Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good Grief! It's the Holiday Season.

Well, Charlie Brown, Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we're now into the holiday season again.

"Oh, good grief!" I can hear both you and Linus saying. You're thinking that it's bad enough that Christmas has become as commercialized as it is (which is even more than it was when you first brought it to our attention back in 1965), but now I've made things worse by wimping out and using the politically correct, all-inclusive phrase "holiday season," when everyone knows we're really talking about Christmas.

Well, Chuck (May I call you "Chuck?" Peppermint Patty seems to be about the only other person who does.), I used to feel that way too. I used to get about as crabby as Lucy is on a daily basis when I thought about how much people have commercialized, trivialized and watered down my religious holiday - while all the time never refusing a gift from anyone.

Then I did a little reading and found out something interesting. You see, despite all the signs we see to the contrary, Jesus is not the reason for the season. I know, you're thinking I'm nuts here, but hold on a second and I'll explain.

Long before anyone was celebrating Christmas, there already was a pretty established December holiday season in the Roman Empire, and it entailed a lot of the trappings (and the excesses) of the current secular celebration of Christmas. When the church finally decided to make Christmas an official holiday, they picked a time when everyone was already celebrating - Dec. 25.

I guess they figured that by putting the religious holiday in the middle of all the other celebrations, it would tone things down a bit. What happened instead was that Christmas picked up all the trappings and excesses of the other celebrations. It was sort of like trying to celebrate Easter on the 4th of July.

And this 800-pound-gorilla of a December holiday season has been sucking up everything in its path for centuries, including, ironically enough, Hanukkah, which started off as a holiday celebrating the success of the ancient Jews in resisting forced assimilation.

So we sort of did it to ourselves by deciding to put Christmas where we did. Had we put it in the middle of the year with no other general celebrations anywhere near it, we'd still have a rowdy, commercialized end-of-the-year celebration, but we'd also have a quiet Christmas that attracts about as much outside attention as Pentecost.

Linus is nodding his head. I think he understands what I'm saying.

So the peace I've made with the whole thing is that there is a December holiday season that includes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Divali, Beethoven's birthday (I had to say that for Schroeder), New Years and who knows what all else. I've also decided that there are two distinct celebrations that happen to fall on Dec. 25, one secular and one religious. I celebrate them both, and have been able to lighten up about it, no longer getting into a snit about people who only celebrate the secular one or people who ignore the "true meaning" of the holiday.

So, Charlie Brown, I'll wish everyone a "happy holiday season" without feeling that I'm wimping out, or being blandly politically correct, knowing that in today's diverse culture I'll I get someone's holiday in there no matter what they do or don't celebrate. But to you and Linus I'll make a special point of saying "Merry Christmas!"

First published in the Syracuse Post-Standard on November 25, 2001

1 comment:

  1. Great explanation! I have no problem with people celebrating how they want, or how their particular cultural or ethnic backgrounds choose to celebrate during the month of December/January. I do tend to think that a lot of people tend to go overboard, but that's their choice. And just as it's their choice to go overboard, I have the choice to roll my eyes at the over-board behavior. :)

    The one thing that I DO have a problem with is the places and people that become offended with "Christmas" being the name of one of the holidays. No one that I've heard about has been offended with the holidays called Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice or any of the others. But, Christmas seems to be taboo. I wonder if it's the fear of who Christ is and that conviction of what He did for us? Perhaps I'm wrong. Hopefully we can continue teaching our kids the meaning behind the Christian holiday of Christmas, while still participating in the gift-giving winter holiday that most of us Christians just call "Christmas". I know that there are some groups of Orthodox Christians that celebrate with gifts and celebrate the birth of Christ at our Epiphany time (Jan. 6th or 7th), yet most people don't realize their celebration because it's removed enough from the Christmas-holiday-season hubbub.

    Anyway, I went off on a tangent. I think we'll celebrate both and I hope that I can do my part as a Christian parent and teach the Jesus' birth focus of our Christian holiday, while still enjoying the gift giving holiday.