‘Christmas’ or ‘Winter Festival’: I’m not sure I care!

Aaron R. aka Ricochrist, christianity, church, Discrimination, diversity, doctrine, Mormon, testimony, theology 22 Comments

This must be the the third year that I have heard people bemoan government plans to change the name of Christmas to ‘Winter Festival’ or some such other variant.  A little research shows that this is unfounded, in most cases, and seems linked to a gentleman named Bill O’Reilly, but there has been some rumours bubbling in the UK.  But is this really a big deal?

Firstly, I can understand other religions who live in my community who might be frustrated at the effort and money that is spent of events during the Christmas season, that is not directed into events that would help their own religious festivals.

Secondly, I sense that if Christians want their festivals to remain important then we need to ensure that they are important by our practising them rather than using (or assuming) some sort of cultural supremacy simply because we happen to be the dominant religious culture in a country.

Thirdly, no one else can determine whether I worship Christmas and the extent to which I feel the spirit of Christ.  Therefore although I think having that focus at Christmas time is a good thing I should not let the fact that other people do not believe become the major focus of my worship.  I am sure people who celebrate any of the Islamic festivals do not concern themselves with my benign neglect of their religious festival so why should I use mine against them.

Fourthly, no one can stop me from calling it Christmas, if I so choose.  I don’t care what anyone else calls.  If they want to change the legal name so that it does not alienate other religious denominations then I can’t see an issue with that.

This just seems a mis-directed way to focus on Christmas at a time of year when Christians should be at their most tolerating, inclusive and forgiving.

What do you think?

Should we legally protect Christmas or should we emphasise celebrating it ourselves and not be concerned about what others do?

Comments 22

  1. Last year in London, I was surprised at how openly people wished one another “Merry Christmas.” We heard it everywhere. Even a guy who was being fined for not having a valid train ticket who had just had a heated exchange with the ticket-checker – after hurling the “F” word at the guy, they both parted with a “Merry Christmas.” In the states, most people keep stick to “Happy Holidays” to avoid giving offense. My daughter even wrote “Best Wintry Wishes” on her hand-made Christmas cards. She was quite proud of the neutrality of her message. I think we should embrace all traditions rather than getting upset with others for not embracing the one we prefer. But I do think we need to remember others – treat them as we would want to be treated.

  2. It is a well formed post, it is difficult to find an opposing argument but I’ll try 😉 I believe we should take a stand against secularisation, Mainstream Christmas although a shadow of it’s former self still carry’s a great influence and weight a reminder of a sacred moment. Christmas may only be a name but the power it may have on just one individual, just one person who ask’s “what is Christmas really about?”

    A pigheaded, reluctance to change the name will do more damage than it is worth, but I don’t believe we should surrender the name either.

  3. Thanks to Bill O’Reilly’s making Christmas a battleground I now wish people a Warm and Bright Yuletide thereby avoiding both the inflamatory Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

  4. I believe in taking a stand against those who try to change our sacred traditions. That’s why my preferred holiday greeting is, “Io, Saturnalia!”

  5. I don’t mind Happy Holidays, but if we’re going to have Winter Greetings, or solstice type stuff, we better draw it out into January so that month doesn’t become so miserably vacant. Winter Greetings and snowman motifs should take us all the way to Valentine’s Day.

  6. #1 – i actually would have thought Americans would have been more into wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’. I am glad that even ticket inspectors get a Merry Christmas. I once got arrested for having my feet on the seat of a train. He would not have got a merry christmas.

    #2 – I think your right about a pigheaded reluctance. I guess that is why i feel I can call it Christmas if I want but should not force others.

    #6 – I think you make an interesting point, if not it is just Christmas by another name. Plus I don’t like winter and so do not want to celebrate it.

  7. It’s not about Christmas. It’s about forcing religious observances on others. Christmas is just a convenient place to hang the hat.

  8. Ann #8 “It’s about forcing religious observances on others”

    I think this is how it started, but now it has the potential to take on a greater meaning. This post is about a name to be honest what is in a name anyway whether the name is winter feast, holiday greetings, or “Io, Saturnalia!” it is what the name represents, there is perhaps danger in dropping the title Christmas without having a suitable replacement signifies that spirit that many people demonstrate over this season.

  9. There has to be a happy medium between fostering inclusiveness for non-majority religious and cultural traditions, without drumming the majority religious tradition out of the public square altogether. Pace the ACLU, theocracy and The Handmaid’s Tale are not at the gate just because a high school choir sings “Silent Night” as part of its program.

    My Jewish associate has no problem wishing me Merry Christmas, just as I wish him a happy Hannukah and my Muslim friend a happy Eid al-Fitr.

  10. Post

    #10 – I agree that such inclusiveness is important which is what I advocate. but if people do find that offensive. How do we respond? Do we blame them for intolerance, or might there be legitimate reasons. I think being culturally dominant comes with a certain ethical responsibility to not wield that dominance like a stick.

  11. Rico #11

    “I think being culturally dominant comes with a certain ethical responsibility to not wield that dominance like a stick.”

    I agree with this, however the difficulty is countries have built and developed such rich cultures. we are discussing Christmas the predominantly western culture, there are many other regional cultures around the world, I agree one culture should respect the other however there is a danger that the world could become one cultural melting pot and it would be a shame to loose the unique cultural identities.

    IMO it is essential to keep the Christmas name to keep a portion of our cultural identity, just as in the US I would encourage thanks giving is kept.

  12. “I think being culturally dominant comes with a certain ethical responsibility to not wield that dominance like a stick.”

    Yes. Likewise, being part of a cultural minority comes with a certain ethical responsibility not to wield others’ sense of fairness like a stick.

