Allan Takes Aim Blog

Christmas: a celebration for everyone

Posted on: 21 December 2010

First published The Chronicle Canberra, Tuesday 21 December, 2010

Most people, including young people wishing they were older, middle-aged people wishing they were younger and older people like me for whom age is but an indication on a calendar, look forward to Christmas Day as we wait for our Christmas gifts.

Although Christmas Day carries special excitement I have always found life exciting and have no good reason to think that in the future it will be any less exciting; indeed, unknown as it is, it might be even more exciting. With that in mind, I look forward to new excitements just as I look forward to the sun rising, the moon waning, watching the stars and enjoying Nature’s cornucopia of delight.

Nature, of course, bestows her gifts without any guarantee they will last forever and so, unlike some ‘experts’ I am never surprised when something disappears. At the same time and not able to read the mind of Nature, I cannot hazard a guess as to what might disappear. Christmas Day, not being a gift of Nature is not a day I expect to disappear although I won’t take bets about its long- term future.

The fact is, Christmas Day is a human creation that takes its name from a Jewish prophet of 2000 years ago called Jesus Christ whose philosophy has been followed by people now known as Christians who also believed Him to be the Son of God, creator of the world – not that Jesus ever wrote anything to that effect.

To be frank, I find this puzzling. One would think the creator of the world would have made sure his Son could write so that He would write the authoritative story of why His Father created the world. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Indeed we still know nothing of God and but for four ancient biographers Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and ancient but prolific letter writer Paul, many would know little of Jesus.

That said however, there is one indisputable fact about Jesus: 2,000 years ago many people found the philosophy He preached believable; many people still do. I don’t find this surprising because His philosophy of peace, tolerance and good will is attractive.

Why is it attractive? It is attractive because in today’s world not only are the vices of hate, violence, greed, intolerance and others too numerous to mention still writ large they also thrive just as they did in the Roman world of 2,000 years ago when zealous followers of some philosophies wanted to eliminate the philosophy of peace and good will to all men, because it threatened their power.

To their credit, and despite constant persecution, the Christians did not give up on their beliefs. Indeed as their numbers grew, their beliefs gave birth to the religion called Christianity. To mark their dedication to their beliefs they decided to adopt the date of the Roman Winter Solstice, now known as Christmas Day, as his birthday. As time went by and Christianity expanded beyond the boundaries of Rome, Christmas Day became a major celebration in many countries around the world, not all of them Christian.

In ancient Rome the most popular pagan festivals were celebrated in winter and so as Christianity became more popular, for good reason, it isn’t surprising its special day also became popular. The good reason for the popularity of winter festivals was that less agricultural work needed to be done, while people also expected the weather would be better in Spring. Two millennia later, things are still the same.

Winter festivals in particular were noted for merrymaking (thus Merry Christmas) while Roman New Year was the time for greenery, lights and charity. It was customary also during these pagan festivals to give children gifts a custom that is still in vogue, though expanded somewhat.

For these reasons and more, Christmas has become a loved tradition that, if carried out with peace and goodwill to all men, will make a difference in the world. We should all try and make the most of it.

Much as I am agnostic, nevertheless Christian Boadicea and myself wish everyone, regardless of their beliefs, a Merry Christmas and also wish them a Happy New Year with a traditional Celtic toast: Slànte mhath (Good Health).


3 Responses to "Christmas: a celebration for everyone"

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