The Main Event – Christmas vs. The Holidays

My friend posted this cartoon to her Facebook profile with some comments:

Linus Explains the Meaning of Christmas

My friend is a Christian and was upset by the sentiment expressed in this cartoon.  I understand her concerns. The words used in Linus’ second bubble are, perhaps, unfortunate. However, the underlying truth and sentiment expressed in this cartoon does resonate with me.  I am a Unitarian Universalist Pagan.  I celebrate the turning wheel of the year – as best as I am able – with a slightly Celtic flavour to my faith.  Though living in Canada does make my seasons a little different than those of the British Isles. And, I am open to the beliefs of all faiths and happy to see all people worshipping how, why and when (or not) they prefer to do that.  What Linus tells us in this cartoon is essentially true –  early Christians incorporated elements of others’ sacred traditions, possibly their own former traditions, into those of Christianity.  Traditions like bringing evergreen trees into the home and decorating them, gift giving, burning lights and candles, gathering with friends and family, and eating well are all part of northern European mid-winter festivals that pre-date Christianity.  When I decorate my home with evergreen and holly and candles and snow globes with reindeer inside I am not decorating for Christmas.  I am decorating for the Winter Solstice, for Yule. Many of the things we associate with Christmas have been brought to Christmas by way of mid-winter festivals.

I will never deny a Christian his or her Christmas.  I grew up in Sunday Schools, lit the Advent candles, participated in nativity plays, went to church on Christmas Eve and sang all the hymns with gusto.  It is a lovely holiday.  It gives hope and celebrates love and light in a cold, dark season.  And, to be honest, the fact that early Christians chose to celebrate the birth of the Light of their religion a the same time as others were celebrating the Light of their religions really isn’t the point.  In fact, ‘Christmas’ is all about what Christians have decided it’s about.  It is, after all, their Christ Mass.  However, the whole season with all it’s trappings does not belong solely to Christians in spite of the fact that most North Americans call it ‘Christmas’.  So, by all means. celebrate Christmas by sending Christmas cards, decorating a Christmas tree, giving Christmas presents and having a gorgeous Christmas dinner.  But, please don’t get frustrated with me when I send holiday cards, decorate a Yule tree, throw a Yule party and give Solstice gifts.  I am simply reclaiming what used to be widely known as pagan traditions.  I am not mocking Christian traditions since none of these truly belong to Christianity.

In this season of peace, love and joy I hope we can all enjoy one another without worrying about who has borrowed from whose traditions.