    Western culture is richer for that Christmas is part of it. Since I am, in the kind words of one prominent LDS apologist, a “cultural Mormon stinking up the place,” I have a particular place in my heart for cultural richness. You can have my candy cane (emblematic of the Bethlehem shepherds’ crook! Striped with the blood of Jesus!) when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

    You don’t have to make public Christmas commemorations into sectarian conversion crusades to keep them from devolving into culturally hollow New Age cliche ridden mush. It’s the Mr. Miyagi approach: Balance. If that means surrounding the creche in the town square with an appropriately tolerant counterbattery of reindeer and Santa hats, fine, but if even at that point, some crochety village atheist objects, I would think a well-aimed snowball wouldn’t be completely out of line.

    I wouldn’t emigrate to Japan and start demanding the Japanese hide public expressions of Shinto or Buddhist culture. I know a certain species of leftist would like to eradicate folk culture altogether and have us all live lives of complete rationality (preferably in gray concrete Le Corbusier monstrosities), but (1) that’s never going to happen, and (2) it shouldn’t.

  13. As the strength of religion in the United States wanes, sectarian/conservative-driven skirmishes have become commonplace. The history of Christmas is as Catholic (both Roman and Eastern) holiday. The very name, Christ’s Mass, underscores this fact. The holiday was actually forbidden by early English settlers, (my remarks only address the parts of the United States not purchased or conquered from either France, Spain, or Mexico) going so far as to fine or otherwise punish any celebration of this holiday. Christmas grew in popularity with waves of immigrants from Ireland and Germany, with concomitant changes in the number of Catholics in the population, but not until the latter part of the 18th century was Christmas recognized by government as a holiday. For most Americans it has always been a secular holiday; while many churches celebrate the holiday, only the Roman and Orthodox churches require church attendance and have any number of celebrations associated with their Liturgical calendars. The commercial aspect won the day sometime in the 1920s; the rest is footnotes. I would argue that those LDS concerned with the “War On Christmas” are motivated primarily by conservative politics, rather that religious belief, since LDS do not particularly mark the celebration in ways that are significantly different from their secular neighbors.

  14. ‘If You Don’t Stand for Something – You’ll Fall For Anything’

    I think christmas is a time for families and friends to be together it creates a spirit of giving. Most people in the world maybe only give service or care for others that day but at least they have been selfless part of that day.

    You can maybe think of it as guy fawkes day (Their aim was to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I and the entire Protestant, and even most of the Catholic, aristocracy and nobility were inside )

    How many people realy know the history that day when they go to watch the fireworks. But I for one wouldn’t want the name to be changed.

    I would imagine the same applies to many atheists they don’t want Christmas being called winter festival they still believe in the moral compass that comes from the teachings of christ such as charity love and good will toward man.

  15. The funny thing is not what Christmas was, but what it has become, which is a time for reflection and renewal and remembrance. We have kind of conflated the old new year’s day/winter solstice with the story of Christ’s birth. That the holiday was moved in order to supplant another tradition (or why “Io, Saturnalia!” is so appropriate) is lost, as are the Catholic roots.

    At the same time, the secular, commercial holiday, the celebration of spending in what is almost a revived fall harvest festival (which is what Thanksgiving once was, rather than a time for lots of football), makes it interesting.

  16. I think it’s all manufactured outrage (something Bill O’Reilly and other talking heads specialize in). If you get your panties in a wad because some grocery store is trying to be inclusive of all traditions, you must lead a very difficult life.

  17. Of course there is the issue that Christ wasn’t even born in December. Far as I was aware the Pagan winter solstice was adopted for Christmas, thus replacing its original incarnation. In much the same way that most churches are supposedly built on Pagan grounds. I can already hear unfouned screams of how “Evil” is synonymous with Pagans. My point is not that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, we should celebrate how we wish. But we as a society are so quick to jump on our beliefs and celebrations as being the truth when clearly they aren’t as factual and accurate as we thought. And the way we celebrate is wrong too. Snow, tinsel, evergreen trees, reindeers, Candy canes, santa claus, copious ammount of extravagant shopping. Even the nativity scene isn’t accurate. The 3 wise men (or is it 2?) arrive to see the baby Jesus (or the 3 year old?) born in a stable (or cave?). We can’t even say for sure. Can’t we celebrate Christmas in summer? Why should we celebrate Christ’s birth at the same time the world celebrates the festival of eating, drinking, spending money and making a mockery of a deity?

    I am trying to make a point more than anything. Moving Christmas to summer would be a major undertaking. But since when did the government dictate how to celebrate events and what to call them? Its not in the constitution (yet). What if they did change the name? You can still call it what you like! He should be called Bill oh reallY?!

  18. The Solstice is not the basis for the celebration of the 25th day of December as the Nativity of Jesus. There were Pagan festivals, including the late Roman Sol Invictus, which were celebrated on the Solstice. The Solstice occurs 4 days before Christmas, which was certainly being celebrated as early a the 2d c. CE. Brion is correct, though, that there are Pagan symbols associated with it.

  19. Post

    #19 – I am weak. I would not want to be known, as a Church, for not celebrating Christmas with everyone else. Although I understand and agree that the time is not about history. however, that does not mean that there is no meaning in it. The alignment of Christ with the Sun God is not a major discrepancy and the symbols are not irreonciliable.

  20. Its a joke, all this rubbish about changing the way we say things in our own country. if they don’t like it they can bugger off. We don’t go into their country and try and change there religion or the what there festivities are called cos it may offend us we accept it cos its there way of life. This is our religion, our way of life and has been for millions of years and we are not going to change it for nobody

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