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And so, this is Christmas. by David Root

Wednesday, December 25, 2013   by: SooToday.com Staff

SooToday.com columnist David Root  explores the meaning of the so-called “war on Christmas”.

***************************

You may be aware of a continuing controversy regarding the appropriate salutation to offer at this time of year.

There are quite a number of people who continue to express their annoyance at policies requiring the use a non-religious greeting.

In some cases, all mention of “Christmas” is said to have been prohibited, to be supplanted by more generic terms: “seasonal tree” and “holiday party” among them. 

The thing is, you'd be hard-pressed to actually find such a policy.

The so-called “war on Christmas” gained a lot of foot-hold thanks to opinionated television commentators like Bill O’Reilly, who bemoaned that any mention of the term "Christmas" or its religious aspects was being increasingly censored by advertisers, retailers, governments, and other public and secular organizations.

It is true: for whatever reason, there were organizations, businesses and governments that did send out a memo advising that a more generic term should be substituted. But… these were not as widespread as people have come to believe, nor were the reasons for such policies a “war on Christmas.”

In many cases, especially with retailers, it was an acknowledgement of the shifting demographics.

While some claim that retailers and others use terms like “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays” so as not to offend people of non-Christian backgrounds, the fact is that they were doing so to appeal to them.

Perhaps in the future our society will become truly multi-cultural, and we will celebrate a wider variety of “holy days.” For now, many of our observances are legislated, and are derived from the Christian tradition.

Christmas is the biggest event in the retail calendar. Rather than trying to not offend non-Christians, retailers have simply adapted to entice them into their stores.

And it is true that the Ontario Government did send round a memo in the early 90s, instructing various departments and agencies under its jurisdiction to use more generic terms.

Here again, rather than being non-offensive, this edict was more about being inclusive of the many thousands of employees from other cultural backgrounds.

Yes, I have heard the argument “people who come to Canada should learn to adapt.” Indeed, they have adapted, but this does not mean they should abandon their ethnic, cultural and religious practises entirely.

Too many people forget that Canada is a nation of immigrants, populated by the descendants of those who chose to leave their homelands for any number of reasons, some who were persecuted for the beliefs they held and brought with them to this new land of opportunity.

And so, this is Christmas.

There are those who are fighting back against this perceived “war on Christmas.” There is a faction that wants to “keep Christ in Christmas,” that decries the secularization of one of our most holy days.

By contrast, the secular approach — underscored by the crass and rampant commercialization of Christmas — seems to focus on the material aspects of the “holiday” — gift-giving, and parties.

For me, I can see both points of view.

Whether we like it or not,  whether we agree or not, “religion” has fallen out of favour with many in our society, although they do like the handful of days off work that religion has provided.

But, for the most part, many people see religion as archaic and unnecessary. 

They believe that religion had its place, and since we now know right from wrong, and have a basic sense of morality thanks to religion, then we can get along just fine without it, thank you very much.

Of course, we also see the other side of the coin: the conservative ultra-religious, who believe in every jot and tittle of the Bible, and who are certain that non-believers are on track for eternal damnation.

As in so many issues, I believe that there must be a middle ground, somewhere between the two extremes.

I believe that the secular elements of Christmas are not necessarily “anti-religious.”

I also believe that the religious elements of Christmas are not necessarily as damaging as some atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers would suggest.

My belief is that the “spirit of Christmas” embraces the ideals of Christianity and other faith traditions, and the morality and general sense of goodwill found in secular society.

There are those who suggest that Santa Claus has no place in Christmas, that Santa is merely a symbol of the commercialization, a shill for the toy manufacturers and retailers. In one sense, that is true.

For many, religion has let them down.

We have to be honest, there has been a lot of awful things happen in the name of religion.

But as I said earlier, it is in the middle ground that we can find some commonality… and that is what we should be striving for.

For myself, I see Santa as being truly representative of the spirit of Christmas.

“The Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry, is well-known for his rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but he also wrote and recorded another Christmas favourite, Here Comes Santa Claus.

As with many popular songs, many people only recall the first verse or two, and at first glance Here Comes Santa Claus does seem more inclined to the commercial aspects of the season. 

Indeed, the first two verses speak of Santa and the reindeer, and children waiting for toys to be delivered.

