Friday, December 17, 2004

Pointless Christmas Traditions

So, in case anyone hasn't noticed, it's Christmas time. Yes, the time when people supposedly set aside their usual self-centered, inconsiderate selves and turn into some kind of mankind-loving good-willers. Except in the mall--but I digress. I didn't come here to talk about the alleged 30-day transformation of people's attitudes. I came here to talk about our Christmas traditions. Consider the following Christmas traditions:
  • Giving gifts.
  • Displaying a nativity scene.
  • Singing Christmas carols.
Now, I don't have a problem with participating in any of these things, because each of these traditions have a real meaning. Christmas is about commemorating the birth of Jesus, the Christ. Displaying a nativity scene, however ethnically inaccurate, reminds us of that birth. Giving gifts reminds us that Jesus was God's gift to mankind, and it also reminds us of the gifts that the sages from the East brought to the child Jesus1. Even singing Christmas carols is meaningful, assuming the Christmas songs you're singing actually have to do with Christ.

However, consider these Christmas traditions:
  • Putting up a "Christmas" tree in one's house.
  • Adorning one's house with "Christmas" lights.
  • Drinking lots of egg nog.
I'm betting that of my American readers, 90% of you participate in one or more of these traditions. But I have to ask you... why? What does putting a dying evergreen in one's house have anything to do with the birth of Jesus? Yes, I know where the "Christmas" tree tradition may have come from. But the reality is that when people put up a "Christmas" tree in their house today, they do it for one reason: It's just what you do at Christmas. Wow, what a special, meaningful tradition.

The complete and utter lack of any real Christmas meaning in the "Christmas" tree is why I get such a kick out of things like this. To summarize: A couple of atheists are deeply offended by the presence of a "giving tree" in the Bellevue City Hall. I guess it's understandable, since they're atheists and they may think that us Christians are celebrating our great lord of the Evergreens at Christmas time. However, if they took a few moments to research it, they would discover how little they have to be upset with. "Oh no, please don't let those nasty Christians put up a symbol that has absolutely no relevance or relation to their holiday."

Don't even get me started on "Christmas" lights decked out all over houses. Wait, too late. So, let me get this straight. Long, long ago people used to put candles on their "Christmas" trees. Then, sometime after the dawn of the amazing new technology known as "electricity," they learned to put electric lights on their trees in place of candles. Then at some point, someone got the *achem* bright idea to put these same lights on their houses? What does that have to do with anything, let alone the birth of the Christ? I admit, they look pretty and all, but why not put little lights on our houses for labor day, instead? It would have just as much meaning.

Lastly, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against egg nog. I actually quite like the stuff. Which is why I think it's so frikkin' stupid that most places only sell the stuff at Christmas! What does this creamy drink have to do with Christmas? Nothing!

Deep breaths... Okay, I'm better now. At any rate, I suppose all I'm really saying is that we should really think about why we do the things we do. If we like decorated trees inside, shiny lights on our houses, or creamy egg-based beverages, then why limit them to Christmas time? They're not meaningful Christmas traditions, any more than they are Valentine's Day traditions.

Source: Komo 4 News

1Note that I didn't say "gifts that the three sages from the East brought to the baby Jesus."


Blogger Dove said...

Our culture has a remarkable way of embracing holidays and traditions that mean literally nothing. Christmas is not the only holiday that is like this. Consider Easter, with its bunnies and egg hunts. Though people in the Church celebrate Easter as a memorial to Jesus' resurrection, secular culture goes on hunting for eggs without need for any real meaning. They do it because it's fun, because it's what you do at Easter.

The same is true of Halloween--the Catholics co-opted the Pagan festival to Samhein to become All Hallow's Eve, and even that we forget. We dress up in costumes and give candy because... well, because it's what you do. It's Halloween. The same is true of Marti Gras--how many people are actually celebrating the Catholic Carnival before Lent. Or Valentine's day--does anybody remember what that holiday is for? Even holidays that ought to have some cultural meaning--such as Thanksgiving--eventually lose it, for most of us. It ceases being a day of rememberance for the Pilgrim's successful harvest, and simply becomes "A season to be thankful. And eat lots of turkey."

I find in that an interesting commentary on our culture, actually. American culture seems to be one with no values, with no holidays, with nothing to universally memorialize. Our holidays celebrate nothing--we celebrate them simply because they are fun, they are an excuse to party. National "Talk Like a Pirate" Day is a completely fitting holiday for us. It means nothing, it's just fun. There's nothing wrong with that, really... just an interesting comment on culture.

In short, it isn't Christmas alone that's surrounded by meaningless traditions. Virtually every tradition in society is meaningless--if it historically had meaning, it doesn't really have it now. I guess pluralistic culture is like that...

12:25 PM, December 17, 2004  
Blogger jm said...

I'm not complaining...I get two weeks off of school for it!

1:12 PM, December 18, 2004  
Blogger dufflehead said...

i was thinking about this the other day (well, something along the same lines, i suppose)
if Christmas is a Christian holiday, why is it also a national holiday? aren't we supposed to have separation between church and state? why isn't Channukah a national holiday?

we aren't, and never were, a "Christian" nation, so why do the Christians get so up in arms about their holidays? if the state doesn't want to celebrate it, so be it. if people want to speak out against it, so be it. if businesses want to work through the holiday, so be it.

we're supposed to have the crazy thing called freedom of religion in this country. not "forced celebration".

but, agreeing with dove, the state has kind of taken holidays and made them their own source of celebration and revenue. (more emphasis on the revenue)

to conclude, i think we should either celebrate all relgious holidays as national holidays, or celebrate none of them as national holidays. instead, businesses should allow for so many holiday days for all employees.

9:42 AM, December 28, 2004  

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