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Right, I need to preface this by defending myself. I am, by no means, the Grinch personified. I happily celebrate Christmas every year myself; it is a unique opportunity for families to come together, and it’s a lot of fun!
There are three points I would like to raise around how we celebrate Christmas. Firstly, Christmas is rooted in the Christian tradition, which is exclusionary and outdated in a secular society. Secondly, Christmas has become commercialised and forces many to accrue debts to conform. Thirdly, it puts a lot of pressure on those who may not have a close family to celebrate with, for whatever reason.
With regards to my first point – we live in a multicultural world; your neighbour may be Jewish, Muslim or Pagan, and Christianity is no longer the default. Yet only the Christian festival has become a national holiday. This narrative is exclusionary and out of touch with contemporary times. Our society is becoming increasingly secular, and it seems outdated that the most prominent national holiday is still rooted in the Christian tradition. Instead, we should re-frame it. Keep the values of families coming together, exchanging gifts and having a national holiday, but not because we’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Secondly, I have an issue with how as soon as Halloween is over – everything immediately becomes Christmas-themed. Between November and December, it’s impossible to go into a store and not be inundated with Christmas paraphernalia. The politics of who does and who doesn’t get a card every year are exhausting. Worrying about how much to spend on someone’s present in case they spend more on yours is a logistical nightmare. And if you don’t feel like subscribing to all of this – you become the Grinch. This commercialisation of Christmas is also exclusionary for those families who perhaps don’t have a lot of money to spare but yet feel pressured to conform. There’s nothing wrong with Christmas joy; there’s everything wrong with a culture of over-indulgence, excessive binge drinking and eating and spending. It makes Christmas time a stressful experience, even if you’re not struggling financially.
Thirdly, not everyone is lucky enough to have a loving family during the festive period. People’s circumstances are different – they may be estranged from their families; they may be grieving the death of a loved one; they may have moved thousands of miles away. The particular pressure to spend the 25th of December surrounded by loved ones and to have a great time may make people in these situations more depressed. The national charity PAPYRUS has warned that more than 30 young people could commit suicide over Christmas in the UK this year. I wonder if some part of this statistic is related to the pressure some feel over the holiday period with regards to having a “normal” family situation.
What I’m trying to say is that Christmas isn’t all bad, but we probably need to reconsider the way it’s celebrated. We need to make this holiday less about consuming and over-indulging and move away from the religious link this national holiday still has. We should have the same attitude towards Christmas as we do towards other celebrations, like Halloween; participate if you want, but don’t judge others if they don’t feel like going trick-or-treating.
- Tamara Krivskaya
The darkness draws in, and the cold builds as we edge towards a beacon of comfort in the slow-motion months of winter. It is no coincidence Jesus Christ was supposedly born on the 25th of December, just days after the solstice – our darkest day. He is a symbol of hope in the bitterness: birth and rebirth of light. The similarities between the great religious stories of the world are endless, and so it comes as no surprise that Christ is an amalgam of previous figures like Horus.
That does not concern me: it is evident that the value of religious stories does not depend on factual basis but in their significance to us as humans. Clever atheists (including my repulsive former self) seem to think that science has usurped religion as its natural successor. But while science may tell us about the world as a place of material, it cannot (and actually insists upon the fact that it cannot) tell us how to behave. Religious stories do not need to be factual; they only need to be meaningful. If we are to dispense with Christianity because it is incompatible with the scientific lens, then we must dispense all works of fiction. It is a desperate shame that we have not recognised the distinction and treasured our proud and ancient religion.
A primary gripe with Christmas appears to be its exclusionary element. So what? – I say. Were I to emigrate to a Muslim country I would not dream of imposing my Christian traditions on the nation. I might practise my faith and observe religious holidays in private, but why should I seek to overturn the traditions of another people?
What’s wrong with Britain being Christian anyway? I enjoy being able to travel to other countries and feel as though I am actually in a different place with different people. We supposedly celebrate diversity, but what diversity will be left when the multicultural collage is complete, and every corner of the Earth is equally distributed with all creeds and shades? A bland state of perfect equilibrium devoid of true diversity.
Modern Christmas is, of course, wonderfully expensive and materialistic. The gentle, warming smells and tastes, the sense of peace and calm, the love and gratitude which are the true scaffolding of the tradition have been superimposed with explosive greed and crude, throwaway kindness. For the first time, the socialist caricature of capitalistic gluttony looks real. Perhaps if we’d preserved our religious beliefs and traditions, we’d not be such prisoners to desire.
The assault on Christmas is merely a wiping up of the last remaining notes of Christianity in our country – defending it against the torrent of selfish atheistic morality seems like a futile gesture. But Britain is fundamentally Christian whether you like it or not. The shared traditions, values, and virtues of our society are unavoidably wreathed in religion, which has forever been the conversation through which morality is ordered. It is by the homogeneity of that fundamental belief that trust and stability are made possible for an exceptionally large collection of otherwise savage and ravenous hairless apes. You are part of the great river of history, and though you may reject the tenets of Christianity ostensibly, you cannot escape its underlying influence.
- Ezra James West