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  1. Cycle Cyril says

    For what its worth while cycling I’d noticed the same in northeast New Jersey. Numerous displays of lights, wreaths, Santas and various other images of Christmas but few creches. What goes on inside is unknown to me but outwardly it is a secular Christmas.

    Lastly, in Nyack, NY, I saw one wreath in the shape of a Star of David and colored blue. This is, in my opinion, an example of multiculturalism diffusing any real meaning of either religion.

  2. says

    Christmas (Christday) without Christ?

    Like:
    A corpse with no life.
    A limousine with no engine.
    A skydiver with no chute.
    A lighthouse with no light.
    A computer with no power.

    Just sorta “there” with no purpose.

    There was a time in my life when we had Christmases with no Christ.

    The difference between then and now… immeasurable!

    Not to be trite but Jesus is indeed the reason for the season.

    ExP(Jack)

  3. Trimegistus says

    I’m an atheist, married to a nice Jewish girl, but I still celebrate Christmas. It has no religious significance, but it is part of my culture. I celebrate Christmas because my ancestors and family celebrated it; it is the custom of my people. Rituals can have meaning and provide comfort and joy even if you don’t believe in the underlying religious significance.

  4. says

    We have lights on the house, though no nativity…that is inside. Two of them, one that was made by my mom and one that was given to me by my aunt. They have more meaning and are part of our family decorations and not a public display. I know that there are several of our neighbors who are the same way. What is displayed outside is not what is celebrated inside.

  5. says

    Humanity had better celebrate something during winter, or we might just all bleed away into faded white pastels.

    Back in the olden days, there was nothing to do when winter came on. The crops were harvested, it’s time to eat and be merry for tis better than freezing outside. So they banded together in family and lodges, told stories, and so forth. Lincoln added another holiday before Christmas, Thanksgiving, which was a celebration missing the winter wonderland component.

    I couldn’t care less about whether it is secular, pagan, or theocratic. So long as the ACLU, CAIR, and carol killing Unions get kicked out into the cold and barred from my domeciles, I am happy. Tis the season to be jolly.

    Secular is the absence of meaning. Trying to define that which means something to humanity as secular, is the absence of reason and passion. Because the end result of what is secular simply attempts to purify certain objects and people of passion and the reason for existence. It is designed to be nothing but a machine, to do useful work, but not to have any meaning or identity or heart. A secular government is to do work, it is not to have a goal of its own, a meaning of its own, a heart of its own that would lead it down a path conflicting with the job it exists to do. It is purposefully there to separate justice and vengeance from law, to distance the individual, to strip away any reason or passion on the part of any individual, after a verdict has been given.

    Tis the season to be jolly, not to be secular(things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal). The joy of the season is in the hearts of humanity, in belief made real. To dispel the darkness and the cold, with the strength of the human ingenuity and heart. A machine cannot be made happy, it simply functions. Humanity transcends such temporal concerns, we have always required more, something longer lasting and eternal.

  6. JJ says

    The origin is farther back than that, Y. Think Medieval. Also think logically: all the churchly celebrations were fitted squarely on top of pre-existing pagan ones, and they were all tied to the land, as befits agriculturally based societies.

    The church fathers were just smart: they knew they wouldn’t win in open conflict with what had stood for thousands of years, so they simply elided in on top of them, and what had from time immemorial been the celebration of the return of the sun became the celebration of Christ’s birth. Just as it had already been the celebration of the birth of Sol Invictus, Mithras, Adonis, Osiris – (there are, by Robert Graves’ estimate, about 300 or so gods who seem to have been born on or right around December 25th) – they just renamed it.

    As people were celebrating anyway, Christianity used it. And eventually owned it.

    But the origin of the celebration was agriculturally based. The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is generally the 21st, and the days will usually be the same length for a day or two thereafter. Then they begin to get longer. Astrologers, forerunners of astronomers, knew very precisely how long the days were, and December 25th is already a couple of minutes longer than December 21st is. Great news for a society dependent on growing things: we aren’t going to freeze and starve in the dark, the sun’s coming back! Thus a time of celebration, no matter what you called your god.

