Monday, November 28, 2005

2 Holidays

In response to all those people put there complaining about "Holiday Trees" or "Happy Holidays" and how the secular world is "stealing Christmas" I put forward my 2 holiday theory.

Every year at this time the Western world gets ready to celebrate two holidays, one Christian and one secular. (Of course there are others from other faith traditions but this theory deals explicity with the events of and around Dec 25.) This is confusing because we call them by the same name and there is some similarity in symbols and practices associated with them. For the sake of clarity I will call them Christmas and Xmas.

Christmas is the Christian holiday. Symbols of Christmas include candles, shepherds, angels, and a baby in a manger. Practices include: reading the stories around Jesus' birth, singing carols about that story, talking about transformed lives, looking for signs of God-with-us, exchanging tokens of love and affection, and gathering with friends and family.

Xmas is partly an outgrowth of Christmas. It is also a response to the seemingly innate desire of humans for a mid-winter/solstice festival. Symbols of Xmas include Santa, snowmen, decorated trees, and bright (terribly wasteful) displays of electric lights on lawns. Practices include: an orgy of gift-buying, an incredible amount of overeating/drinking/spending, singing songs about reindeer and red-suited elves and snow, and gathering with friends and family.

Now lets be honest. Many of us celebrate both of these holidays, although many of us also favour one over the other--and how we choose to celebrate shows which one we favour. But they are not the same. Xmas is secular, it is marked by "Happy Holidays" and is best celebrated in the world at large. Christmas belongs to a faith tradition and in a pluralistic world (where not everyone shares that faith tradition) is best celebrated in more private settings. SO it is non-sensical to complain when the non-religious world celebrates Xmas. So stop complaining about the holiday tree, or asking stores to put up a manger scene, or about people who would rather go partying on Dec 24 than attend worship service. AS Scrooge said "You keep Christmas in your way and let me keep it in mine".

I don't believe that people are stealing Christmas. I do believe that Christians lose sight of their place in the world. Christmas is special to us. Let's show that, not by insisting everyone agree but by being true to the meaning of the season. And if others choose to favour Xmas, and we choose to join in some of that season, then so be it.


  1. I've read your post three times - and all I can say is...


  2. I think I'm with you, and I definitely feel that Christians celebrate Xmas more often than we should, but I also know people who celebrate a "secular Christmas" (which you call Xmas) in a way that *doesn't* involved an orgy of gifts, wasteful lights, etc., but that emphasizes simplicity and joy. But they *wouldn't* call their celebration religious either.

    I agree that there are two parallel celebrations going on (and that they bleed into one another), I just would say that the way it's expressed here it seems that for a non-Christian the only option is an overindulgent spend-a-thon. Does that make sense?

  3. RM,
    I was drawing from personal observation. So of course there are likely other ways of being.

    Most of what I have seen and read along the "simplify Christmas" line has come from a faith-based perspective. I would be interested in hearing about other approaches.

  4. Very good point. I grew up in a family that didn't celebrate Christmas at all, because of the origins of the holiday and many of the traditions. In our home we celebrate Christmas very simply, without a tree, Santa, or any of that stuff. But I certainly don't expect "the world" to follow suit.

  5. Anonymous9/11/07 09:24

    All I have to say is AMEN! You nailed it.

  6. i think this really would make the world a differnt place if you put it some place where everyone would read it. I never really looked at it this way. Christmas is different than Xmas because Christ is not and X he is a savior!
    thanks for sharing!!!

  7. Anonymous1/12/08 11:56


    You ask for a different perspective, here it is...

    While I am not a very religious person, I am quite spiritual. I claim no one religion, as I have yet to find the one that shares enough of my beliefs to claim it. As for Christmas, I am disgusted at the waste and excessiveness of what has become the holiday. While I am aware that many who are atheist or agnostic celebrate the holiday in this way, my distaste comes more from the realm of Christians who are leaning more toward the need to buy expensive gifts to out do each other than the expression of love that SHOULD come with the holiday. I know it is easy to say, but we DON'T do that at our house. We do buy small gifts, but they are small, and not over a certain dollar amount. They really are more about the thought than the expense. We also give more during the holidays, though we are careful to make sure we give all year, not just at the end. Though some consider it odd, we do not accept receipts for contributions. The gift is for the joy and help it will bring others, not the financial boost on our taxes.

    My point is this...My celebration of Christmas is based on the person he was/is...Peaceful, giving, accepting, tolerant, and above all, loving.

  8. Anonymous1/12/08 15:07

    Although I do like the distinction between Christmas and Xmas, I do not say "Amen," because I do not quite agree. You had me until the end.

    Would you say, then, that Christians do not have an obligation to remind other Christians of the reason for the season? Shouldn't Christians encourage each other to celebrate a true CHRISTmas? Also, isn't there an obligation to share Christ with those who cling to Xmas? I would say Scrooge's claim is very wrong here. Admittedly, there might be different Christian ways to celebrate Christmas, but Christians are called not to sit back and let people do as they please, but, rather, to act. I don't want to let someone keep Christmas in their way if they're sticking to Xmas and calling it the same as my holiday. I'd like to see either a different name for the exorbitant, materialistic, worldly Xmas, or for it to be done away with completely (ideally the latter). Xmas is hypocritical for a Christian, and a good start for an atheist or agnostic. In either case, the goal should be for that person (or family) to come closer to Christ and move away from Xmas towards Christmas.

  9. Where did you get the idea that, "Christmas is the Christian holiday." Who told you this? Was Jesus really born on the 25th of December? Did Jesus ever celebrate his birth? Did Jesus ever suggest that we celebrate his birth? (Why would Jesus want us to celebrate his birth on a day he wasn't born on?) Who informs and directs your Christianity? Jesus or somebody else?

    Christmastide is simple. It is a pagan religious invention for the corporate worshiping of the sun and the personifications of the sun.

    You can not, through a process of reappropriation, claim that by wrapping christmastide in Jesus, Santa, christmas trees, consumerism or family-togetherness change it intrinsically or divide it into two.