I no longer consider myself exclusively Christian. But I love Christmas.
I didn’t always. For a big chunk of my life, it was always somebody else’s holiday: before I embraced Christianity, it was too much about Jesus, and after, it was too much about buying and consuming. There was always something to be mad about at Christmastime. I even made a rule in my house: no Christmas decorations, or Christmas carols, or Christmas snacks, or Christmas movies, or Christmas anything before Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, thank you very much.
My family’s reaction to this rule was to nod politely and ignore me. And year by year, I’ve banished my inner Grinch to the north pole, far enough away that he’s too lazy to bother me.
I managed to lighten up, embrace the wonderful aspects of the holiday season (there are many), and worry less about everything I think is wrong about how the rest of the world is doing it.
So it’s a little bit funny to me to watch Christians tie themselves into knots over other people doing the season wrong, instead of embracing the peace and love and hope and joy Jesus is supposed to have brought to the world.
I’m not going to recount the history of the winter holiday. There are plenty of folks who have already done that in much greater detail than I can here. I’ll just say that civilizations around the northern hemisphere had already been celebrating with gifts and trees and feasts and songs at the winter solstice (which falls three or four days before Christmas, if you didn’t know) for thousands of years before Jesus came to earth, and it’s historically unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th.
It’s true that the old pagan celebrations weren’t Christmas. They all had their own names, and many of their traditions have been absorbed into what we call Christmas today.
But knowing the holiday season was already old before there was such a thing as Christians makes many Christians’ hostility toward other holiday traditions seem strange and selfish, directly opposed to what the season is supposed to be about. Cries of Keep Christ in Christmas and complaints of the War on Christmas and taking offense at the phrase Happy holidays really boil down to people telling other people You’re doing it wrong. Watching the holiday theatrics is a little like watching a pair of three-year-olds fighting over a toy:
Usually, a fight like that ends with the toy broken and both kids in tears.
Let’s try to reduce the number of tears this holiday season. Let’s all try to embrace joy, and peace, and hope, and generosity, and thankfulness, and not worry so much about how other people are doing it.
Let’s all lighten up a little and let ourselves enjoy the season.