Column by Krysti Mayers
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It has been dubbed “The Christmas Wars.” In our politically correct world, the words “Merry Christmas” have turned into “Happy Holidays.” Because of this, there also seems to be a movement for many Christians to begin protesting over the term “Happy Holidays.” “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas,” or “Jesus is the reason for the season,” as the blowback goes. They join groups on Facebook specifically called: “It’s Merry Christmas NOT Happy Holidays.”
As I sit in my decorated living room during the week of Hannukah, I look at the Nativity scene on my mantel that sits across from my pagan Christmas tree and hold a picture of my sons sitting on the lap of a mythical gift giver. I can’t help but reflect on the many traditions we keep this season that result from periods of history that are sometimes forgotten. Is Jesus really the reason for the season? Everyone knows that the shepherds were in their fields, during a lambing season that most likely was in the spring, not on Dec. 25th. So is there really a reason to be so offended at how others decide to celebrate this winter solstice?
You could go as far back as the Egyptians, worshiping Ra, their sun god. Every solstice, they would fill their homes with green palms, symbolizing their victory of life over death. A Roman holiday, Saturnalia, celebrated in the week leading up to winter solstice, honored the god of agriculture. Juvenalia was a feast honoring the children of Rome around this time. And the upper classes celebrated the birth of Mithra, god of the sun on Dec. 25th. For some, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year. Any of this sound familiar?
In the early years of Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. It was the resurrection that became the main observance. It wasn’t until the fourth century when church officials decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Because the Bible does not mention a date for his birth, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25th. The early church made efforts to adopt the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival, and by the eighth century, we had Christmas.
This time of year not only brings a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but it also brings a Festival of Lights, Hannukah, which celebrates a victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians. It is also a time of year for the Islamic New Year and Day of Ashura. It is as well a celebration of First Fruits for Kwanzaa.
We are a country founded on religious liberty and freedom, yet many people feel that this term shouldn’t apply to religious groups other than their own. I am not offended at “Merry Christmas” or ‘Happy Holidays” no more than I am offended at “Happy Hannukah” or “Happy Kwanzaa.” So if we could all take a lesson this season in Peace and Goodwill towards men, maybe we can end these futile “Christmas Wars.” Stop being offended and just enjoy your holiday, however you choose to celebrate.