Wednesday, 19 November 2008

So Who Does Christmas Belong To?

I’ve seen an awful lot of arguments happening on various Internet boards recently, all with the same theme: who does Christmas belong to and who should be ‘allowed’ to celebrate it? Some of those arguments have gotten really out hand, with name calling and threats to personal safety being thrown about.

I believe that Christmas should be celebrated by anybody who wishes to join in the festivities and that, as long as they’re not hurting others, they should be allowed to celebrate in whatever way suits them, be they Christians, Pagans, Jews, Atheists or whatever else.

Many Pagans will argue that Christmas (Yule) originally belonged to them with the counterargument from Christians being that the word CHRIST in Christmas makes it theirs. Everybody has their own opinion but shouldn’t it foremostly be a time when we can practice peace by showing tolerance towards other religions or lifestyles, and stop arguing over who it belongs to and how it should be celebrated?

Here in the UK we’ve been calling this winter celebration Christmas for a good few hundred years. Before that it was known as Yule, a celebration of the Winter Solstice (the rebirth of the sun). Whether or not we should or shouldn’t call it Christmas is of no real relevance to me - it’s just a name - what’s important is that we can accept that it’s a time when each and every one of us should be able to do whatever we feel is right on that day. For some, it means absolutely nothing more than presents, for others it’s a time during which they can feel close to and give thanks to their God, for others it’s a time when they can drink and be merry. No doubt there are many, many more reasons why people celebrate Christmas too. Or even why they don't, whatever the case may be.

If we choose to celebrate, can’t we at least do that in peace, without needing to justify why we choose to do so as Atheists, Pagans or Worshippers of Little Green Men from Mars? Nobody has a supreme ‘right’ to Christmas, it’s just a day really, like any other. There’s no proof that Jesus was born that day (in fact, it’s highly unlikely) and nowhere does it say that you have to believe in God (as depicted in the Bible) in order to celebrate it.

Personally, I don’t believe it really has much to do with religion anymore at all. It’s about money. Even if everybody stopped celebrating on grounds of their faith, Christmas would still live on. The money grabbing capitalists would see to that. If anybody, they're probably who Christmas really belongs to these days.

Sharon J xx


Image Credit: Tom Stardust


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Grow Ur Own said...

I agree with your feelings on the whole Christmas scenerio Sharon, overblown, overspent and over indulged for all the wrong reasons.

I celebrate both the solstice and Christmas Day as completely different things.

I actually like Christmas Day (to a point) its the 3 month run up in the shops that drives me insane. I do not want to hear carols and see miles of wrapping and bumph at the end of October thankyou very much!

I don't go mad financially over gifts anymore. I have done that in the past and got myself into all types of trouble. More of my gifts are homemade, and prefer to give one gift that has real meaning for that person rather than a lot of gifts that are just crap to open.

Watching someone's face open that special gift is a gift itself, (and generally ends in tears at my mum's house) to me that is what makes everything special.

The solstice is generally spent in my garden whatever the weather. I clean up my veg plot, harvest winter veg, feed the birds and other wildlife and cut the holly to make my door wreath. Then once all that is done, a hearty supper, candles, maybe a glass of wine or mead and then spend some time with my OH and kids playing games etc.

IMO, whatever your creed, faith or colour you are this celebration belongs to you personally and how you wish to use that time. Bugger anyone telling you how you should do it!

Peace n luv to all x

Anonymous said...

Pagans haev there celebrations some days before us so why shouldnt the let us worship Christ in peace on a day that we hold holy? We dont barge in on their celebrations (what nromal people would want to celebrate anything with witches?) and they shouldnt take part in ours. The same can be said of all other religions that have there own days for celebrating. If i saw a muslim celebrating Christmas I'd cry because Jesus never meant to save terrorists.

Carol said...

My neighbours are Muslim, they celebrate Christmas. Who cares who celebrates it? It is a Christian celebration but I am not a Christian. I love Christmas and I think it should 'belong' to anyone who wants to celebrate it.

