So what is Christmas when you are brought up in a non-religious household?
My earliest memories of Christmas are riding in the car with my mother in San Francisco when I was only about three and seeing big bright neon Santas. And there was some kind of weird waxy candy like things in the store you could buy and suck on and at the same time have a mustache like Santa. And of course there were bright Christmas lights and Christmas trees for sale and candy canes all over the place.
No religious connection yet at that age.
Then we moved away from the city and at Christmas my brother and sister hauled out a pasteboard box filled with a jumble of Christmas lights. We had a tree in the living room and they proceeded to string the lights. But if one was not working, they all did not, because they were all in a single circuit connected to each other.
We had all kinds of ornaments and a top piece, but nothing religious, as I recall. And then by chance one year we replaced that top piece with an angel, but that did not signal some kind of religious conversion. We sure loved that angel, though.
But sometime early on it was explained to me that people who go to church celebrate Christmas in recognition of the birth of Jesus, who they see as the son of God, and of course I was told that some people believe in an all-knowing creator they call God.
But of course as a child what I really dug were the presents.
(Years later I would learn that some children never do get any presents.)
It was somewhat confusing to me that all the movies and stories and pictures of Christmas seemed to have a snow theme, with kids riding on sleds. It was explained to me that in some parts of the country winter means snow — not where I lived. It might be cold and damp, but no snow.
Still later I thought it incongruous with Christmas when the family went to the local high school and saw a Christmas play called Amahl and the Night Visitors and the scene was of palm trees and desert and the characters where dressed in Middle Eastern garb, something you might see in a movie about Ali Baba or something.
Okay, I’m skipping the part where I did attend some Sunday School with friends of the family, but all I did at a young age was color with crayons, as far as I can recall. I did not understand the pictures of Jesus working with his father doing carpentry work.
And that play at the school? Would it even be allowed today under political correctness and the edict that religion not be mentioned at public schools? Schools are not even referring to Christmas by name anymore, as I understand it.
Yes, I grew up in a non-religious household, but I learned little by little, from my own folks and others, what Christmas was all about, a combination of a Christian holiday, marking the birth of the Savior, a secular holiday much commercialized, and an all-around tradition that transcends the religious aspect.
There are countless stories of people coming home or wanting to come home for Christmas to be with family and observe the traditions.
I know when I was a kid there used to be much hand wringing about the true religious meaning of Christmas being lost to a commercialism. I don’t hear that as much now. It seems now it has become almost a sacred duty to spend as much money as one can to help the economy.
And then there is the question as to why should Christianity be favored and the country be forced to observe its holiday. But really that is just the way things are. Christianity has been the majority religion in this nation, but by no means the official religion — we don’t have an official religion because we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, and as I like to add, a freedom from religion. And Christmas has moved way beyond the religious celebration, rightly or wrongly. And it was an old pagan celebration marking the winter solstice anyway, before the leaders of the old Christian church decided to merge their observance of the birth of Jesus with an existing and popular holiday as a way to get more attention for their message (the person known in history as Jesus was probably born at a time of year other that Christmas, it is believed).
So to those who complain or want to take Christmas out of Christmas, I say get over it. Christmas is not hurting you, make it be what you want it to be. Or don’t observe it yourself. Just don’t spoil everyone else’s fun.
There is one slight problem, though. If we, say, let the schools celebrate Christmas, one day we may be forced to celebrate Muslim holidays (I have heard one or more schools do already, not sure) or those of other religions, and then that opens up a whole can of worms. But when I was growing up the schools did celebrate Christmas by name, with decorations and programs and such. It seemed harmless to me.
Apart of Christmas, we even said a prayer, mentioning God by name, before we had our Graham crackers and milk when I was in public school kindergarten. I don’t see how that hurt anyone. Why the school authorities thought it necessary, I do not know.
My children attended some Sunday school or Bible school classes with friends, but we were not church goers.
And for some reason, when they were small, each Christmas I used to read the Christmas story to them — part of it anyway — out of the Holy Bible, for my own enjoyment and curiosity, as much as for theirs.
Christmas is a combination of religion and tradition in the United States.
I would hate to see us ever lose it.
No matter what your religion or belief, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!
If you have read some of my past blogs you will realize my own beliefs are not set in stone and have evolved over a lifetime, that is to say I tend to believe in some higher power who may be the same as the Christian God. I do feel it hard to reconcile why various religions profess the virtues of peace and at the same time promote the killing of others over their beliefs.
But that aside, may we all have a merry Christmas and may peace reign over all mankind!