Conflicted over Christmas?

This comes up every year.

For one thing, how do I, as a practicing Catholic, greet people during the holiday season? I get the feeling that “Happy Holidays” sells Christmas short. So this year, I’ve been mainly wishing people a Merry Christmas, with the understanding that although they may not be celebrating the religious aspect of the holiday, odds are they’re celebrating the secular side. (Unless they are Jewish, which would mean they wouldn’t appreciate it at all.) For the most part the ‘experiment’ has gone well, but I think a few people have given pause or not wished me a Merry Christmas back. And that’s okay with me.
— I have to wonder if they have the same problems in other parts of the world. Like in the United Kingdom, specifically in England, I know they wish people a “Happy Christmas” —

Every year, I become increasingly aware of the dichotomy of Christmas. There’s the religious side as Christians everywhere are celebrating the birthday of their Savior’s birth to varying degrees of fervency. I notice that my church always feels the most packed during Christmas and Easter Masses, because of all the ‘Christmas and Easter’ Catholics come out of the woodwork.

Then there’s the secular side. Retailers want us to go into a shopping frenzy to buy gifts for EVERYONE we know. I usually am pretty broke come Christmas and most years I haven’t gotten my family anything. Sometimes I do though. This year and last year I’ve gotten my Parents and my brother clothing that they need, long sleeve shirts mostly. And I remember one year I got my mother and grandmother kitchen accessories

And I know Jesus wasn’t born on or around 25th. It doesn’t make sense for shepherds to be out in the fields tending to their flocks overnight in winter. I know that there was already several Pagan holidays and traditions revolving around the Winter Solstice and the Church moved the birthday to fit into those celebrations. The Yule Log, The Christmas Tree, all came from the Pagan side.

When A Charlie Brown Christmas came out during the 60s, there was already a sharp increase in commercialism and the secularization of the Holiday. In fact many of Charlie Brown’s friends are obssesded with gifts and giving Santa a long list. Charlie Brown himself feels depressed because he can’t find the true meaning of Christmas. Linus says he knows and then quotes The Gospel of Luke:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

People may not believe in the religious side of Christmas, but most still believe in the common good of men (and women) and peace on earth. That is perhaps, the real meaning of Christmas.

And so, I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS, but also I hope you find comfort and joy and good tidings this weekend with your family and others you enjoy spending time with.


Filed under Musings

7 responses to “Conflicted over Christmas?

  1. JanetKC

    This is interesting. Growing up without any religion, my family has celebrated major American/commercial holidays like Christmas and Easter with gift exchanges and special foods. We do make charitable donations, as it is the end of the year and the last chance to get them in before the new tax year. I agree with you, that the American concept of Christmas and the sentiment behind wishing others a “Merry” one is one of good health and spirits, the company of family, and love of fellow man. I do not believe in any of the Catholic (or Christian for that matter) beliefs about Christmas, which is why I wish people “Happy Holidays” or hope that they “Enjoy” their holidays. I find this more appropriate, since most people are fortunate enough to enjoy a solid week of paid days without working, between Christmas and New Year’s, which, though we call it a “vacation” here, is more globally referred to as a “holiday.”

    • That makes more sense, about the holiday vs vacation.
      When you do gift exchanges, do you go crazy like the retailers want you to? Does everyone set a limit and not go over? I find the past few years, I’m really only shoping for my parents and my brother and that’s it because of money.

      • JanetKC

        We don’t get up real early for sales and all that, no. We all have Amazon wish lists and buy each other stuff from those, and also include a couple of thoughtful gifts that the receiver won’t be expecting. And we only buy for immediate family. For extended family we do Yankee Swap.

  2. David

    Merry Christmas, Caitlin. I usually say Merry Christmas to those I can see are Christian, and Happy Holy Days (with a noticeable “Holy”) to others. I wrote a blog about Charlie Brown Christmas at my blog, and quoted Linus for today’s blog. Take care.

    • Thanks for the link. I definitely didn’t know about Schultz’s battle with the networks (reminds me of modern day TV prodcution)

      I think we can both agree how eerily Charlie Brown Christmas was spot on about the nature of Christmas. The fact that it’s still revelant 44 years after it aired boggles my mind.

      I think you would appreciate this anecdote about Christmas: I was in my church’s sacristry getting ready to serve Mass when another alter server said they needed to put a Christmas tree in the sacristry! I was going to say no, because it origianlly came from the Pagan side of the winter holiday, but I didn’t.

      • David

        First, let me thank you for serving the Church. I do as well, both in the blogosphere and in the parish-three of them, in fact.
        Yes, the relevance of Charlie Brown’s Christmas is striking. I love that show, and cry when Linus quotes St. Luke.

        Regarding the pagan aspects of our faith, while it’s true we might have borrowed a few days here, and practices there, we have placed new meaning on them. If we stopped doing things because they had a pagan origin, we might be as dry as many Protestant Churches! But it is important to know why we practice what we do.
        God bless you, Caitlin.

  3. Pingback: Another Year Another Christmas « Blog: Caitlin: Walsh: Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s