Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Taking the Christ out of Christmas

I HEAR PEOPLE complaining that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas."  Everyone from the Vatican to Fox News is complaining about the "War against Christmas" (TM) --  about the "widespread revolt" against "Christian values and symbols from the holiday."

Here's what I say about those complaints. So what if Christ is taken out of Christmas?  Christ was never in Christmas, except in fiction and by order of the Council of Trent.  In fact, Jesus wasn't even born in December, let alone at Christmas time: he was born in July*.  Which makes him a cancer.  Just like religion.

Fact is, 'Christmas' was originally not even a Christian festival at all.  The celebration we now all enjoy was originally the lusty pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, the festival that eventually became the Roman Saturnalia. This time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) is when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen. The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important up in places like Lapland where all-day darkness was the winter rule), and food stocks would soon be replenished. 

All this was something worth celebrating with enthusiasm, with gusto and with plenty of food and drink and pleasures of the flesh -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or two about that sort of celebration!  They celebrated a truly Salacious Saturnalia.

One popular celebration involved having a chap put on the horns and skin of the dead animal being roasted in the fire (worn with the fur side inside), and giving out gifts of food to revellers.  This guy represented Satan, and the revellers were celebrating beating him back for another year (I swear, I'm not making this up).  Observant readers will spot that the gift-giving and the fur-lined red outfit (and even the name, almost) are still with us in the form of Santa. Happy Satanmas, Santa!

SUCH WERE THE celebrations of the past.  Dark Age do-gooders who wanted to spread their misery and who thought everyone should be sitting at home mortifying their flesh instead of throwing themselves into such lewd and lusty revels, very soon hit upon a solution: first they stole the festivals, and then they sanitised them. (Just think, the first 'Grinch' who stole Christmas was really a Pope!)  Given this history, it's churlish of today's sanitised saints of sobriety to be complaining now about history reasserting itself.

THE BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan. The mistletoe, the trees, and the presents; the drinking and the celebrations; the gift-giving, the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan. Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:

The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

And so say all of us.  I wish you all, wherever you are a Merry Christmas, a Delicious Satanmas, and a Salacious Saturnalia!
* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More here.
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  1. Christmas

    I don't care what it means, why it started and what it represents. I just ADORE Christmas for what it is to me, namely a celebration and holidays and a tradition that I always look forward to.

    I LOVE the festive season.
    I LOVE the parties, and most of all, having a huge tree at home, covered in all my various traditional decorations that I have collected from all over the world over the years.

    I love Christmas music, Christmas lights, and Christmas Food (not to forget the excesses of Christmas Cheer).

    Christmas is what I look forward to each and every year. But alas, what has happened to our special celebration. Forgive me if I am wrong (I do not watch much television at all), but I am yet to see, the Xmas jingles and the warm fuzzies that are generally gushed forth over people like me who bathe in its warm suds.

    In America the term Christmas has been down graded to "holiday" season or "holiday break" and that makes me spit tacks. As Pamela Geller said in her recent radio blog, "I told a Salvation Army street appeal volunteer that they will not be getting another cent from me unless the Sallies recognise Christmas for what it is.
    Apparently the Sallies have removed the Christmas from holidays as well.

  2. The clues for Jesus' birthday are in the bible - and Jesus was not born in December.

    There is no way the census could have been held in winter as many routes would be unpassable and Romans would not be able to get to their home towns.

    You can be reasonably certain that Jesus was born in spring, when ewes were lambing. Sheep were kept in barns, but during lambing they needed to be outside to prevent stock loss from new born lambs being crushed to death. The shepherds were would have to stay with the flock at night to prevent losing sheep to Lions, Bears and Wolves.

    As a Christian, I choose to celebrate Christmas as the time of birth of Jesus as it symbolises His coming and bring more light into the world.

    And you can celebrate anything you want. (Even 'Michael, go screw yourself you deluded fool day'.)

  3. Christmas day is the warmup for news years eve!!!!!

  4. RR said...
    I love Christmas music, Christmas lights, and Christmas Food (not to forget the excesses of Christmas Cheer).

    I completely agreed here. I have no love for God, however, I am having drinks & singing christmas carols at my place this coming Saturday (22nd) evening. Christmas means celebrations (whatever people choose to celebrate).

  5. There's a perfectly good reason to change "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays". It's so you can be truly multicultural and sensitive to the feelings of non Christians.. especially Muslims.

    It's all about respect for other people's beliefs and being inclusive, and especially being Politically Correct.

    I'll just say be fucked to that, it's Christmas, and Merry Christmas to you all!


  6. To be fair, JC, Americans have specifically used the term "Happy Holidays" for decades. It's nothing new. But rather than pacify Muslims, I was told it evolved to initially include the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah.

    For sure, it's since been adopted elsewhere by the sort of dolts in Birmingham who dropped the word 'Christmas' from its traditional annual fest ..

    RR & FF: I'm no pagan, but I love the whole shebang, too! Trees, decorations, music, presents, food, drink & family. Love it all!

    Merry Christmas!

  7. There will be no nativity scenes in Wellington this year.
    Nothing to do with PC.
    They just could not find three wise men.

    They had no trouble finding the asses to come to the table though.


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