Christmas Questions

December 18th, 2007 by Editor B

A question to all the Christians out there:

How would you like to see non-Christians act with regard to Christmas? How can we be both respectful to you and true to ourselves?

Clearly we can’t celebrate the religious aspect of the holiday, so would you rather we not participate at all? That doesn’t seem quite fair, since there have been celebrations around the winter solstice since ancient times, long before the birth of Christ. It would be a real bummer to be surrounded by people who are celebrating and not join in the festive spirit.

But if we celebrate an entirely pagan Yule, will Christians find that offensive? Won’t it be construed as an aggressive attack on Christmas itself?

Would you prefer we join in a watered-down secularized version of Xmas, accentuating Santa and eliminating Jesus? If I was a Christian, I’d certainly be concerned about the rampant commercialization and secularization of this religious holiday. I don’t want to contribute to that. It’s a Christian holiday, and I respect that.

So what options are left?

Seriously, I would like to know what you think, because Christmas is a very confusing time for me.

22 Responses to “Christmas Questions”

  1. Puddinhead Says:

    LOL….You gotta stop finding things to worry about. LOL Really…As one far-from-fundamental Christian of the not-so-observant Catholic brand, I’m perfectly fine with your treating the Christmas season any way you’d like. And frankly, anyone who professes to be a Christian and would take you to task for approaching it in any of the ways you’ve mentioned here should probably go back and re-read the “owner’s manual”–particularly the “second half”. As for the secularization or the holiday…as you point out, Christianity chose a season when there were already pagan observations going on as an attempt to sort of “co-opt” the holiday celebration. We Christians are still commemorating that whether we acknowledge it or not every time we bring a fresh, green, full-of-life tree into our homes at precisely the time of year when (in most Northern climes) things are the most dreary and lifeless; in the pagan tradition we would be reminding ourselves of the “life force” still there and waiting for the Spring to arrive to resurrect the life in all of the (to unwitting eyes) “dead” flora and fauna. Hmmmm…”Spring”…”resurrected life”….sounds like the making of another Christian holiday there to me. LOL

    Really, if people are so unsure and uncomfortable with their Christianity such that they get bent out of shape if you say “Happy Holidays” to them rather than “Merry Christmas”, then the problem lies with them, not with you. Go to a Christmas party (if you want to), have a few drinks and some good fellowship (again, if you want to)–hell, dance around a tree at midnight without your pants if you want to. We (Christians) don’t have a monopoly on the whole “peace and good will toward men” business, no matter what some uber-Christians might contend.

  2. Frank Schiavo Says:

    It is the Holiday season, so pick a holiday you like. Enjoy the comfort of another year gone by with those you love around you, the joy of the good things in your life, the company of others, and promise a new year brings. I don’t recommend you let the commercial stuff get to you. It is small as the minds of folks who think only one religion has the monopoly on any one holiday.

  3. jeffrey Says:

    Yeah.. pretty much what pud said.

    Oh and make sure to buy a bunch a crap too.l

  4. loula Says:

    What taints the holiday season is when presidential candidates are creating such pro-Christian political messages (like Mike Huckabee) that IGNORE all other religions and belief systems. WE DON’T ALL BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST GOVERNOR HUCKABEE. I personally don’t mind seeing a tree and lights and Mr. Bingle, but cannot stand evangelicals ramming CHRISTmas down my throat. From a consumer POV, I’m immune and my few greeting cards say Happy Holidays. Take it or leave it.

  5. Lee Says:

    I may be a “christian” by birth, but neither of us practice religion of any kind.

    We “believe” in christmas as a time to be with friends and family to celebrate the time we have together. We don’t really care about Santa and over hyped sales, etc.

    Just be yourself like you’ve always been B.

    You saw our card and letter, we find “Happy Holidays” a much better term than “Merry Christmas.” There are other faiths which are just as or more important as christianity. Happy Holidays keeps with the Swiss view, neutral.

    But let me reiterate, BE YOURSELF B! That’s how I’ve lived my life for a long time, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

  6. lemming Says:

    I consider myself a fairly devout Christian. My spiritual practices and devotions are probably different from many of my neighbors. I think that’s what I would hope you can bring to the holiday celebration.

    If December 25 to you (using “you” in the largest sense of the definition) is a time in which to remember the birth of the Savior of the World, fine. If you want to get historical and ponder that he probably wasn’t born in 0 AD and was almost certainly born in March, and that 12/ 25 was chosen because it was the same date as a pagan holiday, but still see spiritual significance, fine by me.

    I celebrate the birth of the being I believe to have been the Son of God. I also decorate a Christmas tree, not because it makes me think of Jesus, but because it is a fun holiday tradition and a chance to be with family and friends. I am fortunate (as well as blessed) that i can say this.

    At some point we all figure out about Santa Claus. I think the cool parents are the ones who explain that he’s supposed to symbolize giving to those who do not have, rather than appealing to corporate greed. That’s how I think I’d hope non-Christians would think about this time of year – hopefully our food pantries are a bit fuller, our homeless shelters a bit cheerier, the hospitalized more visited, people without necessities suddenly have them in abundance, etc.

