Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday - the word means HOLY Day.

Its all over the blogs (here and here), and lately its all over the news in my parts - we're no longer heading into the Christmas holidays; we're in the holiday season. On the news, I am hearing the reason for the de-Christianizing of the holiday is out of respect for the other religious traditions that also celebrate this time of year. Chanukah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day. This rationalization comes mostly from teachers and city councillors in the spirit of multi-cultural respect. Many Christians feel that this is an all out snubbing on the heart and spirit of their season. The Grinches and the Ebenezers cometh out of the woodwork.

Well, its time for me to weigh in on this. I am not a Christian. Not a big surprise to many. However, I choose to celebrate Christmas. Crazy madness, I know. For all those of pshaw the secular stuff, I have chosen to embrace it, since the secular rituals are what I was raised with anyway. When I was a kid, I knew that the Baby Jesus was born on the 25th (or so I was told) but I never when to church. Ever. I liked to sing Christmas carols, even Silent Night and Oh Holy Night, not because they venerate Christ, but because they are beautiful pieces of music. I don't think there is anything particularly heretical about this either.

Is it wrong to honour a tradition that is so bound to my community and culture? And because we acknowledge Christmas, does this mean we need to ignore that there are Jews, and Muslim, Hindus, Buddhists, doing their own thing? Do we stop celebrating Canada Day because we might offend the non-Canadians? I think making Christmas an inclusive event, sort of misses the point. I think Multi-culturalism is intended on celebrating difference, not stomping out meaning and upholding blandness. Renaming "Christmas tree" to "Holiday Tree" misses the point really. The symbol (in is various meanings) is still there.

Christmas is all about the Claus. (As far as I am concerned)

Someone once balked at me, when I told them I participated in the secular holiday celebration. I'm a self described Buddhist after all. No one told me that when I took refuge that I needed to abandon every other belief and celebration that I grew up with. I don't think anyone expects this of me either. I still call this celebration Christmas too. Rituals don't suddenly lose meaning just because one day you take Refuge in the Buddha. Trust me. It's true. The rituals I am alluding to are trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, making Christmas cookies, the Santa routine, Elves, Flying Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. And of course there is Eric hanging precariously on the side of the house hanging the lights. I do my best to get the kids all riled up about Santa on Christmas Eve, and magic DOES fill the room for a few minutes after the kids wake up and stumble downstairs and know he was here.

This is a ritual that is deep in my bones. I get teary when I watch The Polar Express (which is the best Christmas movie ever made, but the original Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Rankin/Bass comes in at a close second, followed by Alistar Sim's A Christmas Carol). I don't know why. I just feel intensely good. And you could be cynical and say it's all about marketing and commercialism, and it teaches kids about disappointment and greed, but there is just this something about Christmas that is pure, and lovely and magical. When is there a time of year that generates that kind of deep, in the gut sensation? It's our major festival (and I speak about my family in particular).

So, that's why I celebrate Christmas. Those feelings, primal, deeply wrought, just don't disappear when you take refuge, or start meditating on a semi-frequent basis. This is a tradition that I am consciously passing on to my kids, and I make it about generosity of spirit, and a time to celebrate innocence and family. You cannot take away the thirty years of Christmas's past that I have etched fondly into my memory. These things don't get abandoned, they get reworked.

I was watching the news today, and they were interviewing this 10 year old Muslim boy (Somewhere in Nova Scotia), asking him about the Holiday vs Christmas debate. When the reporter asked if he prefers Holiday Trees to Christmas Trees, the kid looked at him like he was on crack, and said "It's a Christmas Tree".
"Why's That?" the reporter asks.
"Because that's what it is" The kid replied.


MC Etcher said...

I can't agree with you more! Every bit of it.

hotboy said...

The kid was right about the tree and so are you, I think. We also do a big hogmanay here where everyone gets plastered and scewer themselves on railings. But Christmas is magical for kids! Hotboy

Susan said...

I was thinking about this on the drive to school today, when the boys and I were listening to 'Adeste Fideles' on the radio--they were impressed that I knew the Latin words to the carol (so was I, actually).

We're not practicing Christians, either, but we do Christmas, both the Santa version and our own, less material/more spiritual (but NOT religious) version. We try to use the season to talk with our sons about fairness and priviledge and the responsiblities that come with being successful in a capitalist society. Oh, sure, they're 3 and 5 so I doubt much of it sinks in, but we're trying.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

This is a good post. Over at Ragged Glory, I argue that secular Westerners should stop celebrating Christmas and leave it for the Christians. But only because I am utterly fed up with the refusal to acknowledge Jesus in connection with Christmas, and the focus on the commercial aspects of the season that results.

When I read your post, it's obvious that you've caught something closer to the spirit of the occasion — something beyond the orgy of gift-buying. But then, you're a spiritual person.

McSwain said...

Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

Mary P. said...

That boy you quoted summed it up perfectly:

"It's a Christmas tree, because that's what it is".