A Merry "Non-Religious" Christmas
It's impossible to escape it. Shopping malls blaring out Christmas music accompanying with bright colored baubles and lights display in their windows. This well-loved festival is thrust into people's faces every year, sometimes even as early as November.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. The numerous activities in the church, late-night cantata practices for the big show on Christmas Eve, and the caroling team spreading good cheer from house to house, all left us feeling exhausted but with a smile on our faces.
The reason for my celebration has always fallen back on religious traditions, making sure my kids grew up understanding the true meaning of Christmas and ensuring that while everyone else is out partying; my family and I are faithfully warming up the church pews.
It was the same routine every year with the same expectations, same anticipations, that is until now. This year, the holiday took a turn in view of my now drastic change of perception and how my years of religious compliance has turned into a carefree, more meaningful holiday season.
I remember the Christmas war in my community even before I had read or heard about it on social media. The debate about whether or not Christians should celebrate Christmas has been raging for centuries. There are equally sincere and committed Christians on both sides of the issue, each with multiple reasons on the why or why not. While all these have continued year after year, it has never managed to dim the colorful lights or shut out the huge tree display at the foyer of the church entrance.
Despite being torn with guilt for participating in this recycled pagan celebration, I have held on to my secret love for Christmas that never went away.
Religious people would bemoan non-religious folks for celebrating this time of year totally ignoring the “real meaning” of Christmas. I have been drilled to ponder and marvel about the greatest gift of the season, without which there would be no Christmas.
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
– Burton Hills
It has been said that many have taken "Christ out of Christmas", which to me is both an accurate and ridiculous statement.
Significant portions of Christmas celebrations today don't originate in Christianity at all. Most of the Christian festivals are re-named versions of old pagan festivals. 25th December is strangely near to the winter solstice. Some evidence suggests that Christmas itself was merely a re-appropriation of the pagan festival of Saturnalia.
Where I come from, there are even socially accepted or unaccepted ways to greet each other. Wishing someone a Blessed Christmas is more appropriate than a Merry or Happy Christmas, chanting that true religion will not associate itself with anything to do with chance or luck, as the word hap in "happy Christmas" or merry in Merry Christmas implying merrymaking or secular happiness. Blessing means favour or gift bestowed by God, therefore wishing someone a Blessed Christmas means invoking God's favor upon a person and thus sounded more religiously appropriate.
Despite the on-going war about what's right and what's not, it is easier to get people to accept an ideology being imposed on them if they are told that it's "tradition" and the way things used to be rather than the truth, and so whether it is presented as truth or not, Christmas continues on.
I have felt guilty about my silent love for Christmas. I was worried that I might have somehow leech off of someone else’s holiday but I have never been able to single out the human spirit in the midst of all the religious traditions. Does it mean that family traditions of love, joy and sharing should be deemed lesser without a religious meaning?
The real meaning is the meaning we make ourselves – and it’s for life, not just for Christmas.
This year for me, unlike Christmases gone by has nothing to do with religious or other ceremonial practices and everything to do with celebrating the life we have with the people we love.
It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air.
– W.T. Ellis