Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, and the complaints are gonna start about the commercialization of “our” religious holiday. Complaints that have been going on for at least 100 years.
But what if things were different? I mean, there’s no real reason why The Feast of the Nativity has to be held on December 25th. There’s no historical evidence to show that that’s when Jesus was actually born. In fact, little clues in the story about shepherds watching their flocks by night seem to point to a different time of year.
So why do we celebrate Christmas when we do?
The short answer is because the Church tried to calm down an already established, and pretty wild, pagan holiday season by putting a religious holiday there.
That’s sort of like scheduling your wedding for the 4th of July.
And instead of Christmas calming down the previous Yuletide, it took on the aspects of the already existing 800-pound gorilla. That’s right, Christmas isn’t the 800-pound holiday season gorilla, Yuletide is; and it influences everything that comes across its path.
But what if things were different?
What if Christmas was celebrated at some other time?
What if we celebrated Christmas in June or July?
It would be a totally different holiday…I mean holy day…wouldn’t it? It would have none of the trappings of the gift-giving Yuletide celebration that would still be going on at the end of the year, and that everyone would feel a little freer about celebrating, since it wasn’t tied to any one religion. It would belong to “us” alone, and we wouldn’t have to complain about it being commercialized and trivialized.
It would get about as much publicity outside the Church as Pentecost. Actually…it would probably get about as much attention in the church as Pentecost. We’d prepare for it for a week or two, observe it in church that day, and then on Monday morning, it would be back to the same old grind. OK, so we might still be singing Christmas hymns for the next two weeks…but only amongst ourselves.
Let me repeat that one: only amongst ourselves.
No one else outside the Church would know, or care about it. There’d be no Charlie Brown Christmas because it wouldn’t be a big cultural holiday anymore. I doubt that there’d be a Charlie Brown Yule either, since the premise of the original was the conflict between the religious and secular holidays. In fact, there wouldn’t be any Christmas specials anymore, because it would be an internal Church day. Yuletide specials, however, would abound; and no one would complain about the commercialization of the Yuletide season.
There also wouldn’t be six weeks of publicly singing and hearing Christmas hymns along with the secular Yuletide stuff. Some people, who aren’t Christians, might actually like not being bombarded with stuff from a religion they don’t belong to for six weeks.
Although we might still have to put up with Last Winter I Gave You My Heart for that long.
And this brings up something worth thinking about: Perhaps if we had Christmas all to ourselves, we’d lose all opportunity to talk to other people about our religion. We’d lose the opportunity to talk about the annual Christmas pageant, what music our church is doing, what our family Christmas traditions are…religious and secular.
Yes, as much as we may lament the apparent trivializing of our holy day, having it placed where it is gives us an ability to talk about it with others that keeping it to ourselves doesn’t.
So maybe the Church didn’t shoot itself in the foot when they placed the Feast of the Nativity smack dab in the middle of the Yuletide season all those years ago.
And maybe those of us in the church need to be a little better at recognizing that there are two celebrations going on at the same time, and not getting into a little snit when some of the 4th of July creeps into our wedding.
Because some of our wedding also creeps into the 4th of July.