    In northern Europe you began to harvest in late August or September. August 15th is Lammas – (the church co-opted that one, too)- the beginning of grain harvest. Most harvest work was completed by what was always known as Harvest Home (colloquially, a number of other names as well) which is September 29th, which the church co-opted and made Michaelmas.

    Residual harvesting (apples, pumpkins, gourds, etc.) went on into October, as well as the gleaning and plowing under process – dressing the fields for spring, which included several saints days marking local celebrations, culminating in All Hallows and All Saints – co-opted squarely from Samhain, the end of the Celtic year, which is what it had been for centuries. Oddly, the church hasn’t done so well in squashing the pagan aspects of Halloween/Samhain with the Christian Hallows and Saints – they don’t have that one fully won yet.

    October was also the counting month, when the seneschals and stewards measured how successful the harvest had been, and knew what they’d have available as provisions to carry everybody through the winter. Which led logically to November, the “blood-month,” when the spare animals were slaughtered, and salted for human consumption. (I.e: the manor will have to feed 300 people – including serfs who work the land – through the winter, which means we can carry 200 horses, 300 pigs, 175 cows, 500 sheep. Unfotunately we have 340 pigs, 210 cows, and 580 sheep. Thus we slaughter 40 pigs, 35 cows, and 80 sheep, so by February they won’t be competing with the people for the available grain in the silos.)

    And then the weather turned crappy, and everyone worked inside during most of November and December. To combat the winter blahs they had the biggest holiday of the year squarely in the middle of the most useless – from an agircultural sense – time of year. Two weeks off for everybody. Much feasting and celebrating. Christmas – once it became Christmas – began (in England) at sundown December 24th, and ran through midnight January 6th. In that time you had four great communal feasts: Christmas itself; Holy Innocent’s (12/28); The Feast of Fools (1/1); and Twelfth Night (1/6). It was immediately followed by Plough Monday (first Monday after Twelfth Night) which was another holiday – after which farm work would resume, weather permitting.

    But putting the Christ in Christmas is just the latest thing. You might as well put Sol Invictus, Mithras, or Osiris there. They were, after all, there first.

    It was an agricultural holiday – as indeed they all were. The religious aspects – whatever the religion – were not merely relative latecomers: they were WAY latecomers to a celebration thousands of years old by the time they got there.

  7. says

    I see. I was thinking about something else before mentioning Lincoln. There’s a skip there. I was thinking about medieval England or even Victorian England for the cold lodges part.

    Agreed, Christmas celebrations had much of a basis upon Saturnalia or whatever festival the Romans had.

    I’ll make sure I take you with me, JJ, if ever I got caught in a time warp back to times without electricity.

  8. greg says

    Spirituality manifests itself in many ways, which is to say that the enlightened dichotomy between the sacred and the secular obscures as much as it liberates. I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss those candy canes as only candy canes.

  9. JJ says

    Absolutely. Chilly, yeah, but interesting to realize that in early Medieval England by the 8th century, the average field working serf – the lowest of the low – had more official days off and holiday time than the average working American does today.

    We get two weeks and ten or eleven holidays. They got Sundays, plus five or six saint’s days every month, plus two weeks at Christmas.

    Not much medical care, though.

  10. says

    Not enough disagreement with JJ to add anything more to the mix.

    Except to say, England’s always prefered having holidays at the expense of good medical care, JJ. Don’t think it changed now.

    It is funny, didn’t Spain send a doctor to Castro. I don’t think they had enough to spare, or maybe they are all on holidays.

    I remember there was an incident in England some centuries ago where the king tried to ban Christmas or the Winter holidays because, maybe he thought people were getting drunk too much. I don’t think it ended up well, but the holidays did get reinstituted.