    I agree with Lee about the horrible juxtaposition of politics and faith these days. Jews have lived and worshiped in the US since 1637, don’t tell me that it’s the “recent arrivals” who are wrecking Christmas for the long-timers. This nation was NOT founded upon religious tolerance, but we would do well to show a little more of it. A little less emphasis upon faith stories and a bit more upon actually LIVING those faith stories would be a lot more useful, in my humble opinion.

    For myself, I like the phrase “celebrate the season.”

  7. Adam E Says:

    Puddinhead put it exactly as I was thinking….just more eloquently than I could have.

    The one thing I want to add is that I think people should feel free to offer a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, etc to another as long as the OFFERER celebrates that holiday. The point is that you are offering the good feelings from your own self to another. Once, I said Merry Christmas to a jewish friend and he was offended. My reaction was something like “What, I don’t want you to be happy at this time of year?” It bothered me that he could take my offer of goodwill and turn it into something negative. I could have wished him a Happy Hannukah, but something about that seems not quite right, since I don’t celebrate it. It’s also not one of the major jewish holidays anyway, so it seems trite.

    OK, I feel guilty saying that my friend was “offended”, it was just more of a “you know I’m jewish” moment. We’re still good buds and all.

  8. Mark Folse Says:

    Unless one is a militant aetheist (in which case, Happy New Year, Comrade), it is enough to welcome the spirit of both the Xian and Pagan festivals at this time of year. Celebrating the light, and the unconditional love I tend to visualize in the image of the Sacred Heart, are not incompatible. If they were, then why did the early Church father’s choose this time of year? They might have put something at this time, if only to co-opt the Pagan calendar. I’d have to defer to Professor Holman, as I don’t recall from my comparative gospels class in which the Star is mentioned, but the story of the star that lead everyone (the three guys from Uptown and all the shepards and their momenall from Arabi) to a miraculous birth, what is (given the core of Xian theology of redemption) is a rebirth even the most casually observant Pagan would recognize, the re-birth of the earth through it’s godhead.

    I have to work through living in a Catholic family when I lost the faith in my heart years ago, but agreed to participate and raise my children in that church, at this time every year. Until I came back to New Orleans, I tended to think of this as the dying and re-birth of the cosmos, the most ancient and primitive view. Now that I am here, I recognize that The Birth is, as I said above, a Rebirth. And that is something we all need to celebrate in New Orleans, miraculous rebirth. You don’t have to look to the heavens to find it in this town. Just sit on in your comfy chair with a favorite drink and think through everyone who’s had a bit of luck in their rebirth, and wish them well.

    Think of everyone whose miracle moment has not come, and seems to them it will never come. Make a plan, as you sip your drink, to reach out to them and help them a little down the road, until God or Fate or Mathematics or what have you deals them the miracle that is sure to come some day, when they least expect it. Even if God proves as remote and uncaring as She often seems to be, there appears to be a certain order in this chaos and chances are the Wheel is going to deal them a good hand eventually. For them, it will be a miracle when it comes. If you make there road a little easier until then, you will touch and be touched by the miraculous yourself.

    Every year at my mother-in-law’s I had to read an excerpt of the gospel. It was a bit of scene from something by Garrison Kielor in that small town where Rebecca grew up. For myself, I would read this–not because I am, like Stevens, an aetheist–because I find it tremendously comforting to contemplate the miracle of life with or without, to find ways to remind myself with or without god, there is Beauty and Truth, capitals intended.

    http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/2017.html

  9. Pistolette Says:

    As a very atheist person, I don’t find the celebration of Christmas offensive. It is deeply woven into our cultural fabric, and at its core, has a positive message. I think the important thing to remember is that Christmas and the other religious holidays that fall in December, all do roughly the same thing – they bring together people in the name of friendship and family, and hopefully make you thankful for what you have as another year closes.

    I don’t think your question is fair though… I really don’t CARE what Christians think about how I celebrate the holidays. I only hope they respect and tolerate the WAY I celebrate, and that is the most you can ask for in a truly civilized society. The vast majority of Christians don’t care how non-christians celebrate. The people you’re thinking of are the extremists, and probably have a nephew that bombs abortion clinics.

    And as someone mentioned above, most of the things we think of as “Christmas” are actually pagan anyway (family gatherings, trees, santa, gifts). The early Catholic church did damn near anything to get people to convert back then so the incentive package was better ;-)

  10. Carol G. Says:

    I would like for you to celebrate the season by continuing to show love and concern for your neighbor. This is very “Christ-like” and something that both you and Xy do on a regular basis and is one of the many things that Mark and I admire about your walk through this life. The Jesus that I believe in would feel welcome in your presence (and probably wouldn’t get bent out of shape if you wanted to run pantsless around a tree!)

    We love you and wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy 2008 and beyond.

