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Archive for December 24th, 2010

Keep the X in Xmas

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2010

I am likely to get up the nose of a portion of humanity with this post.  I never hope to cause offence, and hopefully this will be read in both the spirit of the day and in that which it was intended.

For a while now, we’ve been hearing of “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” and I won’t say that I don’t sympathize, even though (as mentioned before) I’m not of the faith that cares about that particular figure.  I do, however, have a couple of observations.

I will not hazard a guess at how long the accepted pronunciation of this festival has been “Krissmiss”, and I don’t think a small subset of observers, however vocal, is apt to get it changed back to a recognizable “Christ’s Mass” any time soon.  This is just based on the urge of the English speaker to drop and slur– if Chomondoley sounds like “Chumley”, I’d expect “Krissmiss” to hang on pretty tightly.

The other observation, rather drawn out, has to do with the underlying fallacy of the date itself.   A little effort with the New Testament and some more secular records gives a more likely birthday for the chap in question as mid-autumn (and about six or seven years earlier than the calendar’s numbers indicate).  Unless we suggest that both shepherds and sheep of the time were unspeakably sturdy creatures, it’s unavoidable that Christmas is the insertion of a Christian label onto the popular solstice festival.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.  Frankly, setting fire to things and eating far too much is a perfectly sensible response to the winter solstice.  The problem is that those who chant “Keep Christ in Christmas” seem to be very grabby about this grim old astronomical event.  Folks, just because we’ve stuck a name on the calenday doesn’t mean we own the day… and I speak here for the Dickensians in the world, some of whom are also Christians.

Christmas, in my understanding, is about sharing and the fostering of understanding and goodwill to all.  So, for those who are anxious to keep Christ in Christmas, remember that this was done somewhat at the expense of those who were keeping Saturn in Saturnalia (who, to judge by many reports, weren’t big on sharing with the Christians themselves, so it’s probably just deserts).  Remember also that in the northern hemisphere the sun is unhappily low all the day long in a lot of different nations, and while you’re keeping the day in your way, it is right and proper that some are (or were, depending on how sun-specific they are) keeping Amaterasu in Tohji-taisai, Mithra in Yalda, and a graceful mouse-riding elephant-headed fellow in Pancha Ganapati.  There may even be some keeping hogs for Hogswatch and a few remaining festive through Festivus.

 It’s crappy and cold out, relative to what the equinoxes offer, so let’s get together and have fun in varying degrees of cultural correctness.  I promise to be very impressed with the faithfulness of those who drag themselves off to midnight mass tonight, and for the rest… well, as long as you’re keeping the you in yuletide conviviality, where’s the harm?

All this was brought on by one of those damn internet mind-viruses that will not be still after they’re seen–

Today’s Merry pens:  the ones that have been with me all week (sharing one pocket, never a sign of diverse upbringing)
Today’s Jolly inks: ibid.

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