Another Holiday Down

December 27, 2009 at 1:40 am (Uncategorized)

And so another Holiday Season begins to fade.  Christmas is done, and the Boxing day madness is over (I can’t do the sales anymore – I just don’t have the stamina). Oh sure, there’s New Year’s (the most overrated holiday of the year in my opinion), but that specialness is fading.

When I was a kid,  I loved Christmas. I absolutely believed in Father Christmas. My parents would tell me that if I wasn’t asleep when he came, he wouldn’t leave presents. This of course had the opposite effect they intended: now I was even more tense about sleep, making it doubly difficult to drift off. But eventually, it would happen, and then came the morning.  There were few things more exciting than waking up at some unearthly hour  on December 25 and seeing gifts. My sister and I had a pact, so that whoever woke first would wake the other immediately. Then came the long wait until my parents, usually my mother, rose, and we still had to wash up, get dressed and have breakfast before the serious business of opening presents began.  

My family were nominally Christians, but it was never a religious celebration for us.  After being baptized, I don’t think my family ever took me to church, so when I abandoned religion at the beginning of my teens, Christmas didn’t really change much.  Gradually though, it became less significant

The big change for me was when I began dating the woman who is now my wife. She was not raised in a Christian household, and hadn’t ever really celebrated Christmas at all. Introducing her to the notion of the big party and gift-giving made it all fun again. But that too faded. Then of course came the kids, which made everything exciting again. My son’s favourite gift this year was a Pokemon book, and my daughter liked a stylish bag I found for her. It’s different from when I was a kid, but some of the rituals and traditions are still fun.

Christmas is a cultural phenomenon beyond Christianity. You may be a Christian, or you may not be a Christian; you may celebrate Christmas, or , you may not celebrate Christmas, but you can’t avoid it. It the same way that Shakespeare or the Bible informs our linguistic sensibilities, Christmas is a part too. 

Now, if you want to proclaim Jesus is the reason for the Season, that’s OK with me. (although much of the Christmas story is stolen wholesale out of other cultures or spun out of the air – so don’t proclaim it too close to me.   Mark is the best Gospel to read because it’s the first, and it doesn’t even make mention of the baby in the manger nonsense) 

Nevertheless, it’s  always amusing to hear the culture warriors proclaim once again the war on Christmas is in full effect. I work in a multi-cultural immigrant environment where probably the majority of people are not Christians. They all wish me “Merry Christmas,” although I’m not sure whether it’s because they think I’m a Christian, or they just think it’s the thing to say. In conversation though, no one has ever expressed anger at being wished a Merry Christmas. (I wish everyone happy Eids, Tamil New Years, Dewalis etc, and no one minds that either)

I was watching a call-in TV show the other day where a caller who worked as a receptionist, told a story of having wished a visitor a merry Christmas and received the curt reply that it wasn’t his holiday. Was this an oppressed man subjugated beneath the smothering Christian culture? Or was  he just an oaf who couldn’t respond politely to another human being?

After all, isn’t Christmas a capitalist holiday…? (If you’re interested in some of the origins and cultural traditions associated with this holiday, you might check out Stephen Nissembaum’s The Battle For Christmas – highly recommended)

For my part, I prefer the story of the Christmas Truce as my favourite holiday story.


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