(Christians, prepare to be both offended and educated.)
This is the time when many people take stock of the year as it comes to a close, make decisions for the following year, and plan all kinds of celebrations with family and friends.
This is great. It is all well and good. However, there is certain misinformation widely distributed at this time of year, and while I have no problem with people observing whatever religious persuasion they choose, I do have a problem with it being incessantly shoved in my face.
Our Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion likewise assures freedom from religion for those who do not believe, or who follow a different path. Yet, as we shop the stores from almost before Halloween has even arrived, our ears are assaulted by Christmas music in nearly every store we visit until the very day before Christmas itself. The Christian view and its music is virtually shoved down our throats at every turn.
The Christmas holiday takes on a life of its own that has nothing to do with religion or religious beliefs, and everything to do with corporate greed. It is the biggest mass-marketing push of the year. You can shop for a late November birthday gift if you wish, but know this: the store will count it into its Christmas sales figures!
A few persons of this particular religious persuasion will grumble about the commercialization of the holiday, trying to remind the rest that, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." Unfortunately, they are just as wrong.
The day on which Christians celebrate the birth of their "lord" has nothing to do with the birth of an infant many years ago and far away. That person was not born in winter--the evidence for that is in the very music of the season...shepherds would not be out in the middle of winter in the snow with their flocks..they'd die of exposure, and there would be no grass for the sheep to nibble. No, winter is barn and hay time. So, the Christ Child was more likely born in spring or summer.
What really happened, here then? The early church was struggling desperately for converts. They used all sorts of nefarious schemes to gain them, including threats of death and seizure of property. Most fell into line, if begrudgingly. In those days, people still worshipped a pantheon of older gods and goddesses even pre-dating Roman and Greek traditions.
In December, the Winter Solstice occurs, and was celebrated back then with great feasts, and many fires, candles, torches, and so forth, to drive back the darkness of winter, and make hope for the return of Spring and her light and warmth. Some of the pagan sects made offerings of food to their gods; others may have made blood sacrifices. It was a horrific time to try and survive a winter in meager shelters with little in the way of warm clothing. Many died over winter. It was a scary time.
The feasted, they drank, they danced and made merry to chase the fear, the dark, the cold. Just around the 25th of the month was the Saturnalia celebration.
Many of the reluctant converts still practiced their old ways in secret, only pretending to believe in this new religion, simply to save their lives and their land, if they had any. The church noticed this, and took advantage of the fact by simply piggy-backing the celebrations they wanted to emphasize onto the pagan celebrations already happening. Hence, they decided to assign the birth of Christ onto the same date as the Saturnalia. Bingo! Instant (apparent) compliance with the church-mandated celebration!
In fact, the church probably knew, or suspected the real motives behind the celebrants' partying, but they looked the other way at first, satisfying themselves that they had "won" and convinced the popluation to believe as the church directed.
Over time, however, as the elders of the population died off, and new people were born, the people forgot the old ways. Gradually, stricter rules were put into place by the church, and they began to have an iron fisted will over their subjects. Enter the crusades and other horrors such as the Spanish Inquisition.
Oh, and by the way, the original meaning of "pagan" back in those days was simply a person of the country, or countryman ... meaning of the land...a simple person. There was no negative connotation as the church later characterized the word. "Pagan" does not mean devil-worship.
Nowadays, we hear all kinds of whining from the Christian community about all the things wrong with this "holy" season. They are offended when people say "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas." Well, excuse you, but not everyone you meet is a Christian!
Why would you expect them to offer you a greeting pertaining to your particular religious celebration? There are far more religions than just Christians that have celebrations at this time of year. So, insistence on "Merry Christmas" as the only appropriate greeting is a very chauvinistic and bigoted viewpoint.
Do you Christians put up a tree? String your house with lights? Teach your children about Santa? These are all remnants from the original Pagan traditions.
So I ask, why should you be any more offended than a Jewish person, to whom no one says "Happy Chanukah?" What about those who celebrate Kwanzaa? Don't they have an equal right to be offended by your "Merry Christmas?" I am pagan, and proud of it. Shouldn't people greet me with "Happy Yuletide" or "Merry Saturnalia?" No, that should not be expected of them. I don't celebrate the Christian holidays; and I don't expect you to celebrate mine. I am offended that the focus of the season is exclusively Christian in its basis. There are many winter celebrations, so, in fact, "Happy Holidays" is the more proper, all-encompassing greeting that leaves out no one!
I have put up with this in silence for decades. The silence has ended. I am tired of hearing Christmas Carols in every store for 2 solid months; so the next time someone says "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," they need not expect a polite answer. There are many 'reasons for the season,' and the Jesus one was trumped up centuries ago. So--