Let’s face it, when this time of year rolls around, some people just want to run and hide. Already, the Christmas carols are playing, and the Christmas trees have been on display since September. If your kid is in public school, it’s been all about Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. Which is awesome if you celebrate those days. And if you don’t, well… it’s pretty annoying.
Yes, Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday that’s been made into a bigger event because of its proximity to Christmas. But at least it’s acknowledged. Unlike, say, Yom Kippur. And of course, pretty much every holiday on the Christian calendar owes its very existence to a pagan precursor. Easter remembers the goddess Eostra and, of course, the ritual sacrifice of the King of the Year, eerily echoed by the crucifixion of Christ. Samhain and Yule were Christianized as well during the process of converting the many European pagans, who did not want to lose their festivals and traditions.
So it’s fair to say that many of our modern holidays are muddy, at best, in terms of their origins. Am I celebrating Christmas or Saturnalia? The answer, for us, is yes. Do we celebrate Hanukkah? The answer, for us, is yes, because one of our family members is Jewish. Do we celebrate Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Litha (midsummer’s eve)? For us, the answer is yes, because we take the view that any day is a day worth celebrating. The pagan understanding of the Divine presence in the natural world and its cycles makes sense to us. Celebrating the life of a master (be it Christ, Buddha, or any other) also makes sense to us. Celebrating Jonathan’s Jewish heritage makes sense to us. There is beauty in all of these. And I have no doubt that if we were introduced to Diwali, Eid al-Adha, or the Chinese New Year, that we would find joy in all of them.
Given our perspective that every holiday is a good holiday, I don’t understand why so many have chosen to be offended by someone else’s holiday. I understand that the nondominant religions are rightfully irritated by the overwhelming presence of the dominant religion (Christianity) in the U.S., and let’s face it, we all know that this push is really about making money in retail sales. Acknowledged! And these holidays are overwhelmingly pushed in public schools, and Wiccan/Jewish/Muslim kids may or may not like to create construction-paper reindeer. Acknowledged! Public schools could do a better job of acknowledging minority religious practices. At all. Ever… But when they do…
There was a stink a few years ago in Texas because some textbooks didn’t discuss Christmas, but they did discuss Diwali, which is the major festival in India. Christians were outraged. I think it’s probably fair to say that most Texas kids don’t need further instruction in Christmas, but most have probably never heard of Diwali, so exposing them to it is a really good idea. I have worked with teams in India, and trust me, in a global economy, this sort of thing is good to know. But of course, the “War on Christmas” folks had a field day with this, and bemoaned the “attack” on their beloved holiday.
So here’s my point: isn’t this all getting a bit silly? I don’t really care if someone says, “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Blessed Yule,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or even (gasp) “Happy Holidays!” My own holiday preferences don’t need to be validated at every turn. What I do in my house is my business, and if 50,000 Christians salute me with a “Merry Christmas,” then so what? I am not offended by pagan posts in my Facebook newsfeed any more than I am by pro-Jesus posts or even pro-atheist posts. There is no conflict here, unless I create one. Someone else’s beliefs can never negate what I own in my heart, so why should I care?
As it happens, I can scroll by. I have that power.
When I play “The Holly and the Ivy,” I remember the Druids who gave rise to the tradition of Christmas trees, holly, and mistletoe. When I play “The Coventry Carol” or other songs, I think of a lonely couple in the desert, giving birth to their first child. And when I hear Jonathan sing a Hebrew prayer, I think of the thousands of years that prayer has been sung about a miracle of oil.
The Holiday Wars are just another way of creating separation where there is none. We are all One, no matter what we celebrate or revere or think is important. Why would someone else’s joyful celebration be an annoyance to me? Celebrate! Live! Love! Drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And let’s stop looking for ways to divide what can never be divided. It’s all an illusion…
By Asha Hawkesworth