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Sunday Column: Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas morning and I’m writing this column from the guest room at my parent’s house. I’ve decided to begin my New Year’s resolution a week early, and once again attempt to write a regular blog. I’ve always liked the idea of the newspaper column, and so I’ll be trying to model this weekly tradition after that. Which should be interesting, since I have actually read very few newspaper columns in my life.

Christmas has always been a huge and wonderful tradition in my home. Having been raised Christian, American, and Middle-class, the month of December has always been filled with music, candy, presents, shepherds, and family. Nativity scenes are on display in multiple places and scriptures are read on Christmas Eve. I used to have insomnia every year on Christmas Eve, just thinking about everything I was going to do the next day. I still woke up several times last night.

Now that I’m an adult and no longer identify as Christian, I’ve been informed to the many differing opinions on Christmas. It’s essentially a Christian holiday that’s been so ingrained into our society and inflated so that it’s completely unavoidable. It’s kind of a testament to how much influence Christianity has had on our society. And it’s hard not to see the point of non-Christian people that Christmas is virtually shoved down your throat no matter what you believe and it’s not fair to count their holidays out.

That being said, I think it’s also fair to note that Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country since its founding. We see signs of that in other places, like our money and our government buildings. If a Christian were to go to another country that was dominated by Jews and get offended when one of them wished him a Happy Hanukkah, wouldn’t that also appear to be insensitive to the culture, Christian privilege, or the forcing of beliefs? (And no, the irony of this metaphor is not lost on me, Christian conquerors of North America.)

The fact is that Protestant Christianity is part of American culture, the same way that Buddhism is part of some Asian cultures and Islam is part of some Middle Eastern cultures. Those relations are literally taught in our grade school textbooks. I was even taught in my Spanish classes all about how Catholicism was a major part of South American cultures and we all agreed with that as if that was a foreign concept. Because people in America want to believe in a separation of church and everything. To an extent, I believe that this is a noble goal: I believe that a government official should represent and be in tune with the desires of the people they govern regardless of their own religious beliefs. I believe that corporations are better off staying neutral because declaring a supported religion can have massive problems both internally and with their audiences. And I believe that moving towards an all-inclusive culture, where one religion does not have the power to stand over another, is the right course for a society.

But we have to accept that Christmas is already a part of this culture, and frankly, I like it that way. Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, it’s a beautiful attempt to put ribbons and lights on what would otherwise be the dreary beginning of the ugly winter season. Who likes January? Nobody. Do you want December to be another January? I love the specialized music, the decorated malls, the way we’ve come up with a way to turn every piece of design into a Christmas design by putting ferns on it. As a non-religious person, I want to have Christmas as a chance to celebrate all the good that’s in the world, and remember great acts of peace such as the truce of 1914. 

So I think that we need a separation of sorts. In choir we had “sacred” Christmas music and “secular” Christmas music, and I think we need to do that to the rest of the holiday. You can celebrate the Christian Christmas, which is about Jesus and reaffirming how much you love him, or you can celebrate the American Christmas, which is about ice skating with your loved ones and shopping and watching Kevin beat the crap out of a couple of dudes. And maybe one day we’ll come up with a name for this non-religious holiday. Some people try Festivus, which is a fun name but I take issue with the satirical traditions of that holiday, such as the Festivus Pole and the Airing of Grievances. I like to call it Joyday, because I think that’s what I’m really celebrating. But for now, when somebody wishes me a Merry Christmas, I’m going to be grateful that such an awesome season exists to bring people together.

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