What the Hell are you supposed to call the damned thing now with people going around forcing the word ‘Holiday’ instead of our all of exclusive, term-laden, insensitive labels that we drag from the murky depths of our empiric, exclusive, bigoted, xenophobic Eurocentric traditions?
I’m okay with Christmas being called Christmas even though it might be more accurate to call it ‘Saturnalia’, or ‘Yule’ or whatever the ancient Celts called the Winter Solstice when the decline of the Sun was reversed – even though celebrating it in December is definitely exclusive to the Northern Hemisphere.
But I also have learned that those who are different to me have celebrations at this time of the year too.
There’s a very interesting list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_winter_festivals.
Perhaps in the Spirit of Christmas I might find the time to learn a little more about them (– and that’s the audience participation part. Let me know what you are celebrating.)
Because of my culture I know more about Christmas and I do like to stop and think how it all came about. The days of Saturnalia were days without fear of censor by law and courts were closed. I believe that it was a socially recognised as a time to blow off a little steam – like after losing a battle to the Carthaginians. And, like all good pagan festivals – it ended with human sacrifice to appease the Gods or to pay for sins – not unlike when the bills arrive in January! The same excess echoes in so many Christmases when over-indulgence cause tears, fears or worse.
The Nords had a Yule celebration and with it; snow tipped coniferous trees and a benevolent visitor from the North. Throw in a few Celtic touches like Mistletoe and Holly and we can all feel cosy by the fire! Though I am sure that the Celtic tradition of a laden table was humour that if the sun did finally vanish over the horizon – never to return – at least they could go out on a high note.
Christmas, as the Christians observe, was the result of negotiation between the Pagans of Rome and the recently established Hierarchy. With Saturnalia sanitized Christianity spread north and assimilated the other traditions. What resulted is one of those times when souls are etched with the deepest memories and some of those are amongst the happiest we get to have. And while it is also the time when disparity is most obvious, along with alienation and aloneness; the amalgamated spirit of all of the fore-mentioned traditions has often inspired acts of kindness that are normally beyond us.
That is what I am talking about when I wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ and I am not offended when they respond with ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Happy Hanukkah’, ‘Happy Kwanzaa’ or any other celebration of humanity. I am okay with it all because I am sure that each festival is as sacred, or cursed, as the other and I am sure there is an element in each that would encourage us to reach out and, for just a little while, all play nice together.
So, please, have a very happy Holiday Season no matter which foot, or hand, you kick with!