Thursday, December 08, 2005
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Or Whatever
Some people would kick on mother’s milk. That’s an old saying in my neck of the woods, the Blue Ridge Mountains, meaning some people are never satisfied or happy. In recent weeks a small but vocal segment of the Christian community has raised the concern that there are those in America who are trying to steal Christmas, grinches who would strike out at the very heart of our nation. They are doing this by banning manger scenes, prohibiting the singing of traditional Christmas carols, doing away with ‘Christmas‘ trees, enticing us to do ‘holiday’ shopping, and worst of all not greeting us with a “Merry Christmas” as we attempt to spend our hard earned cash. Could anything be more un-Godly or un-American, after all, that hard earned American cash plainly says, “In God we trust.”
The time we celebrate the birth of Christ for Christians has traditionally been the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time for honoring the life of Jesus and his teachings of loving and giving, though I have sometimes thought that he might be more pleased if we would make that a daily rather than seasonal happening. I believe Christ couldn’t care less how we greet each other whether, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Eid Mubarak”, “Happy Holidays”, "Happy Arbor Day” or any other greeting as long as it is given in love and respect.
Before we start complaining about the loss of Christmas and its traditions perhaps we should learn a little more about them. Christ’s birthday most likely was not December 25th. In fact there is no consensus among scholars as to time of year; some say spring, more say fall, and others say winter. There is a general consensus on why December 25th is celebrated. It is generally accepted that the Emperor Constantine chose the date to help consolidate his power. He had become the ruler of the Western Roman Empire in 312 and gradually took over the Eastern Roman Empire as well. Constantine became a Christian but the Empire had many pagan religions also. In an attempt to bring more unity, he and the Roman Catholic Church joined the celebration of Christ’s birth which was celebrated on various dates including December 25th to the pagan celebration of Sol Invictus, the return of the sun, celebrating the winter solstice.
I am sure that Christ loves any instance of giving, but I do wonder if he can be pleased with how modern corporate society has commercialized the celebration of his birth. I can’t help but think he would be more pleased if all the money spent on Christmas was used to feed the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless, and to provide medical help for the poor and indigent.
St. Francis of Assisi is given credit for the origins of the Christmas carol in 13th century Italy. The Christmas tree did not come into existence until the 16th century. Most agree that it had its origin in Germany around 1520, though the legend that Martin Luther began the tradition seems not to be true. And contrary to popular belief Christmas cards got their start in England in 1840, not Kansas City, Missouri.
There is no nefarious plot to steal or subvert Christmas, at least no more than has been going on for the past 100 years or so. To get upset over a greeting given in love or friendship is decidedly non-Christian. Why not sing Jewish songs of praise in December pageants? Christ was a Jew, I am sure he did. I appreciate a greeting of Happy Hanukkah or happy holidays I am not insulted by it, so in the same vein to one and all, Merry Christmas.
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