As we approach the holiday season in the United States it’s a time for many to reflect on the past year and look forward to spending time with the family. For some it’s a time for copy-paste rabble-rousing. So you might see this kind of thing making the rounds:
DO NOT CARE IF THIS DOES OFFENDS SOMEONE… THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE…I AM SICK AND TIRED EVERY YEAR WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES AROUND; THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TAKE CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS BECAUSE IT MIGHT OFFEND SOMEONE…WELL, HOW ABOUT ALL OF THE CHRISTIANS?… WHAT ABOUT OFFENDING US BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING OUR CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS?…CHRIST IS CHRISTMAS!… IF YOU AREN’T CELEBRATING CHRIST THEN WHY ARE YOU CELEBRATING? … CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOUR!…CHRISTMAS IS ONE OF A FEW HOLIDAYS LEFT THAT CELEBRATE “MY” CHRIST!…LEAVE “MY” HOLIDAY ALONE!…AND TELL EVERYONE MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS!…
The key point for me here is the question “If you aren’t celebrating Christ, then why are you celebrating?” I suppose that’s a legitimate question (even wrapped as it is in a sea of nonsense). As a response, but primarily as an answer to that specific question I’m replying to the above – wherever I see it – with the following:
The holiday being celebrated is older than Christ tracing back at least 1000 years previously as the birthday of the Persian deity Mithras and at least a 1000 years before that as a pagan solstice observance. The church adopted the mid-winter feast in the late 4th century as the birth of Christ (there is no mention of Christmas or December 25th in the Bible and even it were it would actually now be January 7th after the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar).
BUT THAT DOESN’T MATTER – at least not in the long run – what does matter is that humans across the northern hemisphere have, in one way or another, faced the harshest point of winter with joy, good-natured indulgence and family for well over 3,000 years.
It’s a celebration of the turning point when the year moves, ever so slightly, towards life and warmth again. When the hardships left to face are less than those already overcome.
No matter what trappings have been added, changed or removed over the millennia it’s a time to celebrate the human spirit and revel in our ability to wring not only survival but comfort and safety from harshness. To put the worst behind us and share the best of what’s left come.
People may take that as they will but the intent is to demonstrate that people of different beliefs can share moments of celebration together despite varying motivations. While I can’t speak for all humanists I feel confident in asserting that we don’t care if anybody says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. Out of respect for an ancient tradition we’re all enjoying our families, our friends and our communities in celebration.