10 Things about the Christmas season that irk this Pagan (and they might surprise you)
Most people who know me well are aware that I am a devout pagan. As such I celebrate the Winter Solstice and the rebirth of the Sun Lord. In the United States pagans are still a minority and our festivities often looked on with suspicion or ridicule. I discount this to one of two things -ignorance or sheer intolerance. All the same I try to like everyone and feel to be accepted one must be accepting of others. When it comes to the celebration of the Christian holiday of Christmas, even as the media pushes it on us at every turn I remember the meaning it has for Christians. The birthday of their Savior. I do not see Jesus as divine, yet I can honestly say I LIKE him. Sure, scores of his followers have, down through the ages, committed wrongs in what they claimed were his name, but those wrongs are a reflection on them, not the man he was. Nor will heinous acts ever speak for the character of all believers of the faith. There are plenty of good Christians around, more so I'd say than bad.
All the same there are a few things about the Christmas season here in the U.S. that irk me. But some of them might come as a surprise to you, especially if you are a curious Christian. So I'm sharing the list of top ten here. And from my curiosity I'd be interested in hearing if any of these are something you identify with?
10. Pets stuffed into uncomfortable costumes
So exactly when did sadistic acts of pet tailoring become an integral part of Christmas traditions? I don't know, but we see these costumes on pets more and more. Sorry, but no amount of hearing Oh, how darling! is going to make Fido, Spot, Tom Cat or Fleabag feel any more comfortable or less embarrassed while forced into wearing one of these outfits.
9. You can't buy eggnog milkshakes any other time of the year
I don't drink eggnog often because they're fattening, but by golly on those rare occasions I want to go out and drink something rich, yummy and calorie-heavy, I would appreciate being able to order it in eggnog. Eggnog, mmmm!
8. People hating on Santa Claus
There are some Christians who outright hate Santa and the Easter Bunny merely because of their pagan origins. As a pagan I could hate the bastardization of our sacred deities,but what does hate behoove anyone? And among certain Christian fundamentalists the bashing of Santa, his elves, the reindeer and the festive decorations has evolved into a tradition of its very own. But as they are apt to say, Jesus, the Reason for the Season, so how about a little less stone-throwing and a little more Love Thy Neighbor?
7. Old Navy commercials
Old Navy commercials irk me in general for a few reasons: 1. the visual saturation of pastel shades, 2. the Target-esque use of red (original, right?), 3. the air-headed music and dance, 4. actors that prance and dance around like they're at a Broadway audition, 5. the generally butt-ugly clothing advertised. With the Christmas season these commercials hog more air time than usual. Some people may like these commercials, but if Old Navy wants my business then they need to get rid of the tired pastels and replace the air-head music with heavy metal. And oh yeah, start making clothes that don't look like they were designed by the Partridge Family.
Of course, these commercials do work to the advantage of another clothing retailer, because the more of these ads I see the quicker I am to rush over to Hot Topic to buy a whole new wardrobe.
6. My home town's electricity-hogging downtown light displays
There was a time when my home town was a prosperous little place, back when there was industry here and it wasn't run like a bedroom community for the Tri-Cities. Nowadays industry is gone and the place is run by the leftovers of the tax-loving elitists who eagerly voted in regulations that turned it the bedroom community. The rest of us are left often just struggling to put food on the table and have enough money to pay for gas and the utility bills. Adding to the tensions this brings, our city governing folks seem forever at ends wit on how to pay for any and everything needed here, including an animal shelter, new jail, city employee benefits and the inevitable demands of teacher wage increases.
Despite these issues, the general low wages, the increase in homelessness and unlikely chance things are going improve any time soon, our city sees a huge amount of money put into the annual downtown Christmas displays. There aren't just lamp post decorations but lighted trees, including a tremendous tree display on the side of a nearby mountain. I don't want to sound like a Scrooge, I truly don't. Holiday displays are lovely, and each and every year my family enjoys a good view of that mountain-side tree. I just happen to think all the money that goes into paying the electric bill for those displays would be better spent toward helping provide electricity to area families that can't afford it.
