December 25th is a very special day. It’s the celebration of a human-deity that was born of a virgin, performed miracles, provided salvation, and was resurrected after being sacrificed.
No, it’s not who you think.
Most Biblical scholars and religion historians believe the story of the Sumerian sun-god Mithra (adopted and worshiped by Romans, centuries before Jesus was said to live), is likely the most direct antecedent of the Jesus story, from birth and beyond.
(The Greek Dionysus and the Egyptian Osiris are a couple of the ancient man/gods who share the same birth, salvation, death, resurrections as Jesus–including virgin births and crucifixions.)
Actually, there’s more evidence that Jesus is simply a recycling of previous redeemers by a very persecuted people, more than the culmination of any prophesy. In fact, the Jesus story adds many elements that came from popular regional myths that aren’t Old Testament (such as the virgin birth), it also fails to fulfill many of the Old Testament prophesy, including name and place of birth, and those are elements that were shoehorned into the later Gospels to try to validate the growing cult of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, instead of just Jewish Midrash and myth evolution.
That said, I like most elements of the Christmas season. I actually like a lot of the music (George Winston’s December and the Christmas albums of Harry Connick Jr. (When My Heart Find Christmas is fun and playful), and especially Dark Noel by various artists! “Carol Of The Bells” performed by This Ascension is amazing, “O Come Emmanuel” by Area is haunting and beautiful.)
I love the weather (well, when it freakin’ snows, blasted Ozarks! I miss Colorado! And Iowa for that matter.)
I like cooking special holiday foods (I make a really good gumbo only this one time a year for friends and parties.)
I like giving (even though my wife does most of the list making and shopping–but part of that is because of the following dislike of the holidays….)
I love the decorations, the green and evergreen, and holly and silver and snow men, and cute reindeer, and Santas.
This really is a perfect time of the year.
Save for two reasons:
One, The uber-religiosity of many people (and the arrogant religiosity in the first place.) Christianity is a Johnny-come-lately to the Winter celebration. (Mithras, Saturnalia, solstice, yule–there were winter celebrations long before Christianity took it over, usurped pretty much every single element that is thought to be part of the Christmas celebration (including the nativity) from other religions and cultures.) I can’t count how many time I overheard (by people who obviously wanted to be overheard) people in stores commenting on “Happy Holidays” and how it should be “Merry Christmas.” Arrogant and sanctimonious. As if there’s some War on Christmas going on. Yet I heard not a single person who commented that it’s unfair to say “Merry Christmas” or it’s against their freedom or sensibilities to limit the holiday to just the religious “Christmas.” I don’t know, maybe in some of the so-called “Blue States” there are people who are more vocal about their disgust with the religiosity–bust as far as I know, most of us non-theists not only don’t care that people celebrate “Christmas,” but we’ve even been known to SAY “Merry Christmas!” Gasp! In general, I don’t care what people celebrate, and I’ll even participate. Just don’t shove it down my throat and force me to celebrate your stolen and artificial version of the holiday your way, and you’ll likely find me much more willing to appreciate it.
And two, the freakin’ commercialization! I’ve never really cared for it. Well, that’s not entirely true. As a kid I LOVED when we’d finally receive the J.C. Penny Christmas catalog. Ah the toys! But then as I grew older and started liking Christmas for other reasons, and getting things became more and more the least important part of the holiday–I started realizing just how early the marketing begins (around mid-September this year I noticed Christmas items for sale and reminders to prepare to buy stuff for Christmas,) I started noticing the crass commercialization and marketing of the holiday. The importance placed on “Black Friday.” The marketing strategies that create existential, and even direct, crisis in you and then provide you with the material objects to buy to prevent/end the crisis. Marketing that convinces you the holiday/your relationships/family/you will be ultimately better if you buy X or Y. “Save money; live better.” Gawd I want to scream when I see that freakin’ Wal-Mart motto. I absolutely hate and despise the mad, insane, neurotic push to sell, sell sell; buy, buy, buy this time of year! It really makes me want to crawl into a hole in October and not come out until the after-Christmas sales are over, sometime in February.
I hate that my enjoyment of a fun, warm (historically intentionally ironic because of the weather), friendly, bright, festive, cozy holiday is perverted and cheapened and commodified and made turgid and banal because of crass commercialization and mass capitalism run amok. I’d even take the religiosity of the holiday any day over this sick illness (redundant, I know) of disgusting commercialism!
Anyway, next year I’m going to do my part to not participate in that aspect of Christmas, and encourage others to do likewise. I’m going to participate in “redefining Christmas.” It’s actually something I thought about doing this year (unfortunately, too late) before I even heard of the movement, Redefine Christmas:
Next year I’m going to ask for only two things: Either for a donation to be given to a charity or non-profit I support, or for an item that is not commercial and mass-produced and created by a corporate entity. (Like, art or a hand-made craft, or tasty treats.)
Hopefully other I tell will feel the same way (although I’m never going to say “You must do this too,” as that’s me imposing my holiday beliefs on others as I don’t want done unto me. I’m just going to tell people this is what I want, and hope the example may spark something in them.
But, I and others who are sick of the capitalistic devouring of the holiday, have a hard task. The very effective tactics of marketing have pretty completely convinced our society that the purpose for the holiday is to buy stuff for people. You are a cheap and grinchy humbug if you don’t buy stuff for everyone you know. It’s part of the self-feeding ideology, forcing people to feel guilty and bad for not buying things, and happy and fulfilled and part of the team if they buy things. It’s a very tenacious tentacle that wraps itself around our self-esteem, our self-worth, our very important concept of cultural identity and desire to fit in and participate with the rituals of our tribe members. Capitalism and corporate culture have twisted these anthropological drives to serve their needs and desires. I just want nothing to do with it, and I’m sick of it sucking the enjoyment out of the holiday for me.