  11. Eli says

    There is nothing wrong with a holiday that just celebrates and appreciates family, love, peace, giving, caring and JOY. That some of us choose to celebrate the birth of Christ is wonderful. Yet Christmas has become an American holiday. Even those who do not celebrate the nativity or the Christian religion participate, en masse. And all are welcome to celebrate Christmas peacefully in their own ways, all can enjoy the spectacular Christmas music, the traditions of sharing and giving, which is the American way. The excitment of Santa in the eyes of children and the tradition of trees in the eyes of their elders, have nothing to do with Christmas in the nativity sense (no Santa or pine trees in Bethlehem) but are part of the American Christmas traditions. Nothing wrong with that. Surely we can share the spirit of Christmas with others who don’t believe as we do. The gift of Christmas.

  12. greg says

    Very nicely said, Eli. I agree 1000%. There’s nothing more spiritually inclusive in American culture than Christmas because the underlying “reason for the season” asks all of us to lay our gifts before the Christ child, and indeed, we comply (one way or another, notwithstanding the season’s heterogeneous origins).

  13. jg says

    I agree with DQ about the emptiness and sadness of those who ignore the sacredness of the Christmas observance. As Greg says well (.14), Christmas is OUR American holiday.

    JJ, your elucidation in 6. is welcome. During recent years I’ve been treated to much dissection of the nature of Christmas. And yet, I think there is more.

    Does such examination come from INSIDE Christianity? Certainly the medieval believers didn’t see themselves as we rationalists see them. Their world (according to one English account of the 13c cathedrals’ movement) saw God’s hand in the rising and setting of the sun. He was to be encountered at the slightest action in daily life, for the miraculous was ever close.

    I would emphasize that the joy of Christmas spilled out of the solemn Church ceremonies and into the everday life of the people. St. Francis brought the beauty of Creation into Christmas. With him came the idea of family and of Christ’s mother in Mary, so important still in the RC Church. The innocence of a Child was seen at the heart of Christmas, thankfully preserved by the Victorians so that we today still associate the holy season with children.

    One can marvel at the visions of the Flemish masters, the Italian painters, and other artists of the 14-17c, who pictured the Holy Family.

    “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day..” begins one carol.
    The ring dances of the peasants, the crib dances, are yet remembered with our earliest carols. In Germany cradle rocking was at the center of the celebration. We can assign pagan beginnings and associations to their practices, but those are from our perspectives in a partly pagan world.

    Here is a favorite observation from one of my children’s writers. It is from October, 1941, when the world lay deep in the shadow of conflagration. (Ruth Sawyer, ‘The Long Christmas’)

    ‘Never before within our memory has it seemed so important to keep the Long Christmas, to begin early enough and hold to the festival long enough to feel the deep, meaning significance of it. For Christmas is a state of mind quite as much as a festival.. Around no other time of year has been built so much of faith, of beauty. Out of no other festival have grown so many legends. It is a time when man walks abroad in the full stature of his humanity and in the true image of God. He walks with grace, with laughter, and a great awareness of brotherhood..
    .
    Until two thousand years ago the salutation for the winter solstice was: “I give light for the year.” But after Bethlehem the customary salutation became: “I give you Christ-the light of the world.”‘

  14. JJ says

    No disagreement here, jg. I am a lover of the season myself, whatever the base reason for it. And though not a rock-ribbed believer (despite a Roman Catholic upbringing), Jesus is OK with me.

    The question is, of course, am I OK with him?

    Dunno, I guess I’ll find out when I get there – but in the meantime, I hope everyone’s was merry indeed, happy as possible, and, absolutely: blessed.

  15. says

    Christmas is a Viking/Celtic holiday, no doubt: Tree worship, getting drunk and merry, night rituals around the fire. The whole giving presents thing is completely American and no more than 120 years old. Lot’s of Christian groups have opposed it over the years. Hanukkah started the present giving thing in America too.
    Now it is one of the most obvious signifiers of American Cultural Imperialism…ooooooo xxxxxx oooooo…almost as important as hard-work, Levi’s, and t-shirts with slogans!
    Spreading very fast in Asia at the moment.

  16. says

    Come to Japan and you get to see Christmas with out Christ. Here its all about Santa-san and presents. As I noted on my blog its kind of a redone valentines day

    Which is sad, if you ask me. Christmas with out midnight mass seems less of a Christmas…..

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