Friday, December 21, 2007


So what exactly does Christmas time mean to me? I've been wracking my brain for about an hour as I try to fall asleep, but the confusion is getting to me. I realized that unlike most things, I don't have a very strong opinion concerning Christmas, except that I want to smack people who spell it X-Mas for a few reasons. Christ and X are pronounced rather the religious aspect aside, its stupidity is rather offensive. Anyways, here's the thoughts I've been having.

I really enjoy Christmas because it gives me a chance to see my family. I have tons of cousins and uncles and aunts, and seeing my grandparents on big occasions like this is always fun. I also don't like the fact that I have to see my family. The memory of so many ruined holidays returns every time we get into the car to drive to Christmas dinner, and sometimes the relived pain and despair is overwhelming. Also, this year will be especially hard because one of my grandfathers is gone, and one of my grandmothers is in the hospital. In all though, I think the good outweighs the bad here.

I also like Christmas because I'm a jerk to my loved ones for most of the year, and giving them something nice is a good way to say "thanks for not kicking me out". Receiving gifts is hard though. I never know how to react whether I like the gift or not. In fact, though I love to be the centre of attention most of the time, formal occasions such as holidays and birthdays confuse me. I guess I'm not comfortable with somebody celebrating something for me, or giving me something. This makes sense since I'm also uncomfortable with compliments.

The problem I have with gift-giving though, is that I'm a socialist, and this capitalist feeding-frenzy of consumerism offends me in many ways. The bookstore I work in makes half of its money for the year just in the month of December. This is insane. People have become so caught up with spending their money on useless crap that they get crazy. God, the corporations must love what sheep we've all become.

The religious aspect of Christmas confuses me as well. I mentioned above how I hate when people spell it X-Mas, and one of the reasons I feel this way is that the entire point of the holiday is to celebrate the birth of Christ, not X. Yes, it has been taken over by secular aspects such as trees, gifts, and Santa Claus. Yes, many non-Christians celebrate it as a secular holiday. These facts are indisputable. However, whatever you feel about the day, it is still a Christian holiday. Attempts to rid the day of its religious significance, or to de-Christianize it, are outright insane. You can't co-opt someone's religious festival and then take the religion out of it. Christmas is a religious day, and if you don't like it then don't celebrate it. In the meantime, however, don't tell me how to celebrate my religious beliefs because you don't have the right to.

Another thing that bothers me it that I'm technically not allowed to say Merry Christmas to customers at work. Can someone please explain to me how this makes any sense? Wishing someone well while I celebrate a day that is important to me IS NOT offensive. If you find it is, then clearly you have some sorting out to do in your own life, and I'm not your problem. Happy Wednesday is not an offensive statement, and so Merry Christmas cannot be either. And even if you aren't Christian, and don't celebrate Christmas, my wishing you a good day on what is a special occasion to me can not possibly offend a rational person. It would be like getting mad at a guy who tells you to have a nice day when his daughter is getting married. Just because it's not your daughter does not mean that he has to keep his joy and well-wishing to himself. Also, where the hell is this respect for diversity I've been hearing so much about? If Christmas offends you then you're obviously not the tolerant, enlightened person you think you are. Oh, and if anyone wants to argue with me about the "pushing my religion on others" or about the "historic injustices of Christianity" then bring it on. I welcome reasonable debate, just not idiots.

Right, so do I like Christmas then? yeah, I guess I do. Though the excitement I felt as a kid is gone, I still think it's a special day. So, with all the ranting out of the way, MERRY CHRISTMAS and BUON NATALE!!


Anonymous said...

Wow. Seb, it's not often I get to smack you down like this:

The "X" in "Xmas" comes from the Greek letter pronounced "chi," and appears as the first letter in the word "Christos." This spelling has been in use since the first century, including many manuscripts of the New Testament. To say that "Xmas" is an attempt to strip the holiday of its Christian origins is simply ignorant of history.

So, how about those Christian origins?

"You can't co-opt someone's religious festival and then take the religion out of it."

Evidently you can, because that's exactly what Christians did when they coopted the Roman Winter Solstice holiday of Saturnalia and the European Yule. This is why I find people whining about losing The True Meaning of Christmas so completely absurd: if you were to actually return Christmas to its origins, we'd be hanging goat testicles from the rafters as a symbol of fertility and praising the Sun God Mithras.

This brings me to my final and most important point. While the details of traditional Christmas celebration hold some historical interest, all that really matters is how we celebrate now. In practice, Christmas is a secular holiday during which people of many faiths (or none) buys gifts for those close to them, eat a disgusting amount of food, and rise early the next morning for Boxing Day sales. I do not doubt that many Christians still recognize the 25th of December as the day of Christ's birth, and they are free to do so, but it does not change the fact that the holiday has become something else. The celebration of the day has changed so much even in modern times that it's useless and arbitrary to pine for a Real Christmas with Real Pagan/Roman/Christian values. If you'll pardon the expression, fuck that noise. Christmas is nothing more or less than how our society chooses to celebrate it. Christmas is pronounced the way we pronounce it -- and I don't know when the hard "t" became silent, but it certainly is now.

You cannot reasonably expect a ritual thousands of years old to stay the same. Indeed, there might come a time when the Grinch will be updated by the Coca Cola corporation, fake plastic trees will fall out of favour, strings of LED lights will twinkle no more, and the largely secular gift-giving of the season will be replaced by the worship of Lord Xenu, our jolly alien overlord. We will be powerless to stop any of it.

This special day will be called "Exmuss." No one will know why.

Anonymous said...

By the way, it's Steve Gold.

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