‘Tis the season to have our annual argument about Bill O’Reilly’s totally imaginary War on Christmas, which is fiercely fought by legions of keyboard Christians, well intentioned old ladies who seriously think we’re all going to literally burn in hell, and those who don’t know the difference between a public school and a church, bravely defending their religious ritual against a non-existent threat.
One person today in faceplace space was saying ‘If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, which is Christ Mass, then you shouldn’t have a tree, you shouldn’t give gifts, you shouldn’t be disrespecting, even co-opting, our religious holiday.’
This was my reply:
It’s not a religious holiday, pure and simple. It’s three days after the Winter Solstice, the days are beginning to get longer, the Sun is not actually going to go away forever. This has been a holiday since people first started to look at the sky and wonder what the heck was going on, which means it probably goes back to before we were properly people at all. Gifts and gift giving were a part of human culture long, long before the time of Christ, like maybe a million years before. Alcohol? Probably about the same. Trees also preceded us and, since it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to chop one down and bring it to the place where you live, that too has probably been part of the celebration since before Christ was born. Snow? Goes way back. A roaring campfire? Well, I’m sure that’s a question archaeologists would like to answer, but I’ll bet it’s at least 500,000 years.
Christmas has been known as Saturnalia, Yule, and probably many other ancient names. Just because the power cult you happen to belong to came along a couple thousand years ago and started claiming everything in sight, doesn’t actually make any of it yours. Happy Holidays.