I should probably preface this by stating that I grew up as a fairly “typical” American, assuming there is such a thing. I spent my childhood making snowmen, using a carrot and walnuts to make genitalia in the hopes that a wandering animal would attack them. All I knew was that Christmas and Hanukkah were somehow different but that both yielded gifts and good food, so neither were preferential. Lantern oil and Jesus’ birth may, or may not, have been miracles. It may, or may not, seem entirely implausible that a morbidly obese geriatric crams himself down your chimney so that he reverse-rob you once a year. And having dangerously high expectations for the season that will never be met and they may, or may not, leave you a trembling husk of a person by the middle of January. No matter what camp you’re in, the outcome will be roughly the same. We need holidays to celebrate in this midst of this wintery gray void so that we can maintain our fleeting sanity. Worrying about technical details and criticizing each other only hinders to launch that lifeboat of saneness that we are in such desperate need of. It is too dismal and there is just so much to worry about, especially if you have a family to care for. I know it is a bit late for some of you, but allow me to briefly present something to those of you who have yet to start a family of your own.
Family, or no, I think that the seasonal festivities attempt to serve a purpose but I’ve got mixed feelings about the holiday spirit when it’s attached to religion. Sometimes the celebrating goes a bit too far and has a little less to do with the “reason for the season” than we’d like. I’m convinced that Christmas is evolving into this secular laser light show that encourages extravagance. I’m fine with this because, for some people it’s already a month long eating and drinking binge rewarded with gifts and ending with your cousin “accidentally” groping you on New Year’s Eve. Turning water into wine isn’t a particularly useful miracle, so I always figured Jesus for a partier but even he has to draw the line somewhere.
Christmas certainly has come a hell of a long way in the last few thousand years. Tied directly to the pagan Yule festival and Roman celebration for Saturn, it has gone from a “heathen” soiree to a grand celebration of the Christian lord and back again. However, this transition was slow to grow as the celebrating in the name of Saturn slowly became Advent and Epiphany as Christianity took hold in Europe. As the western world expanded into the Americas, Puritans banned Christmas due to it’s tendency to get people drunk and act in a lewd or rowdy manner. So, instead of getting drunk, having a party and going caroling, people rioted. The holiday gradually lost popularity and appeared to be dying out until it reestablished itself as an important religious holiday while also gaining secular relevance during the nineteenth century due to pervasive literature.
In 1870, Christmas finally became a national holiday in the United States. After so much drama to ensure that the winter holiday was cemented into American culture, it seems sort of backward to have this feud over how it should be celebrated. The holiday has already whored itself out somewhat unconditionally and much of the religious context has been lost already. Why are people so displeased with being wished a specifically happy vaguely Christian holiday? I usually stick to secular holidays but I certainly wouldn’t condemn someone who wished me a pleasant Rohatsu, Hanukkah, Ashura, Christmas or Death of the Prophet Zarathustra. If someone is nice enough to hope you have a good day, you’re kind of an ass for complaining about incidental bits that accompany it.
I, for one, would be perfectly happy going back to celebrating Cronus or Saturn during the winter holidays. No deity can rival him in castrating their own father and then eating their children to consolidate power while ruling over the only perfect era of mankind. Often portrayed with a long white beard, he even sort of looks like Santa Claus. Replacing Saint Nicolas with the god of agriculture would be a snap. We’d just need to undress every mall Santa and tell them to devour children instead of asking them what they want. I can foresee no problems and personally guarantee fewer better behaved children.