When Christmas and Covid intersect it brings out some strange feelings and reactions. Reflection usually is nostalgic for me. Pleasant memories waft through my mind. Smells carry me back to the warmth of grandparents and holidays and the intersection of both those things! Favorite past times rush back and desire wells up inside me wondering why I stopped doing them.
But the intersection of Christmas Blvd. and Covid Ave. bring up less reassuring feelings and I want to get things off my chest. Odd even for me at Christmas. Things are annoying me. They crop up every year around this time and for probably 50 or so years I have stuffed them away but now I want to say them, get them off my chest. Let me dive into my point….”Keep Christ in Christmas.” We have all heard this or read it assuming that the X is a way of eliminating Christ from the most revered of Christian holidays and cheapening it. Somewhere along the way I heard the derivation of Xmas and asked my friend Siri to tell me again. She confirmed my belief that it does not remove Christ from his own birth! It seems it was first used in the year 1021 by a scribe. Back then, parchment was scarce and expensive and because the name Christ was written frequently he came up with a way to abbreviate it. Greek was the language of the New Testament and X was the Greek letter “chi” which was the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. The scribe used X to stand for Christ. So for a thousand plus years the X has been misunderstood and therefore Christ is in Xmas and in our hearts if we believe.
What about this so called war on Christmas? Are you afraid to say, “Merry Christmas” or is it politically incorrect? Hardly! If I know someone celebrates Christmas I always say, “Merry Christmas.” If I know they are Jewish I wish them a Happy Hanukkah. If I don’t know their religious history I will say, “Happy Holidays,” out of respect. I remember years ago my parents would send out Christmas cards but to their non-Christian friends the term back then was, “Seasons Greetings.” It was an acknowledgment of the fact that other people celebrate holidays different from our own. Nothing political about it! Respectful, thoughtful, all inclusive!
One last gripe. For years as a school teacher I would hear how the public schools took prayer out of school and it had dire effects on education. That, too, is a falsehood. Prayer was not prohibited in school. Just the open recitation of a prayer from one specific religion was done away with. When I student taught my cooperating teacher made the class stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. That was years after that practice had been abolished. I wonder how the Jewish or Islamic kids in those classes felt reciting such a prayer. Probably no different from the class standing and reciting a Jewish or Islamic prayer would feel to a Christian child. I was never very religious but spiritual and prayed all the time in school. I have to admit sometimes it was to please make the day be over quickly or even pray that tomorrow would be a snowday. I know that kids prayed at their seats when they were taking a test or as in my case in gym class that I wouldn’t get picked to be on a basketball team or something! No one was ever told they couldn’t pray in school! EVER! Ok, I’m praying now that I will regain my more positive feelings for Christmas now that I verbally regurgitated these long standing complaints.
Incidentally I read somewhere that there are about 14 religious holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and so Happy Holidays doesn’t sound so bad!
Whatever holidays you celebrate this time of year may they be peaceful and enjoyable, happy or merry, but may they lead to a hell of a better new year!
War with the Newts
The first thought I had after reading George’s piece was: Here we go – War with the Newts. This is a dark satire written by Karel Capek just prior to WWII. In a nutshell, humans discover a breed of intelligent salamanders and the book highlights how our unique ability for quarrel and aggravation turns an opportunity into disaster.
There are whole industries based on whipping up contention. Aren’t you tired of the talking heads braying about real or manufactured issues, with less an eye toward solution, than toward retweets or ratings increase? I am. It’s time to give the drumbeat a rest. Let’s heal.
I view this time of year as an opportunity to celebrate the wonder of an existence that depends on faith, because we don’t have all the answers. In fact, I celebrate the faith journeys of any point of view that focuses on achieving harmony. If you focus on the joy, there’s less room for the gripe, Grinch — no Rant-a-Santa.
It’s a question of balance. As a person following the Christian path, I embrace all the non-religious aspects of Christmastide. After all, it’s a great social occasion – and has had its ups and downs (check out History Channel’s Christmas Unwrapped: the History of Christmas). Christmas, the holiday, fosters goodwill and generosity of spirit. Good things! Since Christmas has secular and commercial acceptance, some states have even pushed for resolutions renaming their Christmas trees ‘Holiday trees’.
However, since parchment is not an issue, I will still write out ‘Christmas’ and refer to our tree as a Christmas tree. It has nothing to do with Chi-Rho, or Constantine’s dream of military victory (i.e., “in hoc signo vinces”). Rather, it helps me focus on the fact that Christmas is a holy day, as well as a holiday. Shorthand ‘Xmas’ is what I associate with ‘XmasSale!!!’ It’s a preference to avoid a commercial connotation, nothing more.
In addition, I will share the joy of Christmas with my friends, who are diverse enough and nuanced enough to appreciate this is a special time and accept the greeting as it is meant.
Merry Christmas to All!
While I personally don’t find the challenges George raises as significant concerns, I do agree with his approach to greeting others during the holiday season. Essentially, if you know what they celebrate, name it, if you don’t, wish them a happy holiday. It feels respectful, inclusive, and thoughtful.
As a child, I celebrated Chanukah. And, while I lived in a neighborhood where fifty-seven of the sixty families celebrated Christmas, salutations of “Merry Christmas didn’t offend me. However, when kids who knew I celebrated Chanukah, said Merry Christmas to me, I felt more ignored or dismissed than included. And those who made a point of saying Happy Chanukah or Seasons Greetings gave me a recognition and a visibility that felt like it was okay to be different. It was never a huge issue to me. It was just learning how to cope when you are in the minority.
I appreciate the good will that abounds around this time of year. Gifting lifts the spirits of both the giver and the receiver. Greetings and smiles (although masked this year) and holiday music wrap me in a warm and joyful feeling. I am thankful for all those who make an effort to bring a bit more joy and connection to their daily interactions and hope they feel the same from me.
I wish you all a most Joyful and Healthy Holiday and a very Happy New Year!