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Thursday, December 07, 2006
Reason for the Season...
As a companion(ish) post to Jemila's below - I wanted to bring up the issue of the so-called Christmas wars.

I know there are Christians out there who insist that Christmas can only be about the birth of Christ. They wear "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" buttons, get upset when they hear "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," lament the commercialism, and often deny the existence of the historical pagan roots of the holiday.

In response to that sort of person, there are those who make it their calling to inform everyone of those said pagan roots for Christmas. As in - Jesus is not the reason for the season, some other god of light is. The season is about the solstice and the mass of christ was placed in that season. Many of the solstice celebrations were then apprpriated as Christmas celebrations.

Other Christians refuse to even celebrate Christmas because of those pagan roots. In rejection of all things non-christian they choose not to be conformed to the world of christmas.

And of course all of those are very broad stereotypes I just painted. What are your thoughts? Where do you stand on these issues/ideas? Have your opinions changed over time?

Here is a paragraph I wrote in a recent blog post on decorating our tree -
So for a cultural tradition, we go all the way. The tree, the ornaments, the music, the TV shows (the Sesame Street Gift of the Magi with Bert, Ernie, and Mr. Hooper was on today - I had the record of that - fun memories) ... Are we a product of our culture, sure. Do I think it cheapen or takes the meaning out of Christmas? Not at all. I embrace Christmas with all its cultural, pagan, and religious roots. It just adds to the richness of the celebration. To celebrate the return of the light, to give gifts, to tell cultural folk tales, to get to decorate with my favorite colors, to listen to happy music, to see family, to remember the birth of Jesus - it is all meaningful in its own way. So Merry Christmas all.

I have come to apply Augustine's Egyptian gold principle to most of culture - I like to take what is good, and fun, and meaningful and appropiate and redeem it. There are of course issues with that, but to me it is the most joy affirming. So that's why I'd like to hear what others think on this whole issue.
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posted by Julie at 8:37 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 12/07/2006 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Julie, thanks for reflecting on this. I think that's great that you're able to be hangup free regarding Christmas and co. Personally, I've always felt that each person and family should feel free to celebrate whatever they want to celebrate and we should all be left alone by those who would dictate what we should or shouldn't be saying, doing, eating, decorating, etc. etc. ad nauseum. To all those folks, I say get a life, enjoy your blessings, and don't ruin it for the rest of us by pushing your agendas. That being said, MERRY CHRISTMAS! [or whatever your preferred holiday is, happy that.] As for us, we do an advent thing each night with a candle and a reading with our kids and then open an advent calendar, and our daughter especially is really getting into the idea of advent [probably mostly for the chocolates, but then again that's her perogative as a 4 1/2 year-old] and in her classroom hang a decorated tree and a minorah.

  • At 12/07/2006 01:38:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Where do you stand on these issues/ideas? Have your opinions changed over time?

    I used to dread this time of year.
    December is an insanely busy time of year. As a PK (preacher's kid), I sometimes resented the large number of social events I was expected to attend every year at this time. Many who are extroverted enjoy jumping from party to party. This introvert really doesn't. ;)

    There was also the commercialism. I hate the pressure to buy presents for more and more people each year, many of whom I don't know well enough to have a clue about what they'd like.

    That said, I have grown to really like the religious and/or non-monetary aspects of this time of year. The carols, the lights, the way people grow softer, more loving for a few weeks.

    Strangely enough, I married someone who feels the same way. We don't do gifts with anyone, but we do celebrate it in other ways: I bake cookies, he calls his family to see when they want to get together for Christmas dinner. We contemplate the best way to decorate our apartment.

  • At 12/07/2006 02:21:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    In my family, I think we have touched on many things...(many years ago there was talk of no tree ect. because of the Pagan "thing").
    I agree with Julie, I embrace many things. I love Christmas. It is my favorite time of year. I love to decorate, bake, spend time with friends and family. This year has different meaning for me than past years. I am not sure how, but life is very different for me this year. It used to be very stressful (coordinating family get togethers with huge families, and divorces!)I feel like I am breathing differently (if that makes sense). I think it's the time of year I feel "peaceful", and even moreso than in the past.
    I think every year changes some, based on circumstance, and changes in life (ie, my kids are getting big, and I enjoy their excitement).

