“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Whose feast is it anyway?

I have observed a trend. I should point out of course that the social media channels from which I take my data are perhaps not entirely representative, or remotely scientific, but it's a good enough overview for an written-from-the-heart anecdotal blog. 

What I have noticed is aggression. Facebook and other channels provide a wonderful crucible for the raising of bile ( if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor) on all sorts of topics.  It is a wonderful thing that people have a voice. But it could be argued that it is not always such a wonderful thing that they use it without having a good old think before they put finger to touchpad! Myself included. I don't post very much myself, and those posts I do make tend to be about cute dogs, so I (hope) I'm not offending anyone. However,  I do find myself responding to other people's posts, and yes, I fall off the tolerance wagon from time to time, allowing myself to be provoked by comments, that in a different and less technology-reliant age, would have once remained mostly private.

Back to my  "Christmas Aggression"  study.  I have observed that this behaviour seems to fall into these three broad categories:

1. Statements from those that claim to hate Christmas ("F*** Christmas" being one of the made up Facebook names I encountered! - nice)

2. Statements from those that claim Christmas and all of its paraphernalia was "stolen" from the Pagans.(And they want it back?) Christmas trees: Pagan! Santa Claus: Pagan! Mistletoe, holly, ivy: All Pagan! Jesus: Pagan! ( well maybe not that one!)

3. Statements that claim that the  "real" Christmas message is being lost or corrupted. Jesus is the reason for the season. We're all greedy fat, iPhone5 worshipping consumers. All I want it PEACE and YOU with your credit cards, YOU are the problem! 

 It's not surprising. Social media does tend to lend itself to the sharing of irks and prejudices that would otherwise be kept among close friends that understand and tolerate each other's quirks. 

I do not know the source of this. but it certainly wasn't ME
So, when this meme appeared on my Facebook news stream... well, you can imagine. Apart from the fact that it is grammatically squirm-inducing (one of my quirks) Its statement is just plain wrong. 

One thing straight. Christmas is NOT pagan. "Christ Mass" as the name rather hints at, celebrates the birth of Christ. You can have all the arguments you like about whether it is the appropriate date, about the origins of this midwinter festival in the Northern Hemisphere, or indeed whether Christ was born at all -  manger and donkey and shepherds or otherwise - the fact remains: Christmas as a word, as a concept, as a happening is not Pagan!

It does feel very appropriate that those following a pagan path have been able to freely claim their winter festival(s). To be able to honour the Earth, the stillness of midwinter, the brief pause of the wheel of the year at the Winter Solstice and the joy of Yule are all testament to the truth that the pre-Christian festivals and customs were never lost to us, despite the medieval persecution of our kind. The truth is that Christmas has allowed us to continue to celebrate the magic of Midwinter, to continue to bring the evergreens into our homes, to gather the mistletoe and to quietly sing our own winter songs in the darkness. And I do wonder, without Christmas, what would our festival be now?

The true voice of Midwinter for me speaks of quiet remembering, of honouring the stillness of the Earth, of embracing the darkness and then welcoming the light. There is nothing about Christmas that does not also honour this tradition. At the Solstice, we welcome the New Born Sun and the New Born Son.  It could feel like something stolen, or it could feel like something so beautifully held and honoured that it needs no angry reclamation,  merely  a quiet poem.  

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