The approach of what I and many others call Christmas, is causing the same embarrassment as it always does. Some think we should wish one another “Happy Holidays” while others prefer “Merry (or Happy) Christmas.” Some of us get quite upset about it, too.
Naturally, we don’t expect our Jewish and Muslim neighbours to get into the Christmas spirit, but they are busy with their own festivals, Hanukkah and Milad un Nabi (I think the Prophet’s birthday occurred in December this year).
The Christ child’s birth will warm the hearts of Christians, overeating and overspending will gladden the hearts of our secular friends.
In pre-scientific days, people in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, offering sacrifices to encourage the sun to come back. For people whose survival depended on hunting and gathering, or even on farming, this turning point was of critical importance. The church, looking for ways to supplant pagan feasts, placed Christmas close to midwinter, in order to make switching less troublesome for ex-pagan converts.
Most of us today are fairly sure that winter, however long and dismal it may be, will come to an end sooner or later. Neo-pagans and Wiccans continue to perform their supplications to the sun, to convince it to turn back and awaken nature once again. And why not? It takes nothing away from the more recent religious observances. The Christ child’s birth will warm the hearts of Christians, overeating and overspending will gladden the hearts of our secular friends.
I expect cynics will simmer contentedly in their acid-bath, muttering “Bah, humbug!” There’s really no need to get all militant over it, is there?
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everybody, regardless of culture or philosophical persuasion, a very happy winter festival. In our house it’s Christmas, the rebirth of simplicity and gentleness in the world, but we’ve no objection those who encourage the sun to stay in business. In fact, I hope they’ll continue to build on past successes, and get us an early spring.
Be as happy as you can, and please, all you merrymakers, don’t drink and drive!