Oh, is that what I’m doing?

[Reconstructed from the original posted 12/27/08]

A few days back, Rev. BigDumbChimp (gotta love that name) linked to an article on another blog concerning the origins of christmas. All well and good, and most of it I’d heard before. I didn’t follow the sources that were linked, but I’m pretty sure the Coca Cola bit is spurious, so I have reason to wonder about the other content. However, the overall provenance of the holiday is supported through numerous sources, and it’s far from the story we’re usually fed. Yes, it was clearly co-opted from quite a few other observances and traditions that existed previously, and no, it can not by any stretch be considered the day of jesus’ birth.

While I’m not religious and see no reason to support any claims of such, I still feel compelled to say, “So what?” When it comes right down to it, we can call into question every particular day we celebrate a holiday (July 4, for example), and the number of times our calendar has bounced around and been rewritten makes everything older than a few hundred years highly suspect. It’s not the accuracy of the day that we respond to, but the sentiment behind it.

And that’s where I part company drastically with Lawrence Kelemen, the author of the piece. He says:

Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly.  For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.

•       Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.”  It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.

•        Christmas is a lie.  There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.

•        December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.

•        Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.

In other words, shame on us all for celebrating the holiday with Hot Wheels in our stockings.

There are three things I take exception to:

One, If you really want to keep the fires stoked over the “War on christmas,” there’s probably no better way to do it. The whole “war” thing has been this asinine crisschin whinefest because someone dares to recognize that not everyone in the world follows their religion, and yet we still want to send people holiday wishes anyway. I always thought “Happy holidays!” was a measure of respect for everyone – peace on earth, goodwill towards men, and stuff like that? I guess I’d be a better person if I was more selfish and insular about my beliefs – at least that seems to be the message. But Kelemen’s article is just the kind of ammo the martyr crowd needs to keep the “War on christmas” frothing going. And (as I’ll get to in a minute), for no good reason.

Two, I’m afraid I’m disinclined to hold anyone responsible for the origins of a holiday that they know nothing about. “Hi, little girl, did you know your letter to Santa asking for a toy pony was really a celebration of persecution and genocide? You should be ashamed of yourself!” No, sorry, that’s a ridiculous argument worthy of small minds, and I’m inclined to say it’s hypocritical, in that it tries to produce a prejudice where none exists.

And finally, the heart of the matter. Yes, it may well be true that the origins of the holiday were once bathed in reprehensible practices. Go far enough back, and be selective enough about virtually any tradition, and I’m sure you can find something unsavory. There’s a distinct and valid point that’s missed with all of this, though, and it is: We don’t do that anymore. We have risen above it. We, as a species, have recognized that many, many things in our past were immoral, unethical, and generally not conducive to good relations with one another, and we stopped doing them. We still have a ways to go, in many aspects of our cultures throughout the world, but that doesn’t negate what we’ve already accomplished. And more importantly, we take a step backwards when we choose to target some past behavior and try to relate it to our current culture – it is creating a bias, an opposing side, an enemy, that does not belong. That’s not progress.

We celebrate christmas now with family get-togethers, good food, and gift-giving – an overall atmosphere of friendliness, generosity, and bonhomie. That we’ve produced this from past practices of bigotry and persecution is something we should actually be proud of – not that they occurred in the first place, but that we have abandoned them to focus on something much more positive. We should not be held accountable to our past – just our present. Make it a good one.

Happy holidays, everyone.

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