Allan Takes Aim Blog

Christmas: the universal day of the child

Posted on: 21 December 2011

First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Although agnostic I like Christmas, as do most Canberrans. People who don’t, it seems to me, are people short of the spirit of giving and happy childhood memories that, at Christmas, overcome the sad memories such as periods of personal sickness, death of a sibling or death of a parent. Indeed as I grow older and see children in Canberra enjoying Christmas, that childhood joy I experienced at Christmas has not diminished; if anything it has grown stronger because I now realise why it gave me joy.

The origin of Christmas comes with a story that pre dates the day now called Christmas Day, a recognised public holiday and revered by Christians as the day they believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God was born. The truth is, Christmas Day derives from a ritual observed by an ancient pagan agrarian society that offered gifts to its gods to ensure good spring harvests and prosperity.

And though people profess to belief the religious aspect of Christmas Day they still observe its pagan origins only their gift giving is more Mammon (Mammon: a Sumerian deity whose name translates into property and is synonymous with wealth, greed and avarice in the New Testament) than religious and the wishes slightly different. What many people wish for today is a harvest rich in material things. Sadly that rich harvest is found in places where Mammon still holds sway rather than religion. The Sumerian civilisation might have passed but the belief in Mammon has not.

What redeems society today is the innocence of children one sees exemplified by children on Christmas Day because venality is absent. Having no idea of the cost of their Christmas gifts, lavish or otherwise, the squeals of joy and pleasure as they unwrap their gifts, as they unwrap them best expresses their value. Would it were otherwise but, unfortunately, and too quickly, children grow up and lose their innocence.

But Christianity is not the only religion with days of celebration: Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims also have days of celebration; the Bahá’í celebrate according to the Bahá’í calendar while Jews have several celebratory seasons: the Spring Feasts of Pesach (Passover) and the Fall Feasts of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret. None however, are the equivalent of Christmas Day

Although such differences should not make any difference in our alleged multi-cultural society, these celebrations seem to be treated as less important than Christmas. In a sense this conflicts with Christianity, which preaches peace and good will to all men, outcomes that more often are seen in the breach than the observance.

Even more sadly the fact that peace and good will seem permanently absent between people world wide, raises the important question: will peace and goodwill ever become permanent residents of our world? I hope so. Even if my attempts to practice this philosophy – which is how I try to treat everyone on every day of the year occasionally fails, I cannot, and will not, accept, that even on the basis of religion, race and status, peace and good will between all people is impossible.

Without effort and with faith absent, it is children who give meaning to the message of peace and good will at Christmas. Children do not distinguish themselves from children of other colours or faith. In this they are unlike adults who, in many cases, because of blind beliefs imprison their children behind what are often impenetrable walls of prejudice.

I can only abjure adults to look at children for whom race and religion are meaningless and copy their behaviour. By doing so they will help create a world where peace and good will are permanent. Perhaps too, they could do no better than daily recite the poem by William Wordsworth: My heart leaps up when I behold/ A rainbow in the sky:/So was it when my life began;/So is it now I am a man;/ So be it when I shall grow old,/Or let me die!/The Child is father of the Man;/I could wish my days to be/Bound each to each by natural piety.

With peace and good will Boadicea and I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.;
The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday.


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