some research of your own, and you might be surprised at how much of this sort of thing happened. Check out the dates of the various equinoxes and solstices. Look into the various harvest and spring festivals. Go on, I dare you.
Of course, sometimes propaganda doesn't work. That's when you bring in those kings you converted and let their armies do the work for you. Now, mind, it wasn't just the early "christian" Powers-That-Were that did this "convert by the sword" sort of thing, but they were quite probably the best at it. Or at least the best remembered. And it worked nearly as well as the propaganda did.
Why call it "Christmas"?
Well, now, "Christmas" is a smushed together form of the original "Christ's Mass". Ayup. Think that one through.
Yes, my little poinsetta, "Christmas" itself is a religious holiday. Moreover, it is a Christian holiday. However, it seems that it is also a secular holiday if one is giving gifts and using 25 December as a starting point to celebrate the ending of an old year and the beginning of a new one. Winter Solstice has occured throughout recorded history between 20 - 26 December with its accompanying celebrations, religious or no. And Yule, with its Yule log to bring luck and good things in the coming year. By any name, this time of the year is one of celebration and renewal. I'd say that makes it also a "pagan" holiday.
So, put that Nativity scene in front of your house or your church if your church allows such things. Let the schoolchildren make HOLIDAY or SEASONAL cards for mum and dad if they wish, rather than just "Christmas" cards. Teach about ALL winter "holiday" celebrations from the fascinating variety of cultures that make up the world's population. Exchanging gifts at this time of year has been going on since the first human decided it would be fun to have a party in the middle of winter, so why NOT exchange seasonal gifts if you like and care about someone-- why must such gift-giving have to have religious overtones?
However, (and yeah, this is a BIG however,) unless ALL religious faiths (including those considered "pagan") that celebrate a holiday (holy day) and those of the atheist persuasion that just celebrate, are given equal space for celebration displays--- they don't belong in government offices or on government property and they don't belong in the workplace. Sorry, but they don't. Not unless EVERYONE gets an equal say and equal display. No discrimination.
Let's stop the finger-pointing, the name-calling, and the "my way or the highway" truckload of cowfloppies. How difficult is it to reserve religion-overtoned wishes and greetings for the people you know share your religious beliefs? How difficult is it to just wish a generic "Seasons Greetings" to those who don't share those beliefs, or those whose beliefs you don't know?
Stop the insanity, people.
Do some research on your own. Respect the beliefs and faiths of others. Celebrate life.
And quit telling me that I'm a horrible person if my beliefs don't match yours.
Comment if you will, but be aware that I do not argue that any religion is "better" or more "valid" than any other. And yes, I have read the Bible. More than once, and various versions. And the Apocrypha. And the Book of Mormon. And a number of translations of other non-christian religious writings. Am I an expert in religious studies? No, but I seek knowledge of many things in many areas. The day I stop learning, I stop living.
And now, I have another batch of seasonal cookies to bake and a cup of mulled cider is calling my name.
I'm not going to list the umpty-zillions of websites available to research the origins of Christmas and other holidays. A basic Google search on the subject of holiday origins nets you over 970,000 hits. After the first 20 or so sites, it's pretty much all the same. Same goes for books-- not all books that discuss the topic are available in all libraries. The information is out there, and I wouldn't deny you the pleasure of digging it out yourself. Education is work.
Seasons Greetings, and I hope that regardless of what you may or may not be celebrating, your next year will be ever-so-much better than your last!