Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Once again, I am of two minds:

On the one hand, I feel that the Christmas holiday is messed up. It co-opts the old pagan Solstice celebration, and it's likely that the date it's celebrated has nothing whatsoever to do with when Jesus of Nazareth was born. It has come to be a time of extravagance, of which I'm quite certain he would disapprove. People are wondering what they can get for Christmas, and worrying about what material things they can give, instead of being truly supportive of one another. It's so much about material things, instead of the lasting things that can be shared by humans.

On the other hand, what's wrong with celebration? Laws were passed in England and these colonies in the 1600s, forbidding the celebration of Christmas and the use of its pagan trappings, like Christmas trees and decorations and mince pie and pudding, so that it was not generally celebrated in this country until the 1850s. And that was so much "bah, humbug".

So, where does that leave me? Perhaps just back where I began, feeling that there's plenty to be critical of, but also acknowledging that people need to get together to enjoy one another's company, enjoy good food and drink, and perhaps to give gifts to one another. It is good to see a child's smile when they receive a toy that gives them pleasure. Every child deserves some of that. So do grown-ups.

But I won't go so far as to say that Jesus is all this holiday is about. Feeling this way may get me accused of just being politically correct (or worse), but I don't think that's an insult. Political correctness simply takes into account that not EVERYone celebrates Christmas. To say "Happy Holidays" may seem to dilute the greeting, but it takes into account the preferences of an audience that is not singularly Christian, and most people do know someone who celebrates Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or the winter Solstice, and this is as it should be.

In the same sense that we should not be prohibited from celebrating Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, or the Solstice, neither should we be REQUIRED to do so. We should celebrate Christmas with joy and gratitude. Hanukkah deserves celebrating, as a commemoration of the end of fighting, and a festival of lights. Kwanzaa, as a celebration of family, community and culture, does, too. So does the solstice, because it is wonderful to know that the days will be getting longer instead of shorter, when winter seems to have closed in around us.

May we all find more of the best of ourselves and each other, at this holiday time, and less of the worst of ourselves, and of others.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Holidays!

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I've been a number of things over the years: husband, father, environmental technical specialist, college instructor, carpenter, volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver, student of Lakota and Japanese languages, technical writer, process engineer, research technician, IT technician, emergency dispatcher, etc.