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Secular Christmas

December 9, 2007

After a lot of thought on the subject, and reconnaissance to the other side, I am now very sure that there are two holidays called Christmas. Some people celebrate both one or the other, but most people tend to celebrate a blend of the two.

We’ll start with sacred Christmas, a holiday which everyone knows exists but few I think really understand. Remember, my opinions on this subject are strongly swayed by my background, so realize you’ve got an ex-Catholic lecturing at you about a Christian holiday. This is a religious Christmas as I see it.
The two biggest holidays of the Christian calender are Christmas and Easter, but Easter is by far the greater of the two. Christmas is a celebration of the promise of Christ, while Easter is a celebration of his resurrection, of seeing his promise fulfilled and the world offered a way out of sin. On Christmas, Christians gather to remember Christ’s birth and Mary’s trials. It’s a chance to think upon the miracles of that night, and to feel blessed. A Christian’s view of Christmas centers around the nativity. Gifts are given with God’s blessing, or often in God’s name. Most forms of Christianity find it a holiday to grow closer to other Christians, and many use it as a catalyst to spur further work in God’s name, often more attempts at “spreading God’s word” (which sorry, pet peeve, that’s a PC way to say “We’re gonna try to convert you now.”). Carols are sung, but the most important ones are those speaking of Christ.

Then there’s secular Christmas. This is the hidden form of the holiday, decried by many religious people but yet not recognized often as a holiday in it’s own right. For me, a good secular Christmas centers around family. It’s a chance for everyone to get home and see each other again. There are family traditions, often involving the tree and decorations, as well as special events (my family always sees a movie and then goes to see the lights at Heritage Park, for example). The holiday is centered around that image of a family gathered around the tree to open presents. The presents themselves are given to see one you care about happy. Floating ’round about the family celebration there is the celebration with friends. This involves fewer traditions, but the same feeling. There’s still an exchange of gifts, and often (for a lot of us displaced twenty-somethings who aren’t around our families for most of the season) some attempt at recreating childhood traditions. Throughout all the celebrations, there’s Christmas music, and “Sleigh Ride” and “Jingle Bells” are just as important, if not more so, as “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World”.

Alright time for a second disclaimer. I don’t presume to tell you what sort of Christmas you celebrate. These are just two of my views on it. I’d be curious to hear yours if you find these horribly wrong. A lot of why I prefer to see Christmas this way is that I’m tired of getting in trouble for including people in Christmas. If I invite a non-Christian to something for Halloween or Thanksgiving, that’s totally acceptable. If I invite them to bake Christmas cookies I’m pushing my religion on them. Non-Christians can be very touchy about being included in Christmas celebrations, and I think that’s a shame. Christmas, for me, has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with love and giving, with being together with those you care about. Those are things I want to share with people, and I guess I’m tired of getting in trouble for that. I’m more than willing to celebrate your holiday, as long as you don’t expect me to convert (actually I’d love to learn about new holidays). But don’t get insulted if I invite you over to decorate the tree – I don’t expect anything except the enjoyment of a fun time with friends.
(P.S. I understand why Christmas is such a touchy subject to non-Christians. Let’s face it, we’re all sick of being converted. I’m just pointing out why I’d like to see things change.)
((Alright have I added enough disclaimers to cover my tail? Prolly not…I’m sorry if I insulted any one in any way!))

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2007 9:07 pm

    Hm, interesting topic. I know I’m not religious in the slightest, and my parents aren’t particularly religious either, but we’ve always celebrated the ‘secular Christmas’ as you call it. I don’t think I ever really connected Christmas with Jesus as a kid, just Santa Claus, a tree, presents, and a lot of food.

  2. December 17, 2007 3:25 pm

    “I don’t know if you believe in Christmas,
    or if you have presents underneath the Christmas tree.
    But if you believe in love,
    that will be more than enough,
    for you to come and celebrate with me.”
    -Kermit, “The Christmas Wish”

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