But the third and fourth verses harken to the Christian ideal…

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He doesn't care if you're rich or poor
He loves you just the same
Santa Claus knows we're all Gods children
That makes everything right
So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus lane
He'll come around when the chimes ring out
That it's Christmas morn again
Peace on earth will come to all
If we just follow the light
So lets give thanks to the lord above
That Santa Claus comes tonight!

Autry saw that the spirit of Christmas could be encapsulated into the Santa Claus story… “He doesn't care if you're rich or poor / He loves you just the same.”

That Autry also invokes the name of God in his song speaks volumes to me… “Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children / That makes everything right.”

The ultimate message of Christmas — “Peace on Earth” — is also echoed in the lyrics.

Another secular story with a religious foundation is Dr Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The story itself is familiar — in many ways it echoes Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where the curmudgeonly Scrooge discovers the true meaning of Christmas. 

When the Grinch tries to steal Christmas away from the Who’s, he discovers that despite the decorations and celebrations and feasting, or rather, even without the decorations and celebrations and feasting, the Who’s still gather on Christmas morning and sing for joy.

In the animated television version, to lengthen the story to fit the time available, three songs were written. One of these song, Welcome Christmas, truly expresses what, for me, is the spirit of Christmas.

Leaving out the “Dahoo dores, Fahoo foresee,” the lyrics read as follows:

Welcome Christmas come this way
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Cheer to all Whos far and near
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

Welcome Christmas bring your light…

Welcome Christmas while we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand.

That’s a message that appeals to people of any faith tradition, and even of no faith tradition.

Yes, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus… the birth that, most likely, didn’t actually take place in December, that most likely was a secondment of the pagan tradition of Saturnalia. 

Christmas is bigger than just “church.” 

When I hear people saying “Jesus is the reason for the season,” I can agree… but I take it a bit further. Christmas, as a holiday, happens in December.

But Christmas is more than that… it is how we treat one another, how we live our lives.

For believers, every day, should be Christmas.

We should all be singing along with the Who’s…

Christmas day will always be,
Just so long as we have we;
Welcome Christmas while we stand,
Heart to heart, and hand in hand.

This excerpt from the final chapter of the Dickens story speaks to the “spirit of Christmas.”

Some people laughed to see the change in him, but Scrooge let them laugh, for he knew that nothing good ever happened in this world that some people did not laugh at, at first. What was more important to Scrooge was that his own heart was laughing — laughing with joy at giving and helping others… People began to say of him that he truly knew the meaning of the spirit of Christmas, perhaps better than any man alive.  And he lived with that spirit not only at Christmas time, but all during the year.

And Ebenezer Scrooge’s  words, for the rest of his long and happy life, were Tiny Tim’s words — God bless us, everyone!

Even in it’s own, wacky way, the movie Christmas Vacation offers the same message: whatever happens, however much we want everything to be perfect, what matters is simply being with family and friends.

I hope that all of us will find inspiration in any of the Christmas stories, not just in the stories of the Bible, but in any story that speaks to our heart, and encourages us to live life to the fullest, to love and honour one another, to look beyond our differences and accept each other as “neighbour”, and most importantly, to live with the spirit of Christmas throughout the year.

There's meme making the round on Facebook which reads:

I DON’T UNDERSTAND 

WHAT THE BIG DEAL IS…

IF you are Jewish, tell me:

“Happy Hanukkah.”

If you are Christian, tell me:

“Merry Christmas.”

If you are African-American, tell me:

“Joyous Kwanzaa.”

If you don’t prefer those, tell me:

“Happy Holidays.”

I will not be offended.

I will be thankful that

you took time to

say something nice to me.

 

Merry Christmas.

But That's just my opinion.

- David Root

 

 

Comments
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polaris 12/25/2013 7:49:56 PM Report

Perfectly said. Merry Christmas.
mvnnth 12/25/2013 8:26:32 PM Report

I agree, perfectly said, my sentiments entirely. Thanks........John
euroman 12/25/2013 9:25:33 PM Report

Doublespeak.
bbcat 12/25/2013 10:15:58 PM Report

I meet a lot of different Religions and people and when I talk to them ,I find then more polite than most Canadians
Pakadeva 12/26/2013 2:15:08 AM Report

Well done!
I DO NOT respond to happy holidays...to me THAT is offending Canadians, so, if you want me to say �Happy Hanukkah" to you, then please, say "Merry Christmas" to me. We do not have to change every aspect of our lives to appease any immigrant, let them adapt to our traditions, while we try to find enjoyment in some of theirs.
Merry Christmas to all!
bill-m 12/26/2013 7:49:27 AM Report

Merry Christmas Dave

Well said well done ! all the best in the new year Bill& Jan.
Sam C 12/26/2013 9:54:08 AM Report

Pakadeva... WHY is "Happy Holidays" offensive? Is it not the holiday season? Why shouldn't someone wish you to be happy?

