Keep Christ in Christmas?
Hello my fellow hubbers that magical time of year is upon us, the time of year when we celebrate the end of the harvest season and the onset of Winter with all sorts of different traditions. One of the most fascinating and fun parts of human culture is cultural diffusion, when customs and traditions bleed through one culture into another. Most of the holidays we celebrate here in the United States were born this way, by grafting the traditions of differing belief systems together to create an amalgamated mess of a celebration.
In this hub I want to poke fun at the so-called War on Christmas trumped up by the media each and every holiday season and talk a bit about how much of our culture and language is handed down to us not just by Christianity but by countless other traditions.
The Eight Planets
It's something we learn within our first few years of education, the names of the planets. There were nine recognized when I was a kid but currently there are eight celestial bodies classed as full-blooded planets in our solar system. These planets were discovered and studied over the course of centuries, millenia really and they generally bear the names not of Christian figures or even Abrahamic prophets, but of Roman deities.
The religious far-right seem to get offended when their particular deity is left out of the public square in any field or forum. The War on Christmas is a great example. Christmas is, as a holiday, an all-consuming commercialized juggernaut that has come to dominate the entire post-Halloween season. It is not the oldest religious tradition surrounding the Solstice, far from it, and yet any departure from its religious themes seems to outrage the religious right who insist that this is one nation under God founded on Christian principles and beliefs.
But the planets are not named after Christianity and yet they don't become angry at this. Imagine the outrage that their God must feel at having the planets he created to share the sky with Earth named after the deities of some filthy polytheists. The Bible states that those who worship other Gods are deserving of death, that they will be cast into the Lake of Fire on judgment day for serving false gods. So how do these same folks feel about the planets being named after Roman Gods?
Generally the Christian right doesn't give a shit about the planets being named for pagan gods, which is odd because they seem to want every other aspect of their lives to revolve around and acknowledge Christianity. I can see some people protesting my point by saying, “Well they don't care because the planets were discovered by people from all over the world, and whoever discovers it gets to name it first, we can't just change the name at a later date and steal it right out from under the people who found it!”
But wait, isn't that exactly what Christmas is? A mish-mash of stolen holiday parts sewn into a slip-shod Frankenstein's holiday? Yep.
Keep Thor in Thursday
Another area of blatant laughable hypocrisy is in the names of the days of the week. Thor, as most everyone knows, is the Norse God of Thunder, famously wielding the hammer Mjolnir. The son of Odin lends his name to a day of the week, namely Thursday (duh). Wednesday, the day that comes before, is actually named after Odin, though its a different spelling of the name. So we have Moonday, that's Monday. Tuesday, named after the Norse deity Tyr, alternatively spelled Tiw. Then Odin, Thor, Frigg, the Roman God Saturn and finally the Sun itself.
So where is the outrage over this? Why isn't a single Christian on the planet petitioning to turn Friday into Christday? After all it would bring religious meaning to TGIF if it were TGIC, Thank God It's Christday! We should see Christian protestors complaining that we are paying homage to pagan gods and that our children are being indoctrinated by calendar companies and school lunch menus. Surely we can summon some faux outrage out of the media machine about something like this! I mean Fox News hosts like Bill O'Reilly lambast the usage of the phrase Happy Holidays as an assault on their religious liberty by grumpy atheists so surely a term used every single WEEK, like Thursday, and not just once a year should raise some Christian complaints.
The Xmas Marks the Spot
Many Christians don't know this but the letter X can be symbolic of the name of Christ, this comes from the Greek letter X. For those who believe using the term Xmas was actually a secular attack on the mention of Christ in public I have news for you, using the X to abbreviate Christmas began in the 16th century and is attested as far back as the 1550s. This isn't some insidious twentieth century attempt to remove your precious savior from the public square, it's a Christian abbreviation that later became ubiquitous.
The very phrase “Keep the Christ in Christmas” is mislead at its core as a knee-jerk reaction to an attack that never actually took place and still isn't happening anywhere in the Western world. There are countries where people are put to death or imprisoned for espousing Christian beliefs and things like the “War on Christmas” belittle the real persecution and suffering of real people.
O Pagan Tree O Pagan Tree
Ever wonder what exactly the evergreen tree has to do with the birth of the baby Jesus? The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing. The adoration and adornment of evergreen trees, in whole or in part, actually stretches back to pagan traditions. Because they don't lose their leaves like deciduous varieties of tree the evergreen was seen as a symbol of eternal life or longevity. It was at a much later date that Christians began bringing them into their homes to create the quintessential holiday fire hazard.
Much like the pagan background of Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny Christians ignorant of the history of their own holiday don't realize that there is no association between the Christmas tree and any of the stories surrounding Jesus' birth. Anger has actually ensued when political figures dare to label their decorative Winter pine as a “Holiday Tree” instead of a “Christmas Tree”. Yet no one ever seems to complain that the song O Christmas Tree literally appears to be worshiping the tree as an idol of everlasting vitality.
I'm Dreaming of a White Jesus?
There is one area of Christmas that has always pissed me off even back when I was a Christian and that is the white-washing of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. If you're a Christian and you put out a Nativity with Caucasian characters you should probably be ashamed of yourself. For folks who claim to care about truth and claim to love their savior with all their hearts you'd think the least these people could do is get the color of his skin right.
It's bad enough that you've embraced a myth about God impregnating a young teen virgin with his son just so that he can one day be brutally murdered for sins that you're too selfish to take responsibility for yourself. At least have the wherewithal to take your own mythology seriously and have a racially correct Nativity. And if the complaint is that racially correct nativity scenes are hard to find than simply don't have one. Who exactly said that Jesus WANTED his birth to be celebrated? Did Jesus ever once tell his disciples that he wanted his birth celebrated either during his lifetime or in the future?
I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't celebrate the birth of Jesus but if you're going to do it at least attempt to do it right. Keep in mind that this is the same deity who gets pissed if you use his name in vain, imagine how disrespected he feels when you distort his ethnicity and race to make him white instead of a Middle-Eastern Jew. I mean come on, the Jews are his chosen people remember!? He didn't appear before a group of pasty white folks at Stonehenge to spread his message, no, he appeared in the Middle-East. And yet you put out a white Mary, Joseph and Jesus and still go to church with a clear conscience?
Celebrating the time of the Winter Solstice is common to a great many religious and cultural traditions. This time of year and the celebrations surrounding it do not belong to Christianity as some in the religious right would like us to believe. Instead we must share this time of year and make it about unity instead of division. It is true that here in America some secular groups would like to prevent the melding of religion and government by making holiday displays friendly to all faiths. This does absolutely nothing to “persecute” Christians but instead stops the alienation of non-Christians. We Americans live in a nation that is predominantly Christian but we do not live in a Christian nation and cannot allow our government to support one religious tradition over another.
The hypocrisy of those who claim there is a War on Christmas is as amusing as it is frustrating. Whatever you're celebrating and whoever you're celebrating along with I wish you the best and always remember that the Earth's axial tilt is the REAL reason for the Winter season.