Every year, no sooner have the decorations gone up then there’s the usual complaints that politically correct forces are marginalising Christmas. The lunatic fringe in America has managed to whip up a “War on Christmas”. Here it’s not so bad, we just get the odd story about killjoys at the office banning decorations, or councils renaming it “Winterval”, or other such Daily Mail-sponsored nonsense.
The most common complaint is about people who — supposedly because they don’t want to offend non-Christian faiths — say “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas. “Jesus is the reason for the season,” comes the cry, “don’t take the Christ out of Christmas!”
These complaints all miss the point and I will explain why.
Christmas is a Christian festival, but it’s hardly the first religion to celebrate a major festival in the darkest nights of winter. Let’s travel back in time, Doctor Who fashion, to when Paganism ruled supreme: the Winter Solstice was the biggest event of the season and the ancient Britons busied themselves offering sacrifices to their various Gods. Many other cultures also evolved a good old-fashioned knees up at this time of year. There are numerous theological explanations for December becoming party central, but I suspect the practical reason is simple: it’s winter, it’s dark, it’s cold, and people want something to cheer themselves up.
Christmas has now evolved into something rather wonderful: spending time with the family, giving presents, copping a feel at the office party and generally spreading goodwill and cheer wherever you go. It seems rather mean-spirited to get pedantic over the exact terminology at a time like this.
So, don’t get angry when someone says “Season’s Greetings” to you at your town’s Winterval party. Just remember the main reason for this time of year: peace on Earth, consideration for your fellow human beings and health and happiness for all. Remember also, that this can and should apply every day, not just December 25th, to people of every faith and people of no faith.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, if Christianity hadn’t intervened, right about now we would all be stripping naked, painting our bodies and dancing in circles around a fire in the woods in an ancient Pagan rite… and doesn’t that sound like much more fun than pulling crackers and watching the Queen’s Speech?
Hm, where can I get bodypaint and firelighters this time of night?