12 December, 2012

Keeping the 'Christ' in Christmas

I've been seeing signs here and there this early winter season with the slogan "keep the Christ in Christmas". Normally, I'm a "let people celebrate however they like" kinda guy, but there's something about this that bugs me. I can see where this perspective comes from, with the commercialization of Christmas and everything - there's nothing controversial about Christians wanting to preserve the true meaning of Christmas. I think the problem comes in where we have to accept that Christmas isn't strictly a Christian holiday (anymore).

Now, I personally would be on board with a widescale move to redesignate Christmas as a purely Christian holiday that only Christians celebrate - I would be more than happy to get rid of the pressure of being expected to celebrate Christmas within my family regardless of my religious beliefs (and level of devotion). But let's be realistic - that ain't gonna happen. Christmas has splintered whether the Christians like it or not, and now it is as much a secular holiday as it is a Christian holiday.

And I don't see why that's so bad. Christmas is, generally, a nice holiday (regardless of my personal feelings about it), and I don't see why people who are irreligious shouldn't be able to celebrate it in the commercialized, secularized form that currently exists. Ideally, we would call it something different, and disconnect it with the religious traditions of Christmas - call it Winter's Day or whatever. That way, the Christians could be all about "Christmas is about Christ", and the rest of us heathens could be content to celebrate our Winter's Day without feeling like we're locking horns with the Christians by subverting their holiday traditions.

But, as it stands, the holiday that so much of us celebrate, whether religious or not, and particularly when talking about the media outlets and the music and the decorations we see every December, is Christmas. So when I see a sign that says "keep the Christ in Christmas" I can't help thinking, "well, that's all well and good for you Christians, but I'm an atheist, and the last thing I want to emphasize in my winter holiday celebrations is some religious mumbo-jumbo."

See, in my experience, 'Christmas' is a word used to designate winter holiday celebrations (not specifically those of a devout religious bent), and anyone who is advertising the need to put the Christ back into Christmas is essentially telling me that I need to not only put religion into my winter holiday celebrations, but to put specifically Christian beliefs into my winter holiday celebrations - and that's offensive. But, that is characteristic of the Christians, after all, who have historically been overly concerned with conversion and saving souls and forcing everybody else to think the way they do.

Now, I'm a reasonable person, so I'm more than happy to renounce the name 'Christmas' for my winter holiday celebrations, but as long as everybody else I bump into (religious or not) is using that name, it's not really going to stick. So, if there is to be any kind of resolution to this dilemma, there are going to have to be a whole lot more people willing to do as I am. I can't force that to happen, so it's out of my power. I'm willing to concede Christmas to the Christians; whether or not it happens depends on the rest of you 'not really religious' Christians and ex-Christians, and you people who help to turn the commercial marketplace into an advertisement for Christianity each December, reinforcing the extremely offensive notion that America is a Christian country.

The ball's in your court.