Not everyone celebrates Christmas. We are all learning not to be culturally myopic. Sometimes it’s a little forced, with Hannukah and the late comer Kwanzaa getting a lot of attention without having very many celebrants in a particular region. Still, I want to encourage everyone to celebrate in their own way to match their values and culture.
Everyone observes solstice though. You might forget it’s happening but the world turns with or without you.
All cultures from all times have observed it.
In fact, it’s because the of solstice winter observances that Christmas landed where it did.
Rome, as an empire, knew that it needed to build a big tent for its many conquered people. The Romans became Catholic and were working out the details when Pope Julius the first declared the date of Jesus birth as December 25th. It was another layer of paint on the traditions that each conquered culture already celebrated. Also, it was a toe in the door for Christianity to be celebrated.
America was weird about it. The pilgrims wanted a NEW England, not the old crappy England with its church and holidays. They frowned upon Christmas, and Boston even outlawed it for a while. Those Puritans were no fun!
But not everyone came over on the Mayflower. Captain John Smith (was that his real name? Come ON!) came to America to have a good time. He was from Jamestown, a totally different kind of place and their New England included parties and servants (ahem..slaves) to support the festivities on any holiday they chose to celebrate.
Christmas was a personal choice.
But why let a good party go to waste? Washington Irving (pillar of American Literature) wrote a story about how England celebrated Christmas. America had swung around to liking England and these fictional reminisces made Christmas seem like a good time for Americans. An American minister wrote “Twas the night before Christmas” only a few years after Irving’s story. It took a little longer for marketing people to cast Santa as Jesus’ a co-star in this event. It was the Coca-Cola people who gave him THEIR color as his signature outfit a hundred years ago. He may have top billing now.
The long cold nights invite are asking to be lightened up by whatever we’ve got. My American traditions have borrowed from it all, and I’m happy to do the same.
I am glad to have traditions to share with my family and friends. It’s fun to know where they came from, learn new ones and tell stories about how things used to be.
It’s a cozy time of year. Happy Holidays everyone.