Disclaimer: this has not been researched in any way
I was thinking this morning as I strolled into the office at 5:30AM (I woke up early today) about Christmas and what it really is. It occurred to me that Christmas is not about the birth of Christ or a pagan celebration of the solstice or any other individual cause or event. So what, then, is Christmas?
In the depths of antiquity, ancient civilizations in the Northern Hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, probably because it was the shortest day of the year, and possibly in the belief that it would help bring back the summer. We know, at least, that the Celts celebrated the solstice based on records from the Romans. Over time, there were various versions of the solstice celebration ranging from tightly ritualized to a generalized celbration of life.
Then you have various non-pagan celebrations which occur around the solstice. The most well know is Christmas, as in the celebration of the birth of Christ. This is really a celebration of the foundation of Christianity and is the source of the name for the holiday we now celebrate annually on December 25, ranging from 2 to 5 days after the solstice. These celebrations were primarily religious in nature and involved a session of worship at the prescribed time and place.
Now, let us look at North America, mostly because I am most familiar with the goings-on in North America. North America has a tradition of diversity of culture. As a result, the various celebrations that these cultured had in and about Christmas happened to coincide into a handy seasonal package. This has led to a fairly interesting development. Christmas is no longer a Christian celebration, nor is it a pagan solstice celebration, nor is it specifically a celebration of any one of the other cultures who have contributed their richness to the holliday season. It has become something greater even than the sum of its constituents. It has become an anual celebration of humanity for believer and atheist alike.
Christmas stands for peace and friendship and all things good about humanity. It stands for generosity’s triumph over greed. It stands for the victory of life over death; happiness over despair. It stands for commaraderie at the expense of loneliness and intollerance. Above all else, it stands for unity and kindness over fractiousness and selfishness. It is not limited to believers in Christianity or any other system of belief. It is a time for all to partake in the celebration of life regardless of culture, colour, creed, or standing.
Basically, since the beginning of colonialism, Christmas has worked its proverbial miracle on itself. It has transcended all obstacles and boundaries thrown at it over the years. It is well on its way to becoming a global human celebration and will probably outlive all the cultures that ave given it life.
December 23, 1999 CE… UTC
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