[box]RVWD is my abbreviation for Religious Vocabulary Word of the Day. (You can read my introduction to the RVWD series here.) I do not intend for these word investigations to be exhaustive, but I hope they stimulate some thinking about assumptions. Possibly they will help with honest evaluations about what is truth and what is unnecessary baggage in life. [/box]
Telling a non-Christian that they must recognize Christ as the reason for their Christmas season celebration is like telling a Christian to revere Ishtar because that name is embedded in the common holiday name of Easter. In the battle for being left alone to enjoy holidays according to conviction, both sides have tried to rename holidays. Still, the more ubiquitous cultural titles persist. Does it matter? Does anyone have the “right” to claim the holiday and restrict what and how others do during that time? Who would get to make such decisions?
There is disagreement about how the Christmas holiday began and what the roots of this winter festival are. Was it a pagan holiday or did a religious organization decree the time for somber remembrance? The only thing known for sure is that winter has been occurring, to varying degrees depending on the climate, around the world for years. There are some records of what types of parties have gone on previously, but those always have to be suspect, at least for being incomplete if not for misrepresenting. People tend to record and reminisce rather selectively. Besides, it’s a fair amount of work to keep records of every detail. And who is to say how accurately the reports even represent more than a small segment of population or a limited time period.
Even though there is an account of the birth of Jesus Christ in the Biblical record, there is no example of anyone celebrating it after that. There is no date of His birth that can be verified. There is no injunction for believers to have a yearly feast in honor of the occasion. Neither is there anything advising against it or putting limits on celebration in general. But the focus of Christianity is a daily living, carrying out the mundane tasks at hand with the joy inherent in knowing the true God and Savior.
In contrast, religious rituals tend to only allow so much happiness. They tend to emphasize the somber, thus being restrictive in what is acceptable as celebration. There may be some more energetic singing near the beginning of a service (What is a church service?), but it inevitably gives way to slow, melancholy tunes. A person could begin to be suspicious of emotional manipulation. The most acceptable and spiritual celebration is often portrayed as monastic and self abasing, where the participants must deprive themselves. As well as donate to the religious organization, of course. It is one thing to be humble. It is quite another imply that constant groveling is required in order to make oneself acceptable to God.
Religious organizations tend to use holidays the same way governments do. They are usually aggrandizing their own importance while putting on a show of making things meaningful. The organization’s holiday rhetoric may make an outright claim of a moral right to be respected (Easter, presidents day, independence day), or it may manipulate people by acting like the current body of power somehow allows some regular aspect of life (Christmas, mother’s day).
In the end, the choice to celebrate is like the choice to have faith. It cannot be forced. And it really can’t be quelled. Each family builds its own celebratory practices for reasons that may not make sense to others. If laws are made to inhibit or mandate, other ways are found to express beliefs, whether Christian or not. If remembering the birth of Christ is part of the Christmas season for some people, that is fine, but what is really gained by trying to require that of others who have not chosen it? It becomes a meaningless outward ritual. Why does anyone need their own choice of celebration validated by others who obviously have no regard for the same priorities? So, don’t be offended by how others celebrate, whether it be the decorations, the shopping, or the food. Such demands really only come down to trying to exert control, but that has been fairly well proven to be one of the least effective ways to positively influence others.