In the Saturday Night Jukebox this past week, I created a I Hate Christmas playlist. I mentioned I would use my Tuesday slot here to fill out why precisely I hate Christmas so much. I realize ranting is usually Br. Andrew's department, but I'd like to let loose a little bit here.
Herewith, a list of why I hate Christmas:
1. It's Advent not The Christmas Season.
This is the central bane of my existence this time of year. As a Christian, Christmas is for me a religious festival. It's about The Incarnation. It's not a secular holiday or holiday season (WTF is a holiday season?). Christmastide has 12 days, starting on December 24th/25th.
Please do not wish me a Merry Christmas in November or early December--since it's not actually Christmas time yet. It would be like wishing me a Happy Halloween on October 1st. Nobody would do that, so why do it when it comes to Christmas?
Prior to the 12 days of Christmas is the season of Advent (what we are actually in now). Advent, an important religious time for Christians, is completely lost in the commercialization of the "Christmas season" (or Happy Holidays in a PC world). Advent is a time to prepare one's being for the birth of the Word of God in oneself and teaches us to look for and help reveal the coming of a Kingdom of justice and peace on earth. All of which seems infinitely more valuable than stupid f@#!ing Hallmark cards or endless present buying. At least to me anyway.
2. War on Christmas BS
This is bigger in the US where I grew up, but there's smatterings of it here in Canada. The so-called War on Christmas. I saw some idiot on TV drone on and one about how Christmas was being expunged because some politician invited people to a "Holiday Tree" celebration. Nevermind that Jesus wasn't born under damned evergreen tree. Remember any confiers from the Gospels? I sure as hell don't.
The notion that public nativity displays and people going to church once or twice a year (see point #4 below), represents Christianity is total bullshit. All that's being lost is a North Americanized superficial veneer of Christianity over the mainstream culture. As a priest, I say good riddance. Who cares? It has nothing to do with the actual work of being a church or living the Christian path.
3. Paganism in Christmas
Spoiler Alert: Jesus wasn't actually born on December 25th. The Christian church chose the date to coincide with the Winter Solstice and probably to undercut the rival cult of Mithras. It's an excellent symbol: the Light comes into the World at its darkest moment and from there the world is enlightened. It was an attempt (failed or successful depending on your point of view) to transcend and include.
A tree (representing the cosmic tree), gift giving, a meal, and time with extended family has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. It's pre-Christian, aboriginal European religion--aka paganism. The paganism of Christmas has been merged (I think unhelpfully) with secular modernist capitalism and that's what Christmas is really about. The value of that syncretism is up for debate I suppose, but the reality of it really isn't.
If people just want to celebrate the Solstice and be pagans about the day, that's perfectly fine with me. At least it's honest. I'm not anti-paganism. But I defy the notion that both the Christian and the pagan element can be celebrated with sufficient depth and respect towards both traditions (readers who want to argue with me, have at it in the comments section). By the time all the work goes into the parties, families, gifts, cards, and everything else, there isn't time left for any real religious practice. To wit:
4. What is the point of going to church on Christmas (and not the rest of the year)?
As a priest, I'm clearly biased in this regard. I want to be hospitable (or at least not inhospitable), but really I don't get it. If you don't go to church the rest of the year and aren't a practicing Christian, why go to church on Christmas (and/or Easter)? From my pastoral side, I don't want to close off the possibility that someone might experience some depth or have some connection by attending a Christmas service, but really what's the point? It's like Jews who only go to synagogue on Yom Kippur. What up with that? I find it very strange. I imagine I'm too black and white on this one, but like either you're in or you're out, no? Again, as in point #1, it's a religious holiday not a cultural one. If you're not a practicing member of the religion (or at least considering taking this way on), then why participate? Because when you were a kid, that is what your family did so you have to keep the family tradition up? Really? If you get invited to a Christmas service by an actual practicing Christian that's a different thing. I'm Christian but I've been to a number of Jewish and Islamic festivals, but I came clearly as a guest to their ritual. I wouldn't come to one uninvited.
I think we need a separate term for the secular (and/or slightly pagan) celebration of this time of year and stop calling it Christmas. Festivus is always a great option of course, but may not totally cut it for some.
5. Christmas Actually Isn't Nearly the Biggest Religious Holiday of the Year for Christians
The vast majority of Christians wouldn't be able to tell you this (much less non-Christians), but Christmas is actually a bit down the list in terms of the importance of Christian festivals. It's an important remembrance to be sure, but I get well meaning folks telling me how it's the most important day of the Christian year.
Not so much.
The most important festival of the Christian year is Pascua (wrongly termed in English Easter). Really Holy Week, in particular Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.
The second most important remembrance in the Christian year is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit, fifty days after the Resurrection. Sometimes called the birthday of the church.
Third most important interestingly is Epiphany--the festival at the conclusion of the 12 days of Christmas. This feast recalls the story of the Magi (the so-called Wise Men or Three Kings) paying homage to the Christ Child. This feast recalls the coming of the Gentiles to worship the Christ Child.
6. It makes people Crazy
Again, my perspective on all of this is very biased and quite different than most. But in my world, this time of year means way more people coming to see me, suffering because they are A)lonely B)in horrible relations with their family C)stressed out, etc.
The creation of this perfect family Christmas horseshit on TV and so forth creates this unreachable expectation: "WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A WONDEFUL FAMILY TIME NOW, AREN'T WE?" Again, as an outside observer I have to ask, "Why?" "Is this worth it?, What's the point?"
There's no rule written in the universe saying we have to do these things. Just because corporations want you to buy their products and families are supposed to be happy and act like they love each other (which of course in some cases they actually do), doesn't mean we have to act this way.
I'm just sayin'.