    In response to the button wearing etc. I guess I am the type that hopes my life and way of living shares how I feel about the season. Many in my family are sporting bumper stickers saying "Merry CHIRSTmas...it's worth saying." I have said before, I am not a fan (personally) of bumperstickers. Sometimes I wonder how productive those kinds of things are. Does it give the wrong impression? Maybe I have a problem more than others, because I come from a VERY conservative, fundamentalist background (they boycott everything!)
    Can Christ or the meaning of the Season, really be captured in cute slogans?

  • At 12/08/2006 01:49:00 PM, Blogger wit4life

    As a child, my parents imposed the "no Christmas" legalism. It was sad. I think we missed a lot. When my family shattered we got Christmas to celebrate, and it felt like a consolation prize. What has been a beautiful thing for me, is to rediscover Christmas with my own husband and two children. These are all things I never experienced. We decorate the tree together with mainly our own hand made ornaments. Every year we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before we open gifts, and we have made it our custom to not be anywhere by home for Christmas morning. Christmas Eve we go to our church’s service and then come back to cookies, snacks, and open one gift, which is pajamas. The children’s gifts rarely cost over $25 a piece. We give a lot to charity, and involve the children in this, and the knowledge of it. We tell the children that is our gift to Jesus. He should have the biggest gift. We make a gingerbread house. We have told them Santa is pretend now, but was a kind man a long time ago who helped others. (St Nicholas.) We enjoy being imaginative about Santa, but it’s not a focus, or a point of conflict. The more simple Christmas has been, the more I have enjoyed it. The less travel, gift buying, and obligations, make for more family time.

    I'm starting to really love the season as we make our own memories and special, meaningful traditions.

  • At 12/08/2006 07:43:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    wit4life, Thanks for sharing you traditions, and the way Christmas is redeemed in your family. Beautiful!

  • At 12/11/2006 09:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    The Christmas Wars. Argh. I wish Christianity could hire a PR firm. We’re making news over pithy slogans (I will reserve comment on bumper stickers). I personally could not care any less about how I am greeted when I walk through the door at Wal-Mart. I do, however, enjoy being greeted as well as returning a hearty greeting myself. I appreciate the warmth and brief connection that takes place when two people receive one another in welcoming, at any time of year, in any locale.

    I agree with others who've posted here in their choices to celebrate among their family members and friends. I, too, choose to celebrate the Christmas season with all the trimmings. We set up a nativity and decorate a Christmas tree. We go to parties and exchange gifts with loved ones. I still hold on to the legend of Santa Claus, and I believe his special story is adaptable within the Christian context. I have no problem with a person choosing to celebrate (or not) in a different way. I believe it would be wrong to assert my celebration style as normative for others in my community. As a Christian, I believe such assertions are irrelevant and counter-productive (even detrimental) to our mission as followers of Jesus.

    Thank you for a forum in which to express myself on this question. Happy ChanukahChristmasKwanzaa!

  • At 12/12/2006 08:04:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Amen! Sending someone a warm, genuine greeting, along with an inward prayer and wishes of goodwill is much more important than the particularity of the greeting. "They'll know we are Christians by our love."

    I just trying to figure out some good traditions for my family -- I have no problem being syncretistic if I am not compromising the core of my faith or my love for Jesus. I'm actually thinking of integrating some ideas from Jewish traditions into my family (my dad is Jewish, but not practicing,) because I think they Jews are better than most Christians at bringing traditions to life in a way that affirms the stories of their history, the lessons they want to teach their children and creating family intimacy and memories together in a dynamic, hands-on way. And I thought, "well, we still preach from the hebrew bible, so why not take some of the goodie traditions and appropriate them as well!" We'll see how this pans out in real life.

    As for Christmas, we have been celebrating advent this year by lighting a candle, reading the Christmas story from Luke. We were opening a window each night, until my son threw up all over the calendar and I couldn't find a new one at the store. So now we are just having a chocolate and eggnog (USUALLY we eat healthy, I promise!)We say something we are thankful for and say a prayer for ourselves, our family and the world, then blow out the candle.

    On the 25th we are celebrating with extended family then doing a Saint Nicholas and the shoes thing on January 6th, partly for the sales and also because my daughter LOVES shoes. I'm going to be in trouble when she hits the tweens!


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