  11. mominem Says:

    Whatever floats your boat.

    Just don’t rain on anybody else’s parade.

    I do wonder about the extremists who are offended by other peoples traditions and beliefs.

    I wish that people would stop catering to them.

  12. Puddinhead Says:

    Oh-oh…did I start something with this “pantsless around the tree” bit? Are we all gonna meet up in City Park on Christmas eve to prance around with our “sleigh bells ringing”??

    Ugh. I hope it’s dark.

  13. Garvey Says:

    As a Christian, I agree with the “do your thang” philosophy that others have said here. If you don’t celebrate Xmas, it doesn’t offend me.

    If we didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday on Dec. 25, we’d all have to work, etc. So I am a little annoyed that what really is Christmas and all its trappings–secular stuff included–is often called “winter break” or some other BS. I’m not one of those “War on Xmas” blowhards, but I do think that some people act a little too offended about Christmas–on *both sides*. If we called it “Christmas Break,” is that REALLY tantamount to “establishment” of religion? Heck, no. And anyone who claims it is, is an extremist, IMO.

    So while Mominem prolly meant “those wacky evangelicals” when she wrote about catering to extremists, from my perspective, it is the folks who want to tear down and PC-ify everything are the extremists.

    I guess the long and short of it is this: if you can celebrate whatever you want without defecating (figuratively) on the beliefs of others, great. I celebrate Xmas, but that doesn’t mean I hang up a symbol of someone else’s cherished holiday with a circle-slash around it. All I ask is the same courtesy.

  14. Garvey Says:

    I would also like to add that I do not believe in the “right to not be offended.” This right does not exist. So if you do offend me, that’s uncool, but I won’t howl at my congressman about it.

  15. Kirsten Says:

    You know, there are plenty of practicing neo-pagans around who celebrate an unabashed pagan Yule, the winter solstice, so do that if you like and enjoy it. It’s all good with us. Heck, I even found “Happy Solstice” cards at Borders one year. Christians in no way have a monoploy on celebrating this time of year.

  16. mominem Says:

    I was also referring to the wacky PC crowd who can’t seem to stop making fun of some people beliefs, especially those they feel are beneath them in the proper social order.

    Fun is fun a we can all use a reality check from time to time.

    But it’s a Christmas Tree, not a Holiday Tree damn it!

  17. chrissieroux Says:

    Its funny–I work at a Jewish agency where several of my Jewish colleagues celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas. I asked one colleague about this and she explained that she grew up feeling really alienated and pissed off not to be able to celebrate such a fun and festive holiday, and she and her husband have decided, as adults, not to deprive themselves.

    Not that that really addresses your questions, but I thought it was interesting.

  18. The Rebel Jesus « Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans Says:

    [...] Jackson Browne, Jesus, justice, pagan, peace, rebel, Xian, Xmas, Yule trackback I tried to answer Bart’s question about how to deal with Xmas when one is not an Xian as best I could. I think, however, that Jackson [...]

  19. YatPundit Says:

    heh, I’m reading “The Joy of Y’at Catholicism” by Earl Higgins at the moment. In it, he’s got a line where he says “In New Orleans, even the Jews are Catholic.”

    We don’t have to water down holidays to respect others.

    And if anyone has a problem with that, they can bite me.

  20. Tim Says:

    The rub for me is when religion spills over into and in some cases on top of our government. I don’t care how many “touchdown” Jesus statues anyone puts in their yard. I don’t care how many “Yo momma was pro-life, dawlin” bumperstickers they have on their cars. But when they put up religious icons on public buildings and public land, that’s a no-no. Some Christians get “offended” and claim there’s a “war on Christmas” because the sign on city hall says “Season’s Greetings” instead of their preferred “Merry Christmas.” I say, “Happy Holidays you theocratic schmuck.”

    Thanks for asking, B.

    Peace,

    Tim

  21. Garvey Says:

    Tim:

    Please refer to Lynch v. Donnelly. Putting up religious icons is not categorically a “no-no.” And wishing it were doesn’t make it so.

    This country is so far from a theocracy, folks sound like loons whenever they suggest it is. It is very easy to see that if this country *were* ever theocratic, it was more so 200 years ago and grows less so with each passing generation.

  22. MikeA Says:

    That the question need be asked is tragic. Although a Christian, I celebrate Christmas not because of any holy-grail imagery or great religious imperative. Being a good Christian on Christmas and Easter is a pretty shallow level of faith in any case. The reason I do Christmas at all is because it is a tradition that brings my family and friends together for an intense camaraderie that reminds us all that we are a blessed people. Traditions are sufficient in themselves. You do yours and Iíll do mine. I would not be offended to see a display of a winter solstice diorama on the courthouse lawn. Or a Menorah, or a Christmas tree. But for some reason non-Christians seem driven to at least say they donít believe in Christ, every time the Christmas season tolls around. If Christmas is not a tradition for you, thatís fine with me. But please leave my traditions alone. I like them just as they are, and I donít really care what non-Christians think about that.

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