Carol said...

Paganism is actually about nature and the earth and being at one with our surroundings. The 'witches' you refer to tend to be 'white' witches who celebrate life and nature, the saying 'mother earth' is a pagan belief. Paganism should not be confused with satanism.

Carol said...

The IRA were terrorists and 'good' catholic Christians, they celebrate Christmas. Jesus never had a problem with them. Don't tar all muslims with the same brush. A terrorist uses religion as an excuse, whatever the religion.

Sharon J said...

@ Grow Ur Own. I enjoy the solstice in my own little way and the family celebrate Christmas in our way (much is taken from Jul (Yule) in Norway where Pagan traditions are accepted as part of Christmas). Like you, it's the commercialism surrounding it that I don't like. All that money being spent on stuff people don't even want. I also love watching people's faces when they receive a gift, and what's more, I really love wrapping them too. I get just as excited about giving gifts as I do at receiving them :)

@ Anonymous. First of all, Christmas didn't even exist until the Catholic church decided to try stamping out the Pagan traditions of the Winter Solstice (Yule - hence the name Yuletide) about 300 years after Christ was supposedly born (although nobody actually knows when that was). I've no idea where you are but here in England Christmas wasn't celebrated until the sixth century. Unfortunately, trying to stamp out the Solstice traditions didn't work and much of what we associate with today's festivities have long standing roots in Paganism.

As for witches, please don't assume that all Pagans are witches. Wicca is just one branch of Paganism, as is Odinism, Druidism, and many others. It's also possible to be Pagan without following any particular route. What's important is that you love and protect the natural environment with concern for all who live on the planet. What's wrong with that? It's a pretty sound idea I'd say.

As for Muslims, why on earth do you imagine they're all terrorists? As in any other religion, there will always be fanatics who give everybody else a bad name. I could think of a few Christians who fit that bill nicely, too. And Pagans for that matter.

I personally wouldn't consider it particularly Christian to jump to conclusions about people in the way you've done. What happened to "love thy neighbour as thy self"?

@ Carol. Just for the record, a 'black' witch wouldn't be accepted as Pagan by the majority. Pagans don't even believe in Satan so couldn't possibly work with him. Satan was, as far as I'm aware, invented by the Catholics as a way of scaring the majority into "behaving themselves" otherwise they'd burn in hell for eternity. But yes, as you say, they're mostly white witches who do absolutely no harm at all. Once upon a time they were looked up to within their communities as the 'wise women' but then Christianity turned up and they were persecuted for knowing a thing or two about herbs and stuff.

Sharon J said...

Oops, didn't see that last comment of yours, Carol. You're bang on there!

The Dotterel said...

You're right about the money-grabbers. Why else do we now have things like 'Grandparents Day'? And the Pagans have got a point - it was the Roman Emperor Constantine who moved Christmas to December 25th to coincide with the pagan Saturnalia.

wombat064 said...

Ok you lot, do what you have to just do it in peace.

Me personally, Im going to paint myself Green and stand in
the front yard draped in lights.

Im Going the Grinch Thing.

Happy Holyfrost


MouseDemon said...

Christmas nowadays is in general, a pretty secular affair. And it means different things to different people. To the Followers of Christ (the name I give those who actually do follow the teachings of Christ, rather than cherry pick the bits out of the bible that suit their own agendas,) it is the day they have chosen to celebrate the birth of their Messiah. And fair play to them.

To others though, it is meant to be one day of the year where families get together and celebrate, well, love and families. And that doesn't need a specific religion to do so.

It has been made much too commercial, where people stress out and get into debt for all the wrong reasons. But that isn't going to change unless there is a major shift in attitude.

So, really I think it belongs to anyone that wants to celebrate it.

Lise, the daughter... said...

Anonymous: I once heard someone say that not all muslims are terrorist, although the terrorists are muslim. Quoted after the 9/11. And that has stuck with me ever since, as I believe there is so much said in that little sentence... Too many people are too judgemental, and Christians are no better than others.

