There has been a rash of activity on the Pagan side of the internet this week about Christmas and what – if anything – those of us who aren’t Christians should be doing with it. It began with this Wild Hunt post by Jason Pitlz-Waters, which summarized his entry on The Washington Post’s “On Faith” question “what is Christmas all about?” Jason basically argues that much of Christmas comes from older, pagan, universal Winter traditions, and thus belongs to everyone.
Thorn Coyle took another angle, arguing that Christmas has become a Frankenstein’s monster that does a disservice to the true meanings of both the Christian and the Pagan holidays. Follow-up posts here and here generated a ton of commentary, ranging from the supportive to the insightful to the incendiary.
While the tone of Jason’s original essay was light and positive and I generally agree with his thoughts, ultimately I think Thorn is right – the “traditional” American Christmas is a monster than needs to be destroyed. And here’s why.
My mother is retired and living on the proverbial “fixed income.” She has her savings and in general she’s doing OK (and would be doing better if some other relatives would stop asking for money, but that’s another rant for another time), but she can’t afford to spend a ton of money on Christmas presents. Yet every year, she does.
This year, as every year, she asks me what I want for Christmas. This year, as every year, I try to talk her down, name things that are simple and inexpensive. And this year, as most years, when I open her gift I find something I don’t need and don’t really want.
My mother spent money she needs for other things to buy me something I don’t need, don’t want, and can’t use. Now I have to lie my mother and tell her how much I like it, so I don’t make things worse. Why? Because of the “Christmas spirit?” Because of love and generosity?
No, because of social expectations.
The marketing-driven consumer orgy that is Christmas must die. Look at the car commercials – you should give your spouse a car for Christmas??? It’s no accident that the biggest auto advertisers are Lexus and Mercedes. Jewelry commercials? These messages trickle down to the rest of us, pushing us to participate in this monstrosity.
Celebrate the birth of Jesus or the rebirth of the Sun. Gather with friends and family and your co-religionists. Celebrate – sensibly, sanely, sustainably.
But stop the insanity.
I’m off to a family dinner. Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, and blessed be.
I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.