Christmas is fast approaching on the horizon, we have skipped through Thanksgiving… irrelevant in Aus and the New Year is on the fast track including the Islamic New Year of Hijri (celebrated only since 622 AD or 615 depending on how you view it) and the Chinese New year or Spring Festival (celebrated since forever) as well as many others drawn from different cultures. So what is this all about and just what is it we all celebrate at this time of year?
In todays global society you are left wondering just what it is we all celebrate at different times but all in the same season and spirit. We should recognize our commonality and respect our differences but first we should also understand these things.
Chrissy, a major in Aus has long held different values for me as an Australian, other than those traditionally held. I have made Christmas all about the kids since I questioned its ditzie religious significance many years ago. It is a lovely celebration, one for me that is related to giving, children and the Spirit of Christmas.
I actually believe in the Spirit of Christmas, also known commonly as Santa Clause as a personification of this same Spirit. After all the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ is about the emotion, the celebration and the rejoicing in renewal and thanks. It is the spirit of giving in gratitude for the blessings you have received. This is the Spirit of Christmas that I believe in.
Christmas is no longer a Mass for Christ for the majority of us. For starters I don’t celebrate Mass, never could get past the ‘You are now forgiven for all your crimes’ … come on. Where is the natural justice in this for any victims? There are some crimes, which simply cannot be forgiven so easily and nor should they be forgotten. Some crimes simply scar others too deeply. No Mass is going to ‘cut it’ in these instances until it also addresses the needs of the victim more so than the sinner.
As for eating symbolic the flesh or drinking wine symbolic of the blood, I could think of nothing more barbaric in practice. I do understand that some get great personal pleasure in these things but I find the suggestion of blood drinking and cannibalism barbaric. Sorry if I offend you but I can’t find any reference where either God or Jesus of Nazareth suggested it was a good idea either, though the church dogma will find obscure references no doubt.
Dispensing with the actual meaning of Christmas as a Mass for Christ, I recognise the 25th of December as a celebration of birth, specifically the birth of one of the sons of God but also the birth of promise. The canon or bible teaches us… we are all the sons and daughters of God so I figure that it really is a celebration for the renewal in our world, that of the promise of the children.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus, a Nazarene born in the Middle East where his religion was born, was a prophet of God. He was one of a number of sons born in this era of prophets. Some would point out that the bible itself says that there are 12 prophets, as there are 12 disciples but I don’t want to get into a discussion on just who they were here and who was the top of the heap. Jesus the Nazarene wasn’t actually born on the 25th December, scholars argue but no one really knows when he was born. So the 25th became the date adopted by the Western Christian Church in the 4th Century. It is believed to have been a date chosen for many reasons including that of the winter solstice and other festivities such as Yultide and Mōdraniht as the religion of Christianity struggled for its survival amongst many other faiths.
The customs in the celebration of Christmas, ie cards, trees, glitter and etc. are also born of other festivals including commercially inspired customs which have more to do with sell us stuff we don’t need and making what has become a industry motza for the commercial sector.
So we have the meaning of our yearly Chrissy celebration being:
- Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth – not really his birth date and linked to the season celebrations in the 4th century, 400+ years after his demise to promote the Church.
- Winter solstice – in the Northern Hemisphere only and not on the actual 25th Dec.
- Yultide – Germanic mid-winter celebration often connected with the God of the Hunt, also adopted by the English in a festival of 12 days. Also an ancient festival of Nordic value, connected to Odin.
- Mōdraniht – Anglo-Saxon (English) & Germanic celebration of ‘The Night of Mothers’ or a form of fertility celebration. Identified in the 8th century as being associated with Christmas.
Other celebrations similar and around this time are of course the US/Canadian Thanksgiving. In the US and Canada this is a bigger celebration than Christmas often. It is also a time of family and thanks. It is a relatively recent celebration observed by the Puritans who founded the Anglo-Saxon base of the present day United States of America. It is celebrated in October and November depending on where you live.
The Puritans in general wanted to dispense with both Christmas and New Years, seeing them as corrupt and frivolous. However it does celebrate the harvest of the previous season and has become something of a family affair now, which has also been commercialized largely to once more create a motza for an industry. Its customs are buried in English traditions associated with the harvest.
The biggest event celebrated around the world on the calendar at this time though is ‘New Years’, wether it be the ‘western’ calendar New Year, or the Chinese New Year, otherwise known in China as the Spring Festival. It too is a celebration of renewal and is the largest celebration in the world in terms of participation. The Chinese New Year is a celebration that is enjoyed across much of Asia and by billions of people.
Then there is the Islamic New Year which occurs at different times within different calendars but has a commonality in what it celebrates. It is all about another prophet Muhammad and when he moved house… be it when he told others to go, or when he actually left himself. Either way it was a new beginning and is celebrated as such.
All these celebrations and more have something in common. They are about birth or thanks along with new beginnings or a new cycle. They are about appreciating our world and its fertility. They are in essence about our future. As a global community we should all celebrate something so basic as our gratitude and future… or our children who are our future.
In Aus. Christmas comes also at the time of our larger 6-8 week long summer school break. It is around the hottest time of the year with temperatures often reaching over 30+C (90+F). This year the temps have been hitting into the 40+C (105+F) while on the other side of the world it has been the big freeze. Generally though for us down under it is the season of the monsoon or Big Wet. The last thing on our minds is eggnog and baked or boiled foods. Anything to do with snow, cold or wintery forests is purely fictional and imported from the Northern Hemisphere usually for commercial gain, even if it is totally inappropriate to our seasons.
Santa’s sleigh is more a big cart and it’s pulled along by kangaroos, six white boomers to be exact, as reindeer just don’t belong in Aus’ though this reference is currently a social nightmare. We badly need a new song. Perhaps someone can come up with something that has a global reference which we can all celebrate not only our commonality, but our unique differences also, and which would be appropriate for a global celebration.
Perhaps we need to revisit just what it is we celebrate and my vote goes to a long celebration encompassing the following.
- The celebration of the new year and new beginnings in our lives along with the old.
- A time of thanks and gratitude for the simple good things we have such as our food, our spirits and our family.
- An acknowledgement of the gift of renewal, fertility and prosperity.
- A time of celebration for the children, birth, rebirth and the promise of the future.
- A time for the celebration of family and friends who share our lives.
We are a global community with global needs and the internet makes us this even more-so.
In all this I wish you a great celebration in whatever it is you choose to celebrate. Be that with a pretend or even a real dying tree that has been tinselled up, symbols of cannibalism or fasting, or be it running around with a gorgeous dragon sporting a long trailing tail then I wish you the best of the season.
Have a great time.