There are two things guaranteed to happen at this time of the year and both annoy me with equal intensity. I try not to let them, not good for my karma but Zen is sometimes hard to achieve when there are bloody-minded people on this planet!
There have been festivities in Mid Winter for as long as humankind has walked the planet. Yule and Saturnalia amongst a plethora of festivals, predate the Christian tradition by millennia and many traditions from these ancient winter festivals were adopted by the Christian Church when it decided in the 4th century to make the 25th December the date that Jesus Christ’s birth was to be celebrated, despite the fact that nobody really knows when he was born.
Mistletoe, wreaths, Yule logs, community singing and feasting are all traditions we continue today as our pagan ancestors did in the days of yore. These festivities grew up around the time of the winter solstice to celebrate rebirth and renewal. Ok so in the middle of a bleak midwinter it sometimes feels that springtime is a long way off but following the solstice the days start to draw out once again signalling renewal. Of course we now celebrate these days on what are effectively vastly different days from our ancestors due to the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Which adds more arrows to my bow…..
If as a non-church goer you dare in this season to venture inside a church to participate in a little community singing and enjoy some Christmas type spirit you would be forgiven for thinking that you were going to hell in a handcart. The vicar or priest will stand there delivering the well worn phrases that I’ve heard since my childhood of how the real meaning of this festival has been lost; lost to commercialisation and to those of no faith who have the temerity to only turn up to church once a year! Talk about a warm welcome, well no, they don’t or at least in my experience they don’t.
It annoys me that the Christian Church thinks it has a monopoly on celebrations at this time of the year when let’s face it, they were the interlopers. This brings me to the second thing that annoys me. It’s all over social media now, Facebook, twitter et al. In the days before these inventions it would be discussions on the radio or TV or even letters to the newspaper. It’s the “I’m not going to wish you happy holidays, cos it’s Christmas. It’s not winterval, it’s Christmas.” You know the sort of thing. It usually ends with a xenophobic type statement along the lines of “if you don’t like it and our traditions then go back to where you came from”.
Now this annoys me on so many levels I don’t even know where to start! Firstly, the media in whatever form has hoodwinked most of the people that post this sort of rubbish, that there are people who object to Christmas. This amazes me. Anyone of true faith has total respect for the faith of others and his or her festivals and celebrations and holy days. I’ve worked in very multi-cultural offices in various parts of the country and the only group of people who didn’t send Christmas cards and give Christmas presents or participate in any way whatsoever were the witness of Jehovah! Yes that’s right; the Hindu’s, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists all appeared to participate in Christmas and in the traditions associated with it including feasting, present and card giving and parties! Most went home and put up Christmas trees too. It strikes me that a few well meaning but misguided liberals way back in the 1980s tried a few renaming/rebranding exercises and thereby started these myths that perpetuate and grow to this day. Whenever you challenge someone who has posted such rubbish to come up with some evidence of where in the UK Christmas is banned, they never can. Simple really, they can’t because it hasn’t. What annoys me even more is the point that so few of those who think like this will actually attend a church or celebrate the day in a Christian manner. Sure they’ll be celebrating, as the majority will but not in the way those vicars and priests I mentioned at the beginning would like them to, which rather brings me full circle.
I can never understand why people just don’t live and let live. Whatever your beliefs or reasons for celebrating at this time of the year or not as the case may be, just enjoy the time that is available to spend with your loved ones, indulging in traditions and rituals that have been around for centuries and looking forward to longer days and the renewal of life. I shall take a spoon of my own advice now and stop getting annoyed….