Saturday, December 10, 2005

What Is Conveyed by a Forced "Merry Christmas" ?

If Christians insist on others greeting them in a specific fashion in order to help the Christians hold onto their own faith, then it's not much of a deeply-held faith.

If Christians insist on others greeting them in a specific fashion in order to teach those others, what the Christians have taught others is inflexibility, narrow-mindedness, self-absorption and anger during a sacred season.
A tongue-in-cheek New York Times op-ed from today.....

O Fight, All Ye Faithful by JOHN TIERNEY

'Tis the season when even the most blasé agnostic finds something special to fight about. But the Christmas battles are so complicated this year that you may be reluctant to join.
Don't let that happen. Honor the season. To get in the holiday spirit, you just need to arm yourself with the answers to a few basic questions:

Where is the "war on Christmas" being fought?

On many fronts. Retailers and politicians refer to fatally wounded evergreens as "holiday trees." The White House has sent out cards wishing a happy "holiday season," incurring the wrath of conservatives worried that secularists are "taking Christ out of Christmas." And the White Witch has cast Narnia into perpetual winter without Christmas, an assault not only on Santa Claus but on ecosystems vulnerable to climate change.

Is there any link between the White Witch and the White House?

Nothing proven, but Patrick Fitzgerald is still investigating the "Turkish Delight Connection."

Why do some Christians object to the term "holiday tree"?

Because it hides the ancient link between the tree and Christianity, found in an original Christmas gospel:

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon shepherds abiding in the field, and the angel said unto them: "I bring you tidings of great joy. On this Christmas go forth and smite a mighty tree, a Norway spruce with pleasing boughs, and place it in your home, and adorn it with candles and red balls and strands of silver."

And the shepherds were sore afraid and said unto the angel: "What is this spruce you speak of? What is Norway? Wouldst thou allow a small palm tree?"

And the angel said: "Whatever. Only place on its highest point a star of gold, or, better yet, an angel."

Please note, the angel did not call it a holiday tree.

Is that "original Christmas gospel" in the New Testament?

No, but never mind where it comes from. That's the kind of cynicism that's ruining Christmas. As a matter of historical fact, people in the ancient Middle East did put greenery inside their homes in December.

To celebrate the birth of Jesus?

The Egyptians put date palm leaves into their homes to celebrate the return of the sun at the solstice. Romans honored the god of farming with evergreens and gifts during the Saturnalia, their weeklong solstice festival.

Did the Romans say "Happy Holidays" to one another?

No, the traditional greeting was, "Io, Saturnalia" (the first word was pronounced "yo"), which meant roughly, "Ho, praise to Saturn." Scholars suggest that the date of Christmas was picked in the fourth century to coincide with the Roman holiday.

Did Roman pagans complain that Christians were taking Saturn out of Saturnalia?

Perhaps, but in those days there were no conservative all-news channels. The pagans in northern Europe must have complained about their traditional Yule solstice festival. Christians not only co-opted customs like burning a Yule log, but also turned Yule into a synonym for Christmas.

They took the Yule out of Yule?
And put it into Christmas. For all we know, some Norse lumber merchants tried appeasing both pagans and Christians by marketing "holiday logs," but the term didn't stick.

Why are today's Christians having such a hard time holding on to Christmas?

In some cases because of ridiculous political correctness, like not allowing the singing of traditional Christmas carols in public schools. But it's mainly because they're up against retailers who don't want to offend their many non-Christian customers. That old seasonal admonition of good will to all means more sales.

Does the moral fable of Narnia offer any way to resolve these religious differences over Christmas?

Yes. The pro-Christmas side forms an army and destroys the opposition.

Are there any other ways?

Well, non-Christians could tolerate a few Christmas traditions, and Christians could recognize they're not the only group in the mood for lights and festivities on long December nights.

So what's the right greeting?

If you want be safe - or sell anything - go with "Happy Holidays." Otherwise, say anything you want.

What's your choice?

Yo, Saturnalia!

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