As for the "mixup" with Solstice and Christmas, originally being named Yule from the celebration of solstice.. Here in Norway, Christmas is still, to this day, called Jul, hence what Sharon is about where the celebrations originally came from.

It is also a fact that most Christian celebration we have to originally come from older traditions that have been celebrated for centuries, way before christianity took place...

When Christening the people they failed to take away the old traditions and beliefs, so what they did then was to take the old traditions and make them "theirs" and in that way force themselves upon the people.. In Norway we were killed for chocing to stick to the old norse beliefs...

Sharon J said...

@ The Dotterel. It was indeed Constantine and the only reason the date doesn’t coincide with the Solstice today is because they were using the Julian calendar back then. As for the money-grabbers, all these manufactured ‘days’ really get me down and it’s sad to see Christmas going the same way. I was told that Liverpool had their Christmas lights up at the beginning of October - why? Since when did Christmas start in October?

@ Wombat. Sounds like a good idea to me.

@ Mouse Demon. “Followers of Christ” - I like that. I’ve been one of those people who’s gotten into large amounts of debt just to satisfy other people’s imagined needs (and perhaps my own too, because I didn’t want to be seen as a miser) but NEVER again. This year things are going to be very different and for the first time in years, I’m actually looking forward to it. No rushing around crowded shops or making too much food that will just go to waste. Uh-uh.

@ Lise. You’re spot on, hun. Too many people are too judgemental, especially without even bothering to gather their facts first.

Although Norwegian Pagans were persecuted “back in the day”, I do think modern Norwegians are more accepting of Pagan heritage than the British are. Just look at the Pagan designs that are used on winter sweaters for example. The one I made Paul for the Lillehammer Olympics (the official sweater, don’t forget) had Norwegian Pagan Gods depicted on the front.

Lise, the daughter... said...

Yes, you're very right. And there lays a big difference.. Although people around the world see our ancestors (the Norwegian Vikings) are today as brutal barbarians who raped and burgled, we are still proud of who we are, and where we have come from! And we don't in any way try to hide what we decend from! :)

Which also makes me think of something else. When attending English school, I learned nothing during my History lessons about English history before Christianity had set in. In fact I know very little about real English history, though I know a deal about old kings and queens.. While here, I've learned about our history all the way from stone age till today... Don't remember every detail about our history, as it's never been an interest of mine, but I have a good idea about how Norway as a country and as a people have developed over the years...

Sharon J said...

I don't think our roots should ever be hidden - the past has made us what we are today. You're right about history lessons, I can't remember learning anything pre-Christian in school either and Paganism certainly isn't recognised (at least not in the schools I've had any dealings with).

As an aside, did you know that the word Jul (Yule) comes from the Norwegian word Hjul (Wheel). It's connected with the Wheel of The Year, and as the Winter Solstice is when the wheel turns full circle...

I didn't live in Norway for 18 years and learn nothing ;)

aromatic said...

Peace and Goodwill to ALL men...
Christmas in my opinion is for anybody...
I consider it a time for friends and family to come together, to bring Christmas cheer to those less fortunate than ourselves whoever they are, it doesn't matter one jot!
I guess its just been able to spread some happiness...
Jane xx

Crystal Dawn said...

I’d like to just raise my hand here for a moment and put my tuppence worth in as a Pagan.

Let me first say that Sharon is right when she says that not all Pagans are Wiccan (witches). I’m certainly not although I have friends who are. Neither I nor they do any harm whatsoever because we follow one simple rule: Harm None! I wouldn’t dream of hurting any living creature intentionally, whether it be a worm, a squirrel, a dog or a human. Neither would I unnecessarily take down trees, rip up shrubs, or trample a farmer’s crops. Pagans believe that nature has a very fine balance and we humans have the responsibility to protect that balance. Just look at the problems this planet is suffering from thanks to general human selfishness and tell me I’m wrong to care.

