Keeping You in Yuletide

Well, it’s now Christmas Day, so I might as well say a bit about it. As Rose said in a recent post, it’s a little odd how the “Keep Christ in Christmas” crowd doesn’t seem to care about the birth of their savior being co-opted by crass commercialism. In fact, wasn’t part of Bill O’Reilly’s beef that stores WEREN’T forcing Christmas down everyone’s throat? (And even then he was wrong; apparently Christmas decorations everywhere don’t matter unless someone SAYS the word “Christmas.”) Well, at least it seems odd at first, but when you think about it, isn’t it kind of typical for those with the God Bless America viewpoint? It’s the Holy Trinity of Jesus, the American Flag, and the Almighty Dollar. I almost miss when the main thing people bitched about was how Santa Claus had stolen Jesus’ birthday.

With the modern Christmas Warriors, it doesn’t seem to matter what you do with Christmas, as long as you CALL it Christmas. And hey, I’m a supporter of Secular Christmas. Really, the Santa myth is about generosity and charity, right? The fact that some of us have turned it into a celebration of materialism and seeing how much of a haul you can get isn’t Kris Kringle’s fault so much as it is a sign of the greediness of children, and of people in general. I don’t even know that I’m inherently against consumerism. Material goods aren’t everything, but it would be a lie to say they can’t be fun. There has to be a line somewhere, though, right?

Anyway, the way I see it, the holiday we now know as Christmas was basically taken from the Romans, so why is calling it by the name Christians gave it so important? It’s really a solstice celebration, even if calling it that nowadays sounds suspiciously New Agey.

So does Yule, to a certain extent, although that name has become merged with Christmas to the point where you can mention a yule log without being accused of hating Jesus.

Yule was actually a solstice celebration in northern Europe, although the term can get a little confusing, as it can refer either to the specific festival or to the general time of year. But then, I guess we do that now with Christmastime. It seems that the original Yule celebrations involved the sacrifice of animals to Odin, but as Christianity spread into northern Europe, it gradually came to just be an alternate name for Christmas. So, have a merry Christmas, a cool Yule, and happy holidays!

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3 Responses to Keeping You in Yuletide

  1. halinabq says:

    When it comes to Christmas, co-opting has been the order of the day for millenia. The idea that Jesus was born on December 25th was adopted (not to say stolen) from the Persian deity Mithras, who was (surprise!) born on December 25th, but 600 years earlier. Mithras was even visited by the wise men. And Christmas wasn’t “stolen” from the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, because it was the Roman emperor Constantine who decided to substitute Christmas for Saturnalia when he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. In this endeavor he was probably motivated less by religious fervor than by the political gains he hoped would accrue from culturally unifying his empire.

    It’s easy to imagine that this sort of thing has been going on since the dawn of human culture, as each succeeding society adapted the myths of their predecessors to their own needs. In this context, it is hardly surprising that buying stuff for Christmas has become so predominant in our contemporary culture of consumerism. One might think this an odd way to worship someone who preached a gospel of disavowing worldly goods, but these sorts of contradictions trouble very few minds.

    • Nathan says:

      I guess pretty much every holiday is celebrated with consumerism nowadays. Valentine’s Day? Buy something for your sweetheart! Halloween? Buy a costume and acquire candy! Presidents’ Day? Big sales at the mall! St. Patrick’s Day? Cheap trinkets with “Erin Go Brach” on them!

  2. When I posted my last post I reread a post I’d written on the Meaning of Christmas a few years ago: — in which I discuss many of the issues you brought up here, particularly in the comments section in my response to Liz– the isn’t it funny how the enemy to the True Meaning of Christmas when WE were growing up was Commercialism, and now all of a sudden it’s Secularism– and here’s Liz, a non-Christian, complaining that what she dislikes most about Christmas IS the Commercialism– and it just all seemed very ironic!

    As I mentioned in that post, the whole “Happy Birthday Jesus!” concept bugs me AS a Christian because it’s a) not accurate, so it just gives non-Christians more fuel for making fun of Christians; and b ) too SIMPLISTIC. Celebrating the Coming of Christ is a whole lot more than celebrating the anniversary of ANYBODY’S birth. The priest gave what I found was a very moving and inspiring homily at our Christmas Eve Mass this year that was all about Christ manifesting inside each of us– the coming of Christ into our hearts so that we may act accordingly– and I was like YES, THAT’S IT, THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT, people becoming Christ for each other, spreading peace and love and so on. SOOOOO much more than any birthday party.

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