25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

'Tis the season for complainers, blah-blah blah-blah blah, blah-blah blah blah!
And anti-Christmastime campaigners, blah-blah blah-blah blah, blah-blah blah blah!
'Tis the season to dig trenches, blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah blah blah!
So let's all be pedants and grinches, blah-blah blah-blah blah, blah-blah blah blah!

Enough with the War on Christmas, people!

I'm fond of saying that people who look at the world as though it's black and white see it as twice as complicated as it really is, because it is in fact grey. There's good and bad (and the smooth gradient in between) in all things, but people tend to make snap decisions and sweeping declarations, tossing things into either the "good" box or the "bad" box.

This kind of an outlook may seem at first blush to be a handy way to simplify your life, but as it turns out it really serves to overcomplicate it. Like the proverbial donkey with two equally tasty bales of hay, any time you come across something sufficiently "grey" and difficult to categorise, the decision of which box to chuck it in becomes needlessly stessful.

Christmas is one of those things that's pretty darn grey. For atheists like me, it's annoying because it's full of religious symbols. For many Christians, it's annoying because of its pagan roots. And for just about anybody the blatant consumerism is nauseating, but on the other hand who's gonna knock family and good food?

For me, though, Christmastime has, on balance, more good than bad. It's mostly because I love the time of year - if I'd grown up in the southern hemisphere, I might feel completely differently about it - but it's also partially because I dig the whole style of Christmas. Sure, it's superficial and cloying, but just like fast food and amusement parks, there's something about its particular brand of decadence that makes my brain scream "yes" louder than it screams "no", though scream "no" it does.

I like the general buzz of excitement and purpose. I like the excuse to watch "Ernest Saves Christmas", or listen to Weird Al's "Christmas at Ground Zero". I like the grounding effect it has on the year, the timekeeping effect it has on your life. The sights, sounds, and smells that come with each cycle trigger memories and emotions from passed days that might have never bubbled to surface if each year were totally different, stripped of the rhythm of Christmastime.

Granted, anything could fill the same role. There are plenty of other cultural holidays, some artificial, others not, and weakly irritating parodical celebrations like Squidmas. But similarly, any other combination of sounds and letters could subsume the role of the word "coatrack" - but doesn't "coatrack" already do the trick?. The point is that Christmas - for me, and millions of others - already does fill this role, and fighting against it seems like pointless windmilling, with just a touch of unbecoming self-importance.

But during this time of year, when everyone could otherwise be enjoying their acknowledgedly crass and superficial holidays, the "grinches" come out of the woodwork, whining about how offensive Christmas is and how everybody is terrible for wishing them a Merry Christmas.

Offensive? Offensive? There is no cosmic law that says you should be specially exempt from being offended. In fact, to be regularly offended might do a body good. Regardless of that, though, how much of an arrogant prude must someone be to be offended by how someone else chooses to enjoy themselves?

At the risk of complaining as much as the complainers I'm complaining about, I thought I'd briefly bring up this article by Sarah Miller. It's a real doozy, containing not just fluff-headed thinking, but trite observations and contradictions. These are the kind of dead reindeer points the pedants like to drag out and flog every year, and one does get tired of them. (Do bear in mind, though, that the article is written in the voice of the Grinch himself, and likely intended to be humourous. Don't take it or my retorts too seriously.)

How many times do I have to hear “Merry Christmas!” in my lifetime? How many times will I have to respond with “happy holidays” before people realize that not everyone is celebrating their holiday with them? Isn’t it a bit egotistical to assume that everyone else is ALSO celebrating Christmas? I find it super rude. Especially for those who are celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa at this time of year. And funny no one wishes me a happy Raam Navami...

To put it into perspective, American Muslims don’t go around wishing EVERYONE “happy Ramadan” every year. Why? Because they know that not everyone in America is celebrating Ramadan with them. So why do Christians, or those celebrating Christmas, assume that everyone else is playing along with them? Weird.

What a kind spirit! Taking offence to someone wishing you well. Is that Jacob Marley's chains I hear rattling in the distance? What a world we have to live in, where a person has to fear uttering pleasantries! If someone did wish me a happy Ramadan, well, what of it? Happy Life Day to them!

There’s also the reality that the “Christmas tree” is associated historically with paganism and several other traditions but gained popularity in the U.S. and UK during Queen Victoria’s reign mid 18th century. As it turns out, it is a fairly new holiday association.


We all know there was a St. Nick who lived once. ... I like the guy. But...my point is, he doesn’t actually belong with Christmas at all. Call me a Puritan, but he’s not Christmas. And besides, you’re lyin’ to the kids and that ain’t cool.

People do love to point to all the Christmas traditions that are recent adaptations, as if that somehow makes them less "pure". Your head wasn't always a part of your body, either. Surely that is warrant enough to part you from it? Traditions are just that - traditions. Who the hell cares if Santa Claus or Baby Jesus are recent additions? It's like the infuriating grammar pedants who seem to think that language is our master, not our servant, that dictionaries antecede usage, and that the "misuse" of the word "hopefully" should be punishable with a flogging. We do not follow Christmas tradition - Christmas tradition follows us.

As a non-Christian and non- religious (but extremely spiritual) Being, I take offense to much of these customs that are seemingly forced upon us during this time of year.


Let’s first point out that Christ wasn’t a Christian- he was Jew. Secondly, I’m all for celebrating Christs’ day of birth except for one small thing: he wasn’t actually born in December. In fact, he was born sometime closer to spring. The Christians actually disguised their celebrations under the auspices of Solstice (a considerably “Pagan” holiday by some standards) in order to avoid persecution.

I find an alarming number (even one would be an alarming number) of non-religious people knocking Christmas for its pagan origins. Why should that not be a good thing in their eyes? Have they lived in a predominately Christian society for so long that "pagan" remains a stinging invective? I would have taken it as a compliment.

It’s disgusting. Kill nature. Then decorate it. Then throw it away. Oh so American! I am obviously not pro-killing trees for decoration. Tree farms? Still a bad idea.

Tree farms are "still a bad idea"? (am I the only one who hates, "yeah, but still..." arguments?) Next they're gonna start complaining about all those poor tomatoes we kill to make soup and ketchup. Oh, the humanity!

There are important things to be said about the excesses and imbalances of Christmas. Shopping centre stampedes and flagrant expenditure of fossil fuels are terrible things that should be taken seriously. But no one is going to listen to these important issues when they are surrounded by silly boring complaints about inflatable Santas and the premature commencement of caroling.

Have a good Boxing Day - and like it! (Gee, I hope I haven't offended any Americans...)

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