Tuesday December 22, 2015

Happy Holidays (or What's in a Name?)

hol·i·day noun - a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.
characteristic of a holiday; festive.

etymology - Old English hāligdæg ‘holy day.’

Happy holiday tree

A group I'm in has been planning a holiday message to send to our members. After several iterations, one member commented that she thought the design was "still too religious". The member is Jewish.

I wasn't going to argue, but personally, I don't see religion here. What I do see is an assumption... an assumption that irks me. **

On the one side we have angry evangelical Christians demanding that we all "put the Christ back into Christmas". On the other side, we have Jews (and others) insisting that the etymology of the current name defines the holiday.

In the middle we have me and people like me.

Happy Holidays

FSM Flying Spaghetti Monster tree topper by NifNaks on Etsy 1290536646617 e1290645900535

We celebrate the winter holiday season. Some of us even call it Christmas (pronounced Krismas or Chrismas and often spelled Xmas...)

We love the lights, the colors, the smell of fir trees. We enjoy the gathering of friends and family. We celebrate the return of the sun.

There are no nativity scenes under our trees; only gaily wrapped packages. Our tree toppers may be a representation of the FSM.

For some, Christmas is secular in nature. For others, it's Christian. For many, it's both.

Call it what you will... there are many holidays celebrated at this time of year. Some are Christian, some are Buddhist, others Hindi, Jewish, Pagan, Zuni... or secular in nature. Some of these are celebrated on the same date. Some even use the same name. The use of the name and/or date does not make them the same holiday.

Yulelogcolor big

Considering that the holiday started long before the Christians co-opted it, and we've added plenty of non-Christian aspects since (hint: there are no fir trees, no colored lights, no snow, holly, mistletoe, wreaths, gaily wrapped packages, eggnog, wassailing, caroling, parties, fruitcake, etc. in the Christian bible), I think it's long past time to take it back.

The winter solstice is celebrated by many people around the world as the beginning of the return of the sun, and darkness turning into light. The Talmud recognizes the winter solstice as "Tekufat Tevet." In China, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated on the Winter Solstice by families getting together and eating special festive food.

Reasonfortheseason axialtilt jpg CROP original original

Until the 16th century, the winter months were a time of famine in northern Europe. ... Most celebrations of the winter solstice in Europe involved merriment and feasting.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul, or Yule, lasted for 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun god and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log.

In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated at the Feast of Saturnalia, to honor Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty. Lasting about a week, Saturnalia was characterized by feasting, debauchery and gift-giving.

The US is by no means the only country with a secular version of the mid-winter holiday. For example:

Christmas has been celebrated in Japan ... for the last few decades. ...Now several customs that came to Japan from the USA such as sending and receiving Christmas Cards and Presents are popular. In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration.
Even though not many in Egypt are Christians, a lot of people in the country like to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Christmas is becoming very commercial and most major supermarkets sell Christmas trees, Christmas food and decorations. Hotels, parks and streets are decorated for Christmas.

If you don't celebrate Christmas, that's OK. But please don't tell me you don't celebrate because you're "not Christian". That's irrelevant; neither am I; neither are the Japanese. If you didn't grow up in that culture or you simply don't celebrate, that should be enough.

From the ever increasing number of people who consider Dec 24 - Jan 1 to be a secular holiday -- please stop telling us it's not. Secular Christmas exists. I can't make the world stop calling this holiday, Christmas, but I can remind people that the name doesn't need to define the holiday any more than the names of the week mean we need to honor those gods on those days.

Regardless of who you are, whatever you celebrate, (and even if you don't) I wish you a Good New Year.

also Happy/Merry/Blessed/Good Christmas (Christian or Secular or in-between), Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Yule, Malkh, Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Pancha Ganapati, Yalda, Newtonmas, Boxing Day, Watch Night, Hogmanay, Dongzhi Festival, Feast of Winter Veil, Soyal, Quaid-e-Azam's Day, Hogswatch, Festivus, Humanlight, Decemberween, Wintersday, FSMas... and anything I left out.

NoGods books and rain

[edit 1]
A Facebook friend has complained about people trying to "forcing tinsel down her throat". I'm sorry for that and sorry for her, but I'm not one of the tinsel-pushers and her objection to "Christmas" does no more to make it a singularly Christian holiday than the "War of Christmas" complaints from others. The Winter Holiday period is multi-faceted; many religions (and non-religions) have celebrations during this time. I won't insist that you celebrate Xmas (or anything); please don't insist to me how Xmas (or anything else) is "meant" to be celebrated, especially if you don't celebrate it yourself.

[edit 2]
This is from a post in Medium:

...Regardless of religion, us non-Christians love shopping for gifts for our loved ones as much as we love every pop diva’s cover on a classic Christmas song. We’ve taken in holidays and customs as our own not only because we think we should, but also because it’s kind of fun. While being cognizant of cultural appropriation, we should be allowed live and learn and be part of the experiences of others when they welcome us with open arms. The best part about cultures is sharing.

** the "tree" in the image is not even a tree. It could easily be viewed as a Festivus pole with a bunch of paper cut-outs hanging behind it. The stars are... stars.


Happy Holidays (or What's in a Name?) ( in category Special Interests ) - posted at Tue, 22 Dec, 22:18 Pacific | «e»

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