Once again, the so-called ultra-right have decided that there’s a war on Christmas this year. That somehow the unclean masses won’t know it’s the Christmas season when their favorite fast food joint wishes them Happy Holidays. Or their favorite coffee shop have red paper cups instead of “Merry Christmas” written on them.
Uh really? Seriously?
Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?
I can just imagine the conversation at the local Denny’s:
Greeter: Welcome to Denny’s.
Ignorant Patron: I see Happy Holidays on the lectern. What does that mean?
Greeter: Excuse me?
Ignorant Patron: What Holidays are we talking about?
Greeter: Well, there are several this time of year. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, Solstice, and others I’m not familiar with.
Ignorant Patron. Wow! Christmas? I didn’t know Christmas happened in December! I bet I’d know if you had a Merry Christmas sign instead of a Happy Holidays sign. I guess I should be buying presents.
Okay, okay, that wouldn’t happen. At least not in the United States. But you get my point. In a country where the major religion is still Christianity, albeit waning, you can’t swing an Elf on the Shelf without hitting something Christmas-sy in local stores. And those who are Christian pretty much know who Christ was — if he existed at all.
Why Happy Holidays at All?
As much as our Christian citizens would like to batter people over the head with “Merry Christmas,” the reality is that we live in a diverse culture in the United States. Christianity is diminishing at a rapid rate, where it was maybe 70 percent of the US population around 2007 or so, it is now around 65 percent of the US population as of 2019 according to Pew Research. Yeah, that means that 35 percent of the US population worships something else, or nothing else.
Many of these people are “Nones,” meaning that they don’t belong to an organized religion and certainly don’t call themselves Christian. In many cases they’re not atheists, but may believe in a higher power or powers.
Given that there is a large number of non-Christians in this country, retailers have decided that it is better to be inclusive than divisive. Hence, “Happy Holidays.” I suppose one could get offended by the word, “Holidays” because it comes from the words, “holy days,” but I digress.
The Christians Weren’t the First to Celebrate Around Christmas
Bad news, Christian peeps. Christmas was established in the 4th century and decided upon by Church leaders so they could incorporate other pagan holidays such as Yule and Saturnalia into the celebration. The Romans practiced Saturnalia. It started on the 17th and originally went for three days. Eventually, it was made into a seven day feast and party days.
Saturnalia included gift giving, singing, playing games, decorating, dressing in costumes, and feasting. Slaves often got the time off and the master of the house served them (maybe where Boxing Day came from?). Each house had a “Lord of Misrule” who proceeded over chaos in the household. This person was usually low on the social ladder and could insult guests, play tricks, and award special cookies with coins in them to people.
Christmas naturally adopted the pagan trappings so that pagans would be more inclined to join the new religion. Since no one really knows when (or if) Christ was born, making up a date closest to the solstice made a lot of sense to win converts.
Our Ancestors Celebrated Yule
Yule is the winter solstice, here in the Northern Hemisphere. Our ancestors celebrated Yule because it was the return of the light. Solstice was very important part of living in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you were farmers. If the sun did not return, it could spell the beginning of Fimbulvintr–the long dark winter before Ragnarok. So, having the sun return was a big deal.
I could go into all the myths surrounding Yule, but this post is getting off topic. So, let me get back onto it.
Why this Isn’t a War on Christmas in the United States
First, Christians are late-comers when it comes to holidays around the solstice. Humans have celebrated the solstices since Stonehenge, and probably before that. We don’t know how they celebrated it, but we know summer solstice was important enough to mark it with a menhir known as the “heel stone.” On winter solstice, archaeological evidence shows it was likely they sacrificed pigs then. A trilithon marked the sun setting on winter solstice.
Christmas is simply a made up holiday to keep the pagans in line. We know the Christmas stories have their roots in the Exodus, and therefore have pagan roots. So, if anyone ought to be screaming, it should be the pagans. But we don’t, because we aren’t assholes.
I doubt many people in Western countries are saying that Christians shouldn’t celebrate their made up holiday. What the rest of us are saying is be a bit more inclusive and less self-centered. You’re not the only people who celebrate around this time of year.
The REAL War on Christmas
Actually, there has been wars on Christmas in the past. Only problem was, Christians banned Christmas all by themselves. In 1647, the English parliament banned Christmas, which was rescinded when Charles II retook the throne. In 1659, Boston outlawed Christmas, but eventually that law was revoked in 1681. You got to admit, those Puritans were joys to be around.
Nowadays, if you want to see the real war on Christmas, look at any totalitarian government. The People’s Republic of China, for example, insists on atheism and has shut down Christian churches. The USSR in the past had persecuted Christians. So, calling a request for inclusiveness a “war on Christmas” is the right wing version of being a snowflake. Seriously.
Look, I certainly not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, especially if it’s heartfelt. I will wish my Jewish friends happy Hanukkah, if I know they celebrate it. Basically, if you aren’t an asshole, I’m good with whatever you celebrate. I put up a “Christmas tree” even though it’s really a Yule tree. I wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas because that’s what they celebrate. I don’t go ape-shit if they wish me Merry Christmas back.
So, my friends, I wish you a happy Yule, or whatever you celebrate. Have a safe one.
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