5. Post office workers that are courteous, considerate and timely only in the few weeks leading up to Christmas
There are some good postal workers around, but I've encountered a lot of bad ones, too. The thing that irks me most about the bad ones is that their average salaries triple the income my husband and I bring in over a course of a year. Still, come the Christmas season, they believe they deserve a tip from us. Don't get me wrong, I've given loafs of bread and treats out to hard-working federal employees during the holidays. But if their regular routine is to be rude, unfriendly, unreliable, or to root nosily through our magazines and postcards and bang our packages when they think we're not watching, then a drastic and sudden change of attitude in the days leading up to Christmas won't get 'em even a candy cane.
4. Folks who risk the safety of drivers with distracting or blindingly overdone light displays
I like seeing festive displays on private residences: pretty, twinkling lights, heart-warming manger scenes, adorable reindeer and snowmen...when these are tasteful, and most especially if the displays don't turn the house into a carnival.
Most folks who put up epic displays say they do it "for the children". But to be brutally honest these displays often cause traffic jams and distract drivers, and as well glaring lights can temporarily blind drivers. People can be hurt, and children amongst them. For people who feel they have been called upon to entertain the young with an electrified celestial cornucopia for the eyes (and perhaps ears) may I make this suggestion: set your stuff up INSIDE your home. When you're done decorating inside you can put a lawn sign -a tasteful non-visually hazardous sign- inviting your neighbors and their kids to come inside to SEE your eye-dazzling stuff. This way the kids are entertained, you've accomplished your mission and the vehicular accident rate is kept down.
3. Atheists bad-mouthing Christmas or other seasonal holidays
This billboard and others like it beg to ask the question: what reasonable person purposely sets out to antagonize those who don't agree with them? Sure, it can be called a matter of free speech, but how would the people who put up these things feel if someone rented a billboard showing an atheist wearing a dunce cap? Or one with an atheist having relations with a monkey? Or an atheist burning in a lake of fire? It wouldn't be the nice thing to do and would plainly show intolerance. Yet unreasonable atheists (as opposed to the reasonable ones) continually ridicule the religious-minded at every turn.
I have friends who are atheists, but they're respectful human beings, nothing like the kind so insecure or pompous in their beliefs they can't pass up any religious holiday without trying to ridicule followers of that faith. Practitioners of this brand of Atheism seek to eradicate all religions, and during the Christmas season focus their attacks at Christianity. But doling out intolerance for intolerance is not the act of any reasonable person. And in the end a fanatic, by any other name, is still a fanatic.
2. People who get pissy at hearing any seasonal greeting other than "Merry Christmas"
Imagine this scenario: it is nearing Winter Solstice when a Christian friend comes up to me and says "Merry Christmas". I am immediately offended by what I perceive as a slight to my faith; my mouth drops open, I shiver melodramatically, raise my nose to show my indignant reaction, then grunt loud enough to be heard by everyone within a twenty yard radius, "Don't you mean Happy Yule?"
If I reacted this way I'd be considered a pompous jerk, and deservedly so.
The truth is I don't like Political Correctness any more than the next sane person. If someone wants to greet others with "Merry Christmas" I don't get offended. It is a greeting that comes from the heart, usually signifying the person saying it is wishing me happiness. The same when people say "Beautiful Hanukkah!", "Joyful Kwanzaa!", "Happy Holidays!", "Seasons Greetings!" or, as Pagans are apt to say, "Happy Yule!". But there are some individuals so caught up in proving Christmas is the only acceptable December observance that they act every bit as pissy as the Political Correctness followers that want all religious connotations removed from salutations.
Life is too short to go around looking to be wounded in every word spoken. It truly is.
1. People who think atheists hold the market on celebrating the Winter Solstice
Whether they are religious fundamentalists or pro-science crusaders, the assumption that Winter Solstice is a celebration only observed by Atheists is truly demeaning. For thousands of years peoples of many cultures have associated the Winter Solstice with the birth of Divinities and other sacred events. For anyone to delegate these spiritual observances as anything less denotes either ignorance or the perpetuation of a purposely contrived myth. And while doing either of these things fans the flames of contention, do any of us really need further contention in a world already saturated with war and hatred?
So it is my prayer people will stop using the Winter Solstice for negative campaigning. And I also end this Hub with a heartfelt wish for a very joyful winter for everyone, one enriched by the warmth of friends and family and uplifted by the spirit of love.
This Hub ©December 2, 2012 by Beth Perry