"Happy Holidays" is also the title of a very popular Christmas song, written by Irving Berlin (a Jew, who wrote many of our most beloved Christmas songs) in 1941, and sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 movie "Holiday Inn."

I hear Perry Como's 1963 rendition dozens of times each Christmas.

I just don't see what the problem is.
EPA 12/26/2013 10:25:10 AM Report

Interesting reading. Christmas is for everyone, believers or not. Christ came for everyone - and died for every one. Even if you ignore his presence he is there for wherever good is so is God - by whatever name you choose to call Him.

Secularisation has just led to more and more greed - I have seen such an increase in expectations of present giving and receiving since coming to Canada - it is echoed in England too I am afraid.

This year I managed something I have strained for for years. All the exciting preparation , gift buying was reduced and completed weeks ago.
Some of Christmas Eve was spent in church thanking God for the best present ever given to the world - His Son. Christmas day was spent quietly basking in his love and care. It has been the best Christmas ever.I enjoyed all aspects without the usual hustle and bustle - just peace and contentment.

We can have all aspects of Christmas but take care where your priorities are set.

In Christ's name - Happy Holidays! - ENJOY...
Dead End Kid 12/26/2013 10:58:13 AM Report

EPA, outside of your opinion, give me one shred of circumstantial evidence that your god is real. You can't. Don't blame secularism on the woes of society.
Pakadeva 12/26/2013 11:51:14 AM Report

@Sam C

Happy Holidays is offensive to me when friends, family, co-workers, banking institutions, stores, etc. are all now taught to use that greeting rather than Merry Christmas. I celebrate Christmas, not holiday trees & trash like that! We are forgetting who we are, well some of us are, I'm not & don't intend to.
Merry Christmas & happy 2014!!
thomas 12/26/2013 12:09:26 PM Report

I say MERRY CHRISTMAS, not happy holidays to people when I greet them. They don't have to follow suit.

We should be glad we have freedom of speech and can say Merry Christmas without a problem.

A friend of ours sent me a note from a communist country and asked that we NOT wish him Merry Christmas because he could be thrown in jail for up to 30 years!!!!
Pakadeva 12/26/2013 3:06:57 PM Report

That's terribly sad Thomas & yes, we are happy for our freedom of speech here in Canada!!!
EPA 12/26/2013 6:41:24 PM Report

Dead End Kid - You are the proof my God exists and is in control - are you just a freak of nature or created by a loving God who existed eternally and created us all out of nothing.

I hope your name is not indicative of the hope you have for the future.

The best is yet to be.

EPA
Dead End Kid 12/26/2013 11:47:08 PM Report

I'll get right to the point, you're an a hole.
polaris 12/27/2013 6:57:57 AM Report

And you're a douche bag. Problem solved, enjoy the season!
frnlak 12/27/2013 11:24:34 AM Report

I am not a religious person but don't condone those who are. My disagreement is in the way the scripture is portrayed. In example...In the bible belt of the lower United States and i'm sure to narrow minded people everywhere, it is understood that if there was a Jesus he would be white. When in fact,the area of the world in which he was prosumably born would indicate that he would be brown. To the hard core right wingers this would be blastmothus. I doubt very much if 2050 years or so ago that a white kid would be born in Bethlehem aka. the west bank of the Gaza Strip but apparently the Lord works in mysterious ways. So from an Evolutionist, you can greet me any way that you want, Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday or up yours a..hole I don't really care. I'm just glad it's over. Have a good one.
maplesyrup 12/27/2013 11:48:12 AM Report

Thank you again, David. We attended the service in Thessalon on Christmas Eve when you told this story. We so enjoyed the whole hour of fellowship.
Comments
17
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Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. Keep discussions civil and on topic. Refrain from obscenity and don't post anything that your grandmother would be ashamed to read. Those who do not abide by these guidelines will have their membership revoked without notice. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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