Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's Solstice Time!

If I'm being completely honest with myself, Christmas is the only holiday I really care about. New Year's is always hit or miss, Valentine's Day has a lot of potential for disaster, Independence Day is usually an excuse for immature people to do very stupid things, Memorial Day and Labor Day are highly dependent on the weather, and Thanksgiving is an entire holiday based around stuffing your face with as much food as you possibly can, a.k.a.: my own personal nightmare. (I almost certainly have an undiagnosed eating disorder. I don't particularly care about my appearance or health. I just find food, in general, to be disgusting. I obviously know this is as crazy as hating oxygen, but it means I get an annual audience to my dilemma of, "Do I offend someone by refusing their food? Or do I offend them by trying their food and possibly gagging and/or throwing up?")

It's 11 months away, but this picture still gives me a panic attack.

But Christmas? Christmas is perfect. There's warmth from every angle: a roaring fire, a (small but delicious) hot meal, your favorite alcoholic drinks, and all the family members you truly love crowded around each either. I know my "traditional Christmas" isn't everyone's ideal Christmas (I basically stole mine straight from Dickens), but it's nice to think that however people are celebrating, the entire world stops for about a two-day stretch and just lets everyone be happy. 

As I think about it, my enjoyment of Christmas has much more to do with the solstice aspects of it, celebrated by basically every culture in the history of civilization, than the Christian aspects of it. (The winter solstice is the day of the year that has the shortest amount of daylight. And where humanity seems to let out a collective sigh of relief and say, "we made it through the darkest nights; it will only get better from here.)

Don't get me wrong, I like the Christian parts of Christmas, but I would be far more upset if someone took away the solstice parts than the Christian parts. The entirely Christian elements (going to church, the Virgin birth of Jesus, the Nativity) are all well and good - and Christianity has done a great job of incorporating the solstice elements into Christmas: the days start to get longer and the nights shorter, which is symbolized in Jesus bringing light back into the world; or, we give gifts to represent God giving the greatest gift to mankind, etc. But Christianity didn't invent these things. People celebrated the return of light and gift-giving long before Jesus. And theologically, Easter is far more important than Christmas. If Christmas is the tip-off, Easter is the last-second, down-by-two, three-point triple-overtime buzzer beater for the win.


And as much as I love Christmas, I hate the four weeks or so leading up to it. I hate the fact that people have to fabricate outrage that four solid weeks of Christmas-y overload isn't Christmas-y enough. I hate the fact that people say, "Merry Christmas," not as an expression of any type of genuine joy or well-wishing, but as a strange act of misplaced defiance. I hate that people say, "Happy Holidays," for the same reason.

In general, I hate that anyone thinks he's being persecuted for his religion for any reason in America. I worked for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for about six months. There's a fairly simple test you can do to figure out if you're being persecuted. Ask yourself, "Is my life being threatened because of what I believe? Will I be tortured for it? Will my family be tortured or killed for what I believe?" If the answer to any of those is yes, then you are being persecuted. If not, suck it up; you're fine. Because there actually are people out there being murdered and tortured for celebrating Christmas. There are people being murdered and tortured for celebrating Passover, Diwali, and Ramadan, too. So if there isn't a nativity scene at the courthouse, calm down; you can still put the biggest one you can possibly construct in your own yard.

(For a little perspective, after coming to power and executing King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans literally banned Christmas in England from 1647-1660 because it was a "popish festival with no biblical justification." It was replaced with a day of fasting.)

Besides, if someone wishes you a "happy holidays," and you're enough of a jerk to say "I celebrate Christmas, not the holidays," you deserve every "well, screw you!" that you get. It's similar to someone saying "good day," to you at 7:00 p.m., and you flipping out and saying "THIS IS EVENING! STOP WAGING WAR ON EVENINGS! WISH ME A GOOD GODDAMN EVENING RIGHT NOW!!!" All you're doing is encouraging people to never wish anyone a happy anything again.

"How DARE you!?!?!"

Christianity didn't invent celebrating in winter. It might have staked the biggest, most widespread claim to it, but then saying Christmas has the sole claim to winter celebrations makes about as much sense as Europeans sailing to anywhere not in Europe, and having this conversation:

European: "Hey! We own this now!"
Native: "Uhh... we kind of live here."
European: "Well, I have a flag. I already put it in the ground. I don't see your flag anywhere."
Native: "A flag?"
European: "Yeah, you really should've had a flag. Sorry. Ours now."
Native: "Umm... It's a pretty big area, we'd be happy to share it with you."
European: "Share it? Why would I share my land with you when I've already put my flag on it? Now, would you rather be a slave here or back in some other colony? I'm kidding. Get on the boat."

"Nice to meet you. You celebrate Christmas now."

Fighting, arguing, and just plain getting mad over how anyone else celebrates anything is just absurd. Enjoy your day in whatever way you choose to do so. And let others enjoy theirs. You'd be surprised how much more fun things are when you stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. So have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a Joyous Solstice, and a Wondrous Wednesday.

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