Now, to the main point at hand. Although I always ensure I’m outside when the sun rises on the 22nd December, my actual Solstice celebrations are on Christmas Day because it’s easier that way. It’s when most people are off work enabling families and friends can gather together. And yes, I actually use the term Christmas, but to me it’s just a name and has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Some Pagans will use the term Yule instead, but in all honestly, they are just words. We could just as easily call it Bumbledown Day or something equally as strange but the day would still be the same. Christians would celebrate the birth of their Christ and we would celebrate the turning of the wheel, rejoicing in the sun’s strength to once again bring warmth and light to grow crops that will feed us through another year. I suppose, if anything, it could be likened to Thanksgiving.

I’m happy to spend time with people of any religion and would never judge anybody based purely on their faith, colour or material status, thus I‘m happy to celebrate Christmas with anybody who believes that tolerance and kindness towards all living things is more important than material wealth.

Well done Sharon for bringing this subject up. Most wouldn’t dare.

Love and light xxx

Teresa said...

If EVERYONE in the world, no matter their race or religion, for just one day, ate together, laughed together, and were giving to each other...hmmm, we can dream, can't we.

Cabbage Heart said...

OMG! Each and every person has an opinion about Christmas! Sharon was simply posting a thought about it and of course it ends in a debate. Well besides Wombat who is as always a crack-up and love him to bits (xo)Who cares who started it... the point do we share it? We are all human and all worship a greater power at some point in our lives, why the heck can't each and every person just put aside their differences for just one bloody day of the year and eat at the same table, and share in life, love, learning! This constant bickering about and over Christmas is just the pits and the Fatcat corporations know it and throw more money at it trying to improve the revolt of the public and it doesnt matter! What matters is that we ALL should get back to basics and join each other at a table full of beautifully cooked and de-lish home grown food and enjoy and love and learn from each other for just one bloody day!
Sharon...If I was in UK you would ABSOLUTELY be invited to join me at my table to share my home grown food!
Oh and by the way...I DONT buy my kids a million presents and toys, they are grateful for their innocence and love homemade gifts and look forward to the yummy tin of homemade sweets that gets placed under the tree for them.
Living, Loving, Learning!

L-Jay said...

Even if Christmas has different meanings to different people, I'm sure everyone recognises that the holiday season is about sharing time with family.

Side note: Christ wasn't born on Christmas day. If you go by the bible then you will know that the firtslings of the flocks were born but it was still cold enough to keep the aminals in the stables. This puts the time of year in Spring. In the Northern hemisphere Spring is in March, April and May. The reason why the Christian church changed the date was to convert the Pagan celebration, on the 25th Dec, into a Christian celebration. This was one tactic the Medieval christian church had to abolish Paganism and spread Christianity.

Sharon J said...

@ Aromatic. Spreading a little joy, absolutely :)

@ Crystal Dawn. Thank you for your insightful comment. If everybody could show the same acceptance of other people's beliefs the world would certainly be a more peaceful place :)

@ Teresa. Who knows, maybe one day that dream will come true. I doubt it'll be in our lifetime though.

@ Cabbage Heart. Thank you. You'd be equally as welcome in my home :)

@ L-Jay. I think most of us agree that Christmas was used as a way of converting Pagan traditions into Christian traditions instead. Those who don't clearly haven't done their homework as it's historically clear that this happened, no question about it.

Christine said...

Just read your blog Sharon and I have to say I agree with you, Christmas should be a time of peace and getting together and putting aside your differences.

Christmas can belong to whoever wishes to enjoy the celebrations.

I dont treat it as christs birthday because their is no proof that it is, I personally believe that it is a pagan festival stolen by the christians to convert them to christianity.

Any how everybody have a fab christmas.

Sharon J said...

Christine. It's a nice festival but that's really where it ends. Everything's become so blurred that it isn't really about Christ or Pagan beliefs anymore, but it's still